Boys Runner of the Decade: Justin Diehl (Calvert High School, Class of 2019)
Photo by Craig Amoss
Personal Bests: 15:41 3M, 15:39 5K
Medals: 3 conference, 2 region
The only three-time boys SMAC champion of the decade, Justin Diehl powered what was easily the best four-year stretch of success in Calvert's program history, with four straight top-five finishes (including second place in 2017) after having never finished higher than sixth in school history. Diehl was an immediate contributor as a freshman, finishing fourth at the conference meet and second at the 2A South regional, leading Calvert to a comfortable win in the latter. He finished fourth at states, right behind fellow freshman Daniel Saxon (Liberty), and the two would finish in the top five together all four years at the state meet. He kicked off his sophomore year with a second-place finish at the Seahawk Invitational, and his 15:41 time would stand as his high school personal best. After top-six finishes at the Spiked Shoe and Glory Days invitationals he captured his first medals, beating out Westlake's Jay Hall at the conference and regional meets. He placed second at the state meet and led the Cavaliers to their first-ever top-three team finish in school history. After winning his first state title that spring in the 3200, he came back stronger than ever in the fall of 2017, breaking 16 minutes in the 5K for the first time at the Great American XC Festival. After handily defending his conference and regional titles, Diehl gave Poolesville's Ryan Lockett a good fight at the state meet and wound up finishing second for the second consecutive year. It wasn't his only close finish of the day, as Calvert lost to Liberty by just six points in the team standings, although they did earn the school's only podium finish in program history. He also ran his 5K personal best of 15:39 at the NXR Southeast meet two weeks later. As a senior, Diehl did not compete in many big invitationals, but won his third straight conference title and finished as the runner-up behind River Hill's Anish Nanjappa at the 2A South regional meet. At states, he finished third, as did Calvert - just five points behind second-place River Hill and only 12 points behind Liberty. He rounded out his high school XC career with a 26th-place finish at NXR Southeast.
Diehl's 15:39 5K personal best is the second-fastest of the decade among SMAC runners, and his 16:08 time on the post-2013 Hereford course is just a few tenths of a second behind Zachary Wedding among SMAC runners. He is also the only Maryland boy throughout the course of the decade to have finished in the top four at states all four years. His 16:19 time at the Oatlands Invitational in 2017 is one of the 20 fastest times at the meet throughout the decade by any Maryland runner. Diehl is also one of just 27 Maryland runners throughout the course of the decade to have placed in the top 20 at Nike Cross Southeast.
College: University of Virginia
Matt Bennett (Northern-Calvert High School, Class of 2016)
Photo by Lisa McArthur
Personal Bests: 15:47 3M, 15:58 5K
Medals: 2 conference, 2 region, 1 state
Of all the talented distance runners the SMAC has produced over the course of the decade, Northern's Matt Bennett is the only boy to have won an XC state title during the stretch, and one of just two since 1995 (along with Chopticon's Tyler Ostrowski in 2009). His career at Northern began in the fall of 2012, when he was a medalist (12th place) at the 3A South regional meet and was part of a Northern team that finished sixth at the 3A state meet. He did not compete in indoor or outdoor track that year, and returned to the course as a sophomore, finishing 95th at the state meet and lowering his 5K personal best to 17:38. However, after competing in both indoor and outdoor track as a sophomore (and qualifying for states in multiple individual events), Bennett returned to the course that fall a new runner. He lowered his personal best by over a minute to kick off the season at the Seahawk Invitational, then won his first two major races at the conference and regional meets. His 16:46, seventh-place effort at the state meet was also the best by a SMAC runner across all classifications. The next year, Bennett ran his 15:58 5K personal best in a runner-up performance at the Seahawk Invitational, and also finished among the top six at the Bull Run and Barnhart invitationals. Bennett went virtually unchallenged at the SMAC championships and 3A South regionals, winning by an average of 27 seconds, setting up a showdown at states with South Hagerstown's Darren Harman. The two seniors gave fans the closest state meet race of the decade, as Bennett held off Harman's late charge by just eight hundredths of a second.
In winning the 2015 3A title Bennett became Northern's second-ever individual boys XC state champion, along with Nick Gramsky in 1995, and just the fourth individual state champion from a current SMAC school. Along with Diehl, Bennett is one of two multiple XC conference champions from the decade. His 16:10 time from the 2015 Bull Run Invitational is the third-best time among SMAC runners on the post-2013 Hereford course, sitting just behind Zachary Wedding and Diehl. Since 2012, only B-CC's Adam Nakasaka has run faster at Watkins Mill High School (the host of several 3A and 4A regional meets throughout the decade) than Bennett did in his win at the 2015 3A South meet.
College: University of Maryland-Baltimore County
Personal Bests: 15:46 5K, 25:34 8K, 33:03 10K
Bennett ran his 8K personal best at the 2016 Paul Short Invitational as a freshman. The next year he competed for the only time at the NCAA DI Mid-Atlantic regional meet, finishing 128th and setting a 10K personal best.
Jay Hall (Westlake High School, Class of 2018)
Photo by John Roemer
Personal Bests: 15:26 3M, 15:41 5K
Medals: 1 region
Hall was the top high school runner in what was one of Maryland's most successful running family throughout the decade, and the top distance runner in Westlake's nearly-20 year history. Jay and his brother, Jett, joined Westlake's team as freshmen in the fall of 2014, when their older brothers, Jereamy and Joshua, were seniors. He was an immediate contributor, running 17:08 in his first race and finishing among the top seven at both the conference and regional meets. His 17:31 time at the state meet was third-fastest among freshmen that fall, behind Poolesville's Ryan Lockett and Bel Air's Kieran McDermott. As a sophomore Hall picked up his first win in the small school division at the Track and Trail Invitational, then went on to win his first title at the 2A South regional meet. He finished seventh at states, once again clocking one of the five fastest times in his class across all classifications. As a junior, Hall set his three mile personal best at the DCXC Invitational (where he finished second in the class race) and his 5K personal best at the NXR Southeast regional, where he finished 17th in the championship race. Before that he had placed second, second and fourth at conferences, regionals and states, respectively. As a senior, he was once again a top-three finisher at the conference meet, and after only finishing fourth at the 2A South regional meet, he bounced back at states, finishing third - the highest state meet finish of his career.
Hall's 15:26 three mile personal best led all SMAC runners during the decade, and his 15:41 5K personal best ranked third. His time at the Nike Cross Southeast meet is 30th-best among all Maryland runners at the meet since 2010, and at the 2016 meet he was Maryland's second-fastest runner behind only Rohann Asfaw. Of all SMAC runners who competed throughout the decade, only Hall and Diehl finished in the top seven at states three times, although Zachary Wedding has a chance to add to that list in 2020.
College: University of Mount Olive
Personal Bests: 24:56 8K, 32:19 10K
As a freshman at Mount Olive, Hall recorded his highest finishes at the NCAA DII Southeast regional (24th) and NCAA DII Championships (141st). As a sophomore, Hall ran his 8K personal best at the Royals XC Challenge and placed fifth at the Conference Carolinas championship; he also ran his 10K personal best at the NCAA DII Championships.
Brendan Johnson (Thomas Stone High School, Class of 2013)
Photo by Steve Lee
Personal Bests: 15:44 3M, 16:14 5K
Medals: 1 conference, 2 region
Johnson's ascension to the top of the SMAC ranks could not have come from a more humble beginning, as he placed 131st at the 3A state meet as a freshman in the fall of 2009. While he wasn't yet a star as a sophomore, either, he did drop his three mile time to 17:10 and was a medalist (12th place) at the 3A South regional meet. By the fall of 2011, however, Johnson had put himself on the map, dropping his 5K time down to 17:02 at the Gunpowder Invitational and finishing seventh at the conference championships. He then gave a glimpse of his senior-year potential at the 3A South meet, beating out Northern's Justin Cerrito to win his first regional title. He went on to medal at the state meet (24th place). Johnson began his senior year on the course by running a three mile personal best at the Track and Trail Invitational and winning the PG County Invitational. Johnson then beat out Cerrito at both conferences and regionals (as well as North Point's Christopher Jones, the reigning champion, in the former), earning his second and third championship season titles. In his final cross country race in a Thomas Stone uniform, Johnson finished ninth in a loaded 3A field that included several eventual state champions (including Johnson himself, who won the 3A 3200 title as a senior that spring).
From 2010 through 2012, no SMAC runner ran faster than Johnson did at old Hereford course. His 15:44 three mile time at the Track and Trail Invitational was the seventh-fastest by a SMAC runner since 2010, and his time was best by a Maryland runner at the meet during the decade (he finished second to a West Virginia runner in 2012).
College: American University/North Carolina State University
Personal Bests: 14:56 5K, 19:28 6K, 24:36 8K, 31:31 10K
Johnson ran both his 6K and 10K personal bests as a freshman in the fall of 2013. In 2014 he broke 25 minutes for the first time in the 8K at the Navy Invitational, then ran his personal best at the Patriot League Championships. As a junior in the fall of 2015 Johnson recorded his highest finishes at both the league championships (sixth) and NCAA DI Mid-Atlantic regionals (46th). In 2017 Johnson competed as a graduate student at North Carolina State, running an 8K season best of 25:27.
Christopher Jones (North Point High School, Class of 2013)
Photo by John Roemer
Personal Bests: 16:46 3M, 16:19 5K
Medals: 1 conference
Jones, alongside his brother Patrick and their classmate Robert Keim, helped build North Point's first very good cross country team since the school's inception in 1995 - the Eagles' fifth-place finish in the fall of 2012 is still easily their best state meet placing in the school's brief history. Jones was an immediate contributor as a freshman in 2009, finishing 19th at the 4A East regional meet and 48th at states (he was the top freshman finisher in the 4A race). In 2010 he dropped his 5K time down to 17:22, finished 15th at the SMAC Championships and helped North Point qualify for states for just the third time in school history (and first in the 4A classification). After slipping back to 86th at states, Jones came back as a junior ready to take the next step into the spotlight. A 12th-place finish in the Bull Run elite boys race set him up as a contender for the conference championships, and he beat out Great Mills' David Strickland and Keim to win his first (and only) championship season title at Oak Ridge Park that October. His ninth-place showing at the state meet a few weeks later helped North Point to its first-ever top ten state meet finish. Jones opened up his senior year with a runner-up finish at the Seahawk Invitational, then set his 5K personal best at the Maymont XC Festival. Although he slid back to sixth place at the conference meet, North Point still won its second straight title on a sixth-runner tiebreaker. Both Jones and Keim had fantastic state meet races, finishing sixth and seventh, respectively - both higher than they had finished at the 4A East regional meet.
Jones' sixth-place finish at the 2012 state meet was the highest by a SMAC runner in the 4A classification since Northern's Nick Gramsky won the state title in 1995. His finish was also the highest ever at the state meet by a North Point boy.
College: Elizabethtown College/College of Southern Maryland
Personal Bests: 16:53 5K, 20:04 6K, 27:30 8K
Jones competed for one year at Elizabethtown, placing 33rd at the 2013 MAC Championships.
Ryan O'Connor (Northern-Calvert High School, Class of 2011)
Personal Bests: 16:16 3M, 16:19 5K
Medals: 1 conference, 1 region
O'Connors greatest high school running performance came on the track, where his 1:52.89 time in the 800 stood as the tenth-fastest mark of the decade in Maryland. On the course, he was a force in the SMAC and 3A classification for three years. O'Connor debuted for the Patriots in the fall of 2008, immediately shooting to the top of the conference ranks and forming a strong 1-2 punch with senior Andrew Cerrito (the two finished 1-3 at the conference championships and 1-2 at regionals). At states he finished 12th, and only two other sophomores across all classifications ran faster than his 17:26 time. He took over the role of the team's #1 runner as a junior in 2009 and won his first major race, the medium school race at the Bull Run Invitational (beating out Tyler Ostrowski and Noah Hutton, who went on to finish 1-2 at states). O'Connor clocked a big 5K personal best at the SMAC Championships (16:29), again beating Ostrowski. The Chopticon senior gained the advantage as the calendar flipped to November, and O'Connor finished second and fourth at regionals and states, respectively. In the fall of 2010, O'Connor immediately set a new 5K personal best at the Barnhart Invitational (16:21). After dropping back to third place at the conference championships, he rallied to win his first XC regional title. At states, he finished second behind Hereford's Mason Rivera and also led Northern to its highest-ever finish (fourth, which they tied again in 2015) in the team standings. In his last XC race O'Connor ran his 5K personal best at the NXR Southeast Regional meet.
O'Connor's 16:38 time at Hereford High School from the 2010 state meet is just a few tenths of a second behind Brendan Johnson's 2012 time for fastest by a SMAC runner on the course between 2010 and 2012. His time on the Southern High School cross country course, home of the Southern Bulldog Invitational and multiple regional meets throughout the decade, ranks fifth. O'Connor and fellow Patriot Matt Bennett are the only two SMAC runners to have finished second or better at 3A or 4A states this decade.
College: University of North Carolina-Wilmington
Personal Bests: 26:00 8K, 34:55 8K
O'Connor ran both his 8K and 10K personal bests as a freshman in the fall of 2012. He placed 42nd at the Colonial Athletic Association championships and competed at the NCAA DI Southeast regional, finishing 204th.
Zachary Wedding (Chopticon High School, Class of 2021)
Photo by Mike Piotrowski
Personal Bests: 15:51 3M, 16:09 5K
Medals: 1 region
Wedding, along with his brother, Jeffrey, joined Chopticon's team as a freshman in 2017 and immediately helped the program reached its highest level since opening in the mid-1960s. That fall Wedding placed in the top seven at both the SMAC Championships and 3A South regionals; at states, Wedding finished 14th, and his 17:13 time edged out Kent Island's Finn Walsh as the top freshman time across all classifications. As a sophomore Wedding finished outside the top just once (the first meet of the season, the Seahawk Invitational). He finished as the SMAC runner-up behind Justin Diehl and then won his first championship season title at the 3A South regional meet; his brother was the only runner within 30 seconds of him. He went on to finish third at states, helping the Braves finish fifth as a team in 3A - the first time in school history they placed inside the top ten. That year he also finished second in the underclassman race at the Foot Locker Northeast regional. This past fall Wedding ran a three-mile personal best at the Seahawk Invitational and finished 12th in the Elite race at the Bull Run Invitational. After dropping back to forth at both the conference and regional meets he rebounded to finish third at the 3A state meet for the second consecutive year. Wedding rounded out his junior season on the course by placing 27th in the championship race at the Foot Locker Northeast regional.
Still only a junior, Wedding's two top-three finishes are already second-most by a SMAC runner this decade behind only Justin Diehl. His 16:08 personal best time on the post-2013 Hereford course leads all SMAC runners since opening in the fall of 2014. Wedding's 16:27 performance at the 2019 Foot Locker Northeast regional ranks as the eighth-fastest by any Maryland runner over the course of the decade.
All-Conference Second Team
Ben Dickshinski (North Point High School, Class of 2011)
Joshua Doughty (North Point High School, Class of 2021)
Trent Herzog (Patuxent High School, Class of 2015)
Conor McGirr (Huntingtown High School, Class of 2020)
David Strickland (Great Mills High School, Class of 2014)
Charlie Sweeney (Northern-Calvert High School, Class of 2017)
Jeffrey Wedding (Chopticon High School, Class of 2021)
Table of Champions:
2010 (King's Landing Park): Ben Dickshinski (North Point) - 15:36
2011 (Oak Ridge Park): Christopher Jones (North Point) - 16:33
2012: Brendan Johnson (Thomas Stone) - 16:18
2013 (Chaptico Park): David Strickland (Great Mills) - NT
2014 (Oak Ridge Park): Matt Bennett (Northern-Calvert) - 16:16
2015 (King's Landing Park): Matt Bennett (Northern-Calvert) - 15:47
2016 (Chaptico Park): Justin Diehl (Calvert) - 16:10
2017 (Jefferson Patterson Park): Justin Diehl (Calvert) - 15:57
2018 (Oak Ridge Park): Justin Diehl (Calvert) - 16:05
2019: Joshua Doughty (North Point) - 16:02
Girls Runner of the Decade: Hayley Jackson (Patuxent High School, Class of 2017)
Photo by Robin Campbell
Personal Bests: 17:36 3M, 17:45 5K
Medals: 3 conference, 3 region, 3 state
Not only is Jackson the top SMAC runner of the decade, but she has a claim as the top overall Maryland runner - from any decade. From her 4:45 indoor 1600 to her top-ten Foot Locker Nationals finish - the only Maryland runner, boy or girl, since 2008 (when Solomon Haile won the national title) to finish higher than tenth at nationals) - Jackson made Maryland history in more ways than one during her four years at Patuxent. She debuted as a freshman in the fall of 2013, finishing as the conference runner-up and placing eighth at states (her 19:31 time was best among all freshmen at the state meet). As a sophomore, Jackson began her streak of three straight undefeated championship fall seasons, winning conferences and regionals by 20 seconds and edging Liberty's Sarah Rinehart at states. She ran 18:42 at NXR Southeast to close out that season and was the sixth-fastest Maryland runner at the meet. After winning four more state titles as a sophomore, Jackson was as dominant as ever back on the course. Her only loss was to open the season at the Seahawk Invitational at the hands of another Maryland all-time great, Maria Coffin; Jackson went on to win all three championship meets by over 40 seconds. However, unlike Coffin, Jackson did not qualify for Foot Locker Nationals, instead finishing just 87th at the Northeast Regional meet that year. Entering her senior season, a nationals berth was the only thing missing from her cross country resume. She once again breezed through the fall season, winning every major race she ran through states by over 20 seconds. With just one last barrier to knock down, she went to Van Cortlandt Park on Thanksgiving weekend in 2016 and, along with three other Maryland girls (including Coffin, who finished three spots above her in third place), qualified for nationals in one of Maryland's best-ever out-of-state showings. At nationals, Jackson not only held her own, but she beat out Coffin, finishing eighth after having placed sixth at the regional meet. As mentioned above, she was the only Maryland runner throughout the decade (boys or girls) to place better than tenth at a national XC championship.
Jackson's 18:19 time on the new Hereford post-2013 course is the fourth-fastest time by any runner, and her sophomore and junior times rank second and third, respectively. Both her three mile and 5K times led all SMAC runners throughout the decade (the latter by over 30 seconds) and both ranked among the top ten by all Maryland girls. She owns the top time at Oak Ridge Park in La Plata since 2010 and the second-fastest at Dulaney High School behind only Dulaney's Isabel Griffith. She was one of just three three-time state champions to compete during the decade (along with Emily Mulhern and Maura Linde, and Oakley Olson has a chance to join that list in 2020).
College: West Virginia University
Personal Bests: 17:27 5K, 20:38 6K
Jackson ran both her 5K and 6K personal bests during the fall of 2019 at West Virginia. She has twice finished in the top ten at the Big 12 Championships and this past year placed 12th at the NCAA DI Mid-Atlantic regionals, where she also ran her 6K personal best.
Molly Barrick (Northern-Calvert High School, Class of 2017)
Photo by Melissa Rose
Personal Bests: 18:43 3M, 18:35 5K
In the fall of 2013 (Barrick's freshman year), the Northern girls finished 19th at the 3A state championships. Barrick herself did not join the cross country team until her junior year in 2015, but by the time she left a year later, the Northern girls had kicked off one of the strongest dynasties of the decade - one that is still alive today. Barrick brought a 5:34 1600 personal best to the course in the fall of 2015 and immediately fit in, running a sub-20:00 5K in her first race at the Seahawk Invitational. Outside of the elite race at Bull Run Barrick did not finish lower than ninth at any meet throughout the season. She finished in the top five at all three championship meets, including finishing as the team's top runner at the 3A state meet where the Northern girls recorded their first podium finish in school history. Coming back into her senior season, Barrick was even better: she did not finish outside of the top two at any meet within state borders. That included a win at the Hood College Invitational, where she broke 19 minutes in the 5K for the first time, and a runner-up finish at the Seahawk Invitational. Barrick finished second as well at all three championship meets behind three different runners, and each time leading Northern to a team victory (including a 17-point victory over River Hill at states that kicked off their current four-peat). Barrick rounded out her Northern cross country career by running her 5K personal best at the NXR Southeast Regional, where she finished 22nd in the championship race.
Barrick's 18:35 5K personal best ranks third among SMAC runners throughout the decade behind only Jackson and Oakley Olson; she is also one of three girls (along with Jackson and Olson) from the conference to have broken 19 minutes on the modern post-2013 Hereford course. Barrick is also third on the Utica Park leaderboard (site of the annual Hood College Invitational) since 2010, and just a few tenths of a second out of the top spot. She also owns one of the top 20 Maryland times throughout the course of the decade at the Glory Days Invitational.
College: University of Maryland
Personal Bests: 22:18 6K
Barrick ran her 6K personal best as a freshman in the fall of 2017 at the NCAA DI Mid-Atlantic regionals. She competed at both the Big Ten Conference championships and regional meets in 2017 and 2018.
Claudia Dolan (Northern-Calvert High School, Class of 2019)
Photo by Dasam Gill
Personal Bests: 18:00 3M, 18:53 5K
Medals: 1 conference, 1 region
Perhaps no rise in a program's performance is linked together, time-wise, as Dolan's four years with Northern from the fall of 2015 through the spring of 2019. She was one of the state's top freshman runners in 2015 when she formed a 1-2 punch with junior Molly Barrick to help the Patriots reach the state podium for the first time in school history, and it was also the last time Northern failed to win the state title. That year, Dolan was a top-ten finisher at nearly every meet, which included a runner-up performance at the 3A South regional meet and a sixth-place effort at states. As a sophomore, Dolan lowered her 5K personal best to 19:30 and was again one of the top runners in the conference, placing seventh, fourth and 12th at counties, regionals and states, respectively, and was the third runner on the Northern team that won their first of four state titles. As a junior, Dolan jumped back up to the top of the conference ranks, clocking 18:22 and 19:09 season bests in the three mile and 5K, respectively. She was the runner-up at both conferences (behind Leonardtown's Nelle Ray) and regionals (behind teammate Abby Sweeney), then went on to finish fourth at states as Northern tied the Boonsboro girls from the year before for the lowest team score at states (37) throughout the decade. As a senior, Dolan took over as the team leader and, after finishing sixth at the season-opening Seahawk Invitational, never finished outside the top three for the rest of the year. She beat out eventual state champion (and eventual teammate) Oakley Olson to win both conference and regional titles, then placed second behind Olson at the state meet as the Patriots held off a young Bel Air team by 12 points to win their third straight title.
Dolan's three mile personal best ranks as the third-fastest by a SMAC runner over the course of the decade and one of the top 25 overall times in Maryland. Her 19:09 personal best time on the modern Hereford course is fifth-best by a SMAC runner. Dolan, Jackson and Olson are currently the only three SMAC runners who competed during the decade with three top-six finishes at states.
College: University of Maryland
Personal Bests: 19:21 5K, 22:54 6K
Dolan ran her 6K personal best as a freshman at the 2019 Paul Short Invitational.
Annie Imhof (Great Mills High School, Class of 2017)
Photo by Marleen Van den Neste
Personal Bests: 19:04 3M, 18:52 5K
Medals: 2 region, 1 state
Imhof's emergence for Great Mills as a freshman in the fall of 2013 helped the team reach the state championships for the first time since the mid-1990s. As a freshman, Imhof was the final medalist at the 4A East regional meet, and placed 102nd at the state meet. The next fall, Imhof took over the role as the team's top runner and placed fourth at the SMAC Championships and eighth at the 4A East regionals. Although the team did not qualify for states, Imhof went on to finish 31st at the 4A state meet. Her true breakout was just around the corner, as she came out firing on all cylinders to begin the 2015 season. She ran her 5K personal best at the Seahawk Invitational and finished among the top three in every race she ran at. At the conference championships she placed third behind Hayley Jackson and North Point's Rachel Nueslein, neither of whom she would face at the 3A South regional meet (Great Mills had moved down a classification). Imhof gained momentum at regionals, winning by over 30 seconds, and carried it into states where she ran away with the title by 20 seconds. Imhof became just the second-ever state champion from the SMAC at the time (following Hayley Jackson) and the first to do so in the 3A classification. As a senior Imhof went back-and-forth with Northern's Molly Barrick, finishing third at the conference meet for the second year in a row but winning her second consecutive 3A South regional title. At states she placed third behind Barrick and Wright's Haley Cummins. Imhof competed at the NXR Southeast Regional meet, and in a selfless act at the end of the race helped another runner across the finish line.
Imhof's 18:42 5K personal best is the sixth-fastest on the all-decade SMAC leaderboard. Her 19:25 time at Watkins Mill High School (which has hosted numerous regional meets throughout the decade) was the fifth-fastest time since 2010, and fastest by a SMAC runner.
College: US Naval Academy
Personal Bests: 15:30 4K, 19:34 5K, 22:12 6K
Imhof ran both her 5K and 6K personal bests in the fall of 2019 at the Naval Academy. As a junior she competed for the first time at both the Patriot League Championships and NCAA DI Mid-Atlantic regionals.
Hannah Mack (Northern-Calvert High School, Class of 2021)
Photo by Keeley Olson
Personal Bests: 18:09 3M, 18:42 5K
After debuting for Northern in the fall of 2017, Mack has a chance to go all four years without losing a team title during the fall. After losing their top senior Molly Barrick, the Northern girls might have taken a step back; instead, with a strengthening program and Mack's emergence, they fielded possibly their best team of the decade. She improved with seemingly each passing race; her breakout performance was a 19:35 three-mile effort at the Frank Keyser Invitational. She finished among the top ten at all three championship meets, including ninth at states, where her 20:30 time was the sixth-fastest among all freshmen. In 2018 Mack took another step forward, helping the team survive the departure of Abby Sweeney and Sarah Deresky. Mack turned in a big three-mile personal best at the Frank Keyser Invitational and went on to place third at both the regional and state championships. After the state meet she clocked her 5K personal best at the NXR Southeast regional meet, finishing 22nd in the championship race. In the fall of 2019, Mack did not compete until October, running 18:50 in her first major race of the season at Frank Keyser. Her return helped bolster a Northern team that was neck-and-neck with Bel Air all season, and her tenth-place finish at the state championships made a huge difference in Northern's ability to fend off the young Bobcats by just four points and win their fourth straight title.
Both Mack's current three mile and 5K personal best rank among the top five by SMAC runners this decade. Her 18:09 time from the 2018 Frank Keyser Invitational was one of the 20 fastest times by a Maryland runner at the meet during the decade. She was the fourth-fastest sophomore across all classifications at the 2018 state meet and ninth-fastest on the post-2013 Hereford course, and both her three mile and 5K personal bests from that year ranked among the top three in her class. She is one of just three SMAC runners, along with Jackson and Olson, to finish in the top ten at states as a freshman, sophomore and junior since 2010.
Oakley Olson (Huntingtown High School/Northern-Calvert High School, Class of 2021)
Photo by Craig Amoss
Personal Bests: 17:44 3M, 18:16 5K
Medals: 1 conference, 2 state
Olson has an almost airtight case as the top distance runner at two separate schools throughout the decade. She didn't appear high on the state rankings throughout the first half of the fall of 2017, but when championship season rolled around she was one of the conference's top runners. She placed among the top five at conferences, regionals and states and ran the fourth-fastest freshman time across all classifications at the state meet. The next year, Olson truly hit her stride; she finished third and fourth, respectively, at the first two meets of the season, then either first or second all the way through states. She was the runner-up behind Northern's Claudia Dolan at both the conference and regional meets, but then, in one of the more surprising state meet performances of the decade, ran away from everybody at the 3A state meet, winning by 13 seconds and leading the Hurricanes to a fourth-place team finish. She became just the third-ever state champion from the SMAC after Hayley Jackson and Annie Imhof. After states she traveled down to Cary, NC, and broke out a 35-second 5K personal best, placing 11th in the championship race. That winter, Olson transferred to Northern, joining what had already become one of the strongest distance programs in the state, and won three individual state titles between indoor and outdoor track. Olson was back on the course last fall in a Northern uniform and still reaching new heights; she clocked a 17:44 three mile personal best in a winning performance at the Frank Keyser Invitational and captured her first conference title. After a somewhat surprising second-place finish at the 3A South regional meet, Olson returned to Hereford in better form than ever, putting over 30 seconds between her and Great Mills' Cooper Brotherton (who had won the regional title) and leading Northern to its fourth straight title. In doing so she also became Northern's first-ever individual girls XC champion and the first girl in state history to win XC titles for two different schools. She wrapped up her junior year with a 5K personal best effort at the NXR Southeast regional, finishing 18th in the championship race.
In 2019 Olson became the first girl since B-CC's Addie Tousley in 2008 to win the 3A state title by over 30 seconds. Both her three mile and 5K performances are second-fastest during the decade by a SMAC runner, and her 17:44 three-mile time is 11th over that span (and fourth-fastest at the Frank Keyser Invitational). Olson is one of just 12 girls since 2010 to finish inside the top 20 at the NXR Southeast regional meet and one of just four (along with Nora McUmber, Emily Mulhern and Lucy Srour) to do it multiple times.
Abby Sweeney (Northern-Calvert High School, Class of 2018)
Photo by Eric Green
Personal Bests: 18:15 3M, 18:44 5K
Medals: 1 region
In a similar fashion to her teammate Molly Barrick, Sweeney did not start running cross country until her junior season at Northern. She brought strong personal bests of 5:37 and 11:45 to the course in the fall of 2016 and immediately became one of the team's top contributors alongside Barrick and Dolan. In her first race she clocked an 18:50 three mile at the Seahawk Invitational, and her lowest finish of the season through states was a sixth-place effort at the Glory Days Invitational in Virginia. Top-four finishes at conferences, regionals and states helped the Northern girls edge a strong River Hill team and win their first state title in school history. Sweeney then went down to the NXR Southeast regional and ran a 5K personal best, placing 34th in the championship race. In 2017 Sweeney took over the role as the team's top runner; the only time she finished outside of the top three at any meet was when she ran her three mile personal best at the Frank Keyser Invitational. After a third-place showing at the conference championships, Sweeney rallied at regionals to win the only championship season medal of her career and went on to place second at states as Northern put six girls in the top 16. In her final XC race at Northern, Sweeney ran 18:50 at the NXR Southeast regional meet, finishing 38th.
Both Sweeney's three mile and 5K personal bests rank among the top seven by a SMAC runner over the course of the decade. Despite only running cross country for two years, Sweeney is currently one of just five girls from the SMAC with multiple top-four finishes at the state meet. Her 18:15 time from the Frank Keyser Invitational is 25th on the Maryland leaderboard throughout the decade at the meet. Additionally, her 19:11 time from the Glory Days Invitational is tied for eighth-fastest by a Maryland runner throughout the decade, and third-fastest by a junior.
College: East Carolina University/Northwest Missouri State University
Personal Bests: 19:56 5K, 23:52 6K
At East Carolina Sweeney ran a 6K personal best at the 2018 ECU Pirates XC Invitational. Sweeney then competed this past winter at Northwest Missouri State.
All-Conference Second Team
Cooper Brotherton (Great Mills High School, Class of 2022)
D'Atra Davis (North Point High School, Class of 2013)
Sydney Friedel (Calvert High School, Class of 2019)
Elizabeth Hite (Calvert High School, Class of 2016)
Rachel Nueslein (North Point High School, Class of 2017)
Parker O'Brien (Leonardtown High School, Class of 2022)
Nelle Ray (Leonardtown High School, Class of 2021)
Table of Champions:
2010 (King's Landing Park): Kaitlin Bonaro (North Point) - 19:28
2011 (Oak Ridge Park): Courtney Mattson (Calvert) - 20:16
2012: D'Atra Davis (North Point) - 19:33
2013 (Chaptico Park): Elizabeth Hite (Calvert) - 19:33
2014 (Oak Ridge Park): Hayley Jackson (Patuxent) - 18:43
2015 (King's Landing Park): Hayley Jackson (Patuxent) - 17:36
2016 (Chaptico Park): Hayley Jackson (Patuxent) - 18:31
2017 (Jefferson Patterson Park): Nelle Ray (Leonardtown) - 18:56
2018 (Oak Ridge Park): Claudia Dolan (Northern-Calvert) - 18:53
2019: Oakley Olson (Northern-Calvert) - 18:54