Photo by Craig Amoss
Whether or not it was a true "breakout" season - she clocked a 5:14 1600 in the spring of 2019 - Grace Siehler's junior cross country season was one of the most dominant around the state. After missing her sophomore cross country season, Siehler's return to the course went about as well as possible. Through Halloween, her only loss of the season came in the small school race at the Bull Run Invitational, where Key's Storrie Kulynych-Irvin ran away from the field from just about the start. Siehler's season resumé included an 18:00 three mile at Frank Keyser and an 18:48 5K at Westminster, beating some of the state's best along the way.
Ultimately, only one blemish stained Siehler's otherwise-perfect season: a third-place finish at the state meet, where Middletown freshman Erin McQuitty enjoyed a breakout race of her own. Siehler was also beaten in the final meters by Carroll County rival Kathryn Hopkins. That race aside, Siehler is still one of Maryland's top returning runners, owning the eighth-fastest returning 5K time in Maryland and having captured her first track state title this past winter in the 1600. Heading back onto the course as a senior, the only thing missing from her list of accomplishments is that 2A state title.
Photo by Craig Amoss
For the past two seasons, Kathryn Hopkins has played second fiddle in Carroll County. In 2018, she was the runner-up behind freshman Rubie Goffena; last fall, she leapt ahead of Goffena at the county meet, only for Siehler to return and run away with the county title. That has not stopped Hopkins from finishing third and second at the past two state meets, respectively. While Siehler was the county's top runner throughout the majority of the fall, Hopkins' second-place finish (ahead of Siehler) at the state meet means that she should still be in the conversation as the county's top runner - and even a 2A state title candidate. Like Siehler, Hopkins won her first state title this past winter in the 3200.
Photo by John Roemer
In one way, Liberty's four-year state title streak ended in 2019 when the boys finished second behind Oakdale. In another way, however, it's still going strong, because the girls team picked up the stick and ran with it all the way to a championship of their own - their second in six years. It was a massive turnaround from a team that experienced a down year in 2018, failing to qualify for states for the first time since 2003. The Lions were fueled by the quartet of seniors Sammie Spargo and Jenna Zietowski, along with freshmen Izzy and Julia Lucas. The Lions will need to find more depth to fill in for the losses of Spargo, Zietowski and Christian Lemaster if they are to hold off a strong South Carroll team that returns its entire 2019 squad.
Photo by Keeley Olson
One of the youngest groups in Carroll County, Westminster's top four runners last year were all either freshmen or sophomores. With five of their top six runners returning from the 3A state meet, where they placed 11th, the Owls have serious breakout potential in 2020. Alongside Westminster, Century will also be fighting for a top-two spot in Carroll County this fall. Yet another team that returns just about everybody from last year's team, the Knights will undoubtedly be out for some redemption this fall after they fell two points shy of qualifying for states in 2019 (the first time in the team's 19-year history that they failed to qualify as a team).