SMAC Girls XC Preview

Photo by Keeley Olson

Some conferences and counties experience turnover from year to year as the top runners graduate and new ones rise to the top. That does not seem like it will be the case for the Southern Maryland Conference in 2020, at least on the girls side. 12 of the top 15 finishers from last year's conference championship meet were underclassmen, including the second through eighth runners. The SMAC featured plenty of talent last year, and with most of it returning for the 2020-21 school year, this could be the deepest and fastest group of girls the conference has ever seen.

Photo by Keeley Olson

Any preview of the girls race at the SMAC Championships has to begin with the Northern girls, who have dominated the conference meet since the 2015 season. Even with the loss of senior Oakley Olson (who has moved to Utah) the four-time defending 3A state champions still have five of the top 11 returners based on last year's 5K times. They were still able to hold off the Bel Air girls at last year's state meet despite not having rising junior Sydney Yankanich for most of the year.

Photo by Mike Piotrowski

With Olson having left, Great Mills junior Cooper Brotherton might not just be the conference favorite - she could be the 3A state title favorite. Brotherton enjoyed a great sophomore season during which she never finished lower than third through the state meet, including an upset victory over Olson at the 3A South regional meet. Her 18:42 time last year was the third-fastest sophomore time in Maryland trailing only Juliette Whittaker and Mackenzie Morrison.

Photos by Mike Piotrowski

The Leonardtown girls had the top duo at the conference meet last year with Parker O'Brien (right, second at the conference meet) and Nelle Ray (sixth). Ray's sixth-place finish was actually her lowest finish at the conference meet of her career, and she has two top-six state meet finishes under her belt. Meanwhile, O'Brien continued her upward trajectory with a sophomore-season breakout, finishing 12th at the 4A state meet and then placing second in the 800 at indoor states.

Photo by Keeley Olson

If any duo could be better than the one mentioned above, it could be Kristen Prince and Dana Miller from Calvert, who finished fifth and eighth, respectively, at last year's meet. Prince was the Cavaliers' top runner throughout much of the season but Miller turned in a big fourth-place performance at states to help Calvert finish fourth in the 2A division. The last team to beat Northern at the conference meet? Calvert, back in 2014.