Severna Park Boys Roll in VA, Damascus Race Down to the Wire

Photo by Mary Ann Magnant

While the COVID-19 pandemic has delayed (and potentially cancelled) the 2020-21 cross country and track seasons, it hasn't yet disrupted the impressive chain of distance runners at Severna Park High School. The three-time defending 4A state champions travelled south last weekend to Virginia to compete in the VA Elite XC Invitational under their club title and came away looking every bit prepared to defend their state title.

Seniors Jake Gelfand (1st, 15:13) and Carson Sloat (7th, 15:30) led the way, as was the case last fall when the Falcons swept their way through another season. Perhaps more impressively was the next four runners (three of them juniors) crossing the line between 15:51 and 16:15. It's hard to imagine any team in Maryland taking them down this spring if they keep the ball rolling.

Meanwhile back in Maryland the Central Maryland XC series shifted to Damascus for the second time on a course that plays significantly slower than any of the other courses run so far in either the same series or the Charm City Run series. The boys race was also one of the most tightly contested of the entire fall season with six boys coming in between 17:02 and 17:12, led by Dulaney's Tyler Dailey. He and C. Milton Wright's Ashton Tolson, who placed third, look like two of the top distance runners in the current sophomore class. They both ran 16:32 at the most recent Charm City race the prior weekend at Shawan Downs.

Also finishing in the top five were Marriotts Ridge's Grayson Max Crockett and both Jeffrey and Zachary Wedding from Chopticon.

On the girls' side this week, Juliette Whittaker continues to make her case as one of the best all-around runners in the country with a win at the VA Elite XC Invitational. She beat out fellow junior Ava Gordon, a Virginia state champion and team nationals qualifier from Loudoun Valley, by six seconds on Saturday to remain undefeated on the season. Her 17:29 time was a record on the course at Pole Green Park.

Photo by Mary Ann Magnant

Also running well in the girls' field on Saturday were juniors Katherine Strong (Stone Ridge, 18:14) and Cooper Brotherton (Great Mills, 18:43). Strong had been enjoying a potential breakout sophomore track season last winter, clocking personal bests of 5:11 and 11:18, before the season was shut down. Brotherton is one of the state's top returning juniors and potentially the favorite for a hypothetical 3A state title race this spring.

The girls race at the Central Maryland meet in Damascus was not without its share of drama, either. Rising freshman Grace Finnegan beat out last fall's star freshman Erin McQuitty by just a second and a half. Last year at St. Jane de Chantal Middle School in Bethesda, Finnegan won the middle school girls race at the DCXC Invitational, as well as the MD/DC Private School title by almost 30 seconds.