Photo by Craig Amoss
Somewhere in an alternate universe, high school runners and coaches across the state are preparing for this coming weekend's MPSSAA cross country state championship. From a historical perspective, nothing may seem extraordinary about the 2020 state meet, which has been held annually without interruption since at least 1952 (the MPSSAA record book lists no individual nor team winners from that year).
That, however, is not the case. The COVID-19 pandemic that erased the vast majority of the 2020 outdoor season has already claimed most of the fall 2020 season and now threatens the winter season. There are still plans in place to compete a cross country season in the spring, but what that season looks like (and if it ever gets underway, given the current state of the pandemic) is entirely unknown at this point.
On the brighter side, the 2020 fall season was not devoid of competition. Local running clubs and organizations, such as Charm City Run, Bullseye Running and the Central Maryland Youth Cross Country Association, organized open cross country and track meets throughout September and October. MIAA and Washington County schools competed in smaller meets throughout the season. The Academy of the Holy Cross hosted a few small invitationals, the Urbana High School Boosters put on a couple of open track meets and Project Creek (led by Northwood coach Gio Reumante) is hosting an open track 3200 later this month. And meets across state lines in Virginia (also mired in the same situation) attracted some of the state's best runners.
This past weekend, both Bullseye and Charm City put a bow on a unique fall season during which they managed to offer athletes plenty of racing opportunities. In many ways, the 2020 fall season was unlike anything high school runners ever had the opportunity to experience. Summer track races spilled onto the traditional cross country calendar; sprinters and jumpers, who would normally spend the fall playing another sport or conditioning, were suddenly presented new opportunities to reach new heights. Distance runners could alternate between the track and the course, running an 800 on a track one week and a cross country 5K the next.
On Saturday, Bullseye Running hosted a cross country meet at Black Ankle Vineyard (not part of the Central Maryland XC Series, of which Bullseye helped organize and time). The boys race featured the same showdown between Oakland Mills' Baidy Ba and Centennial's Antonio Camacho-Bucks that had transpired the week before at Old National Pike Park in Mount Airy; Ba emerged victorious for the second straight race. The two would likely be considered 2A and 3A state favorites, respectively, if a cross country season takes place.
Photo by Craig Amoss
Meanwhile, Howard junior Nimrit Ahuja won her second consecutive race as the girls in attendance from the defending 4A state champion Howard squad continue to look strong. And remember the names Wren and Robin Kucler, who have been tearing up the Central Maryland meets in the 13-14 age group and whose 4K times have been comparable to the winners of the boys from the same age group.
Over at Shawan Downs, Dulaney sophomore Tyler Dailey won his second consecutive race of his own, beating out South River senior Garrett Gallaher. The Seahawks' strong showing did not stop there, as 2018 4A state champion Bronwyn Patterson beat out a field that included former state champions and runners-up Cooper Brotherton, Mollie Fenn and Erin McQuitty.
That race concluded Charm City Run's four-meet cross country series, one that featured two meets at Shawan Downs, an all-grass, spectator-friendly horse-racing venue situated next to the Baltimore County Agricultural Center (which served as the venue for the Barnhart Invitational, Baltimore County championships and 4A and 3A North regionals for two years). There remains hope that, going forward, the site may be used for future cross country invitationals and/or championships, providing an experience similar to the one up at Fair Hill in Cecil County.
Photo by Nolan Jez
And, finally, the Severna Park boys traveled down to Virginia for the second time this year to compete at the Gravely Hill 2020 Fall Fest. Senior Jake Gelfand remained undefeated on the 2020 cross country season as the Falcons rolled once again. They will face their best competition of the season this coming weekend as they travel, along with a few individuals from around the state, to Terra Haute, Indiana, for the XC Town USA Meet of Champions. MileSplit Maryland will have a preview of the upcoming race later this week.