Maryland Cross Country State Championships 2014

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A view from the far side of the famous Hereford “dip”… with a padded tree for safety.

After a one-year hiatus, the Maryland Cross Country State Championships returned to their traditional home at Hereford High School in Parkland, Maryland. Eight team and eight individual championships were captured in the four divisions of boys and girls competition on a cool and breezy, but good, running day. The larger 3A and 4A schools ran in the morning, with the smaller 1A and 2A divisions taking to the course in the afternoon.

Although construction projects on the school property altered the historic course, there was no mitigation of the infamous difficulty of the nationally-known three-mile layout. (See a collection of pictures on the following pages.)  This is the only course I’ve ever seen where they wrap the trees in padding in the event of a runner/tree collision!

The most closely-contested girls race of the day was in 2A.  The presumptive favorite coming in was last year’s fourth-place finisher Haley Wright of Boonsboro. Haley did win … but it was a different Haley, as Patuxent sophomore Haley Jackson took the lead going down into the famous “dip” and held on for a one-second victory over Sarah Rinehart of Liberty. Kathryn Gearhart of Easton was third, with Wright taking fourth.

The surprised and exultant Jackson said, “It was hard! There were some parts of the race where it felt like I was not running at all, but I was trying my hardest … ugh, the hills!”

But Jackson found herself in the lead, powered up the huge hill out of the famous valley, and held on for the win. “I thought I would be somewhere in the top five … but not first! I had looked on running web sites and saw where girls were running 19s on this course, and I knew it was so tough, so my confidence level kinda went down.”

Haley Wright, a junior, came into the race unbeaten for the season but simply didn’t have her best day. “Yeah, I was kinda afraid this could happen … everybody went out extremely fast, and that was kinda my mistake, and I shouldn’t have taken the lead at the beginning … but I’ll get back up from this.”

The Smithsburg High School girls team used their season-long “pack” strategy to claim a state championship. Sophs Mallory Moholt and Erica Lindsay led the way with a 2-3 finish behind state champ Katie Leisher of Manchester Valley. Moholt said, “On this course you have to stay strong mentally, keep pumping the high knees and stay on your ground; you don’t want to fall back.”

Coach Ray Shriver of Smithsburg said, “They did exactly what we wanted them to do; they stayed within themselves and did what they had to do … pack running is the best!”

So step through the next four slides to see the results division by division. After 15 years of coaching and taking teams to the Maryland Cross Country State Championships at Hereford, where I had some of the best and worst days of my life, it was a lot more fun to go there as a writer this year!