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Cross country places 3rd in state championships

Greg+Garner+runs+in+the+final+race+of+his+freshman+season+at+the+MPSSAA+State+Cross+Country+Championships.+The+boys+team+taking+a+3rd+overall+finish.+Photo+courtesy+MoCoRunning.
Greg Garner runs in the final race of his freshman season at the MPSSAA State Cross Country Championships. The boys team taking a 3rd overall finish. Photo courtesy MoCoRunning.

Greg Garner runs in the final race of his freshman season at the MPSSAA State Cross Country Championships. The boys team taking a 3rd overall finish. Photo courtesy MoCoRunning.

Greg Garner runs in the final race of his freshman season at the MPSSAA State Cross Country Championships. The boys team taking a 3rd overall finish. Photo courtesy MoCoRunning.

By Matthew van Bastelaer

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The boys and girls cross country teams ended their seasons with top six finishes against Maryland’s top teams at the MPSSAA 4A State Championships Nov. 11. The teams consistently placed in the top five all season, led by their strong junior classes.

At states, the boys team placed third overall, with standout junior Aaron Bratt placing seventh individually. The girls team placed sixth overall, under top finisher sophomore Alicia Lauwers in 13th.

Going into this season, coach Stephen Hays said he didn’t expect the team to place as well as they did at states, especially with one of their top runners getting injured just before the start of the season.

“I thought third for the boys was possible with senior Josh Engels, but without Josh, I thought it might be a little hopeful,” Hays said. “They came on strong this year and really stepped up, and we were able to get that third place.”

Engels hopes to run in college and sees the injury in an optimistic light.

“A set back is just a set-up for a comeback,” Engels said.

Junior Obi Onwuamaegbu thought the third place finish was the best that the team could’ve expected.

“I thought the team did about as well as we could have done against two teams that have been performing historically very well with Dulaney High School and Severna Park High School,” Onwuamaegbu said. “We just wanted to go out there and give our best.”

Hays was also pleased with the finish, even though it wasn’t first place.

“I think we’re very happy with third place,” Hays said. “The top two teams are just on a little bit different level, which we hope to get to next year.”

The team’s road to states was relatively smooth, with consistent regular season finishes in the top 10.

On Oct. 21, both the girls and boys teams placed in the top three among all of their county opponents at the county championships. Running against 24 other teams, the boys team placed first, led by Bratt, who placed seventh. The girls team, racing with 23 opponents, placed third, again by Lauwers, who placed 12th.

On Nov. 2 at the MPSSAA 4A West Region Championships, the team dominated again, with the girls finishing third and the boys finishing second. The boys team lost by just one point to cross-town rival B-CC, with Bratt finishing in fifth  place. Lauwers again led the girls team.

With such a strong junior class, Hays and the rest of the team expect similar performances in the future.

“I hope we have an upward trend,” Hays said. “We talked about that on the bus ride home, about how it takes a team, not just an individual, and I think they bought into that pretty well.”

The boys team didn’t place in the top 25 at states in 2015 and placed 12th in 2016. Onwuamaegbu said he expects the team to continue improving.

“I think one thing that has been really vital to our success this season is that we haven’t lost focus,” Onwuamaegbu said. “We have the bigger picture in mind, and next season should be even better.”

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