The Severna Park boys cross country team knows success — more on them later.
In 2018, it is the Falcon girls who might emerge as the best in the state.
Severna Park’s girls runners totaled a score of 54 to win the Girls Elite team title at the Bull Run Invitational at Hereford High School on September 22, turning in an outstanding top-to-bottom performance on the same formidable course that will host the state championship meet in November.
Alyssa Combs (fifth place in 20:21), Kelsie O’Neill (eighth), Caroline Gage (10th), Kamryn Eveleth (11th) and Bella Dowdell (20th) combined for the Falcons’ winning score in an average time of 20:39, while Cara Vandemeulebroecke (27th), Grace Cambon (28th) and Cameron Zaniker (29th) gave Severna Park eight runners in the top 30 on the grueling 3-mile course. Brenna Mullaney (45th) and Sophia Zell (84th) ran solid times in the 145-runner field.
Severna Park won ahead of Hereford (84 points), Broadneck (101) and South River (152) in the 17-team race. South River sophomore Bronwyn Patterson won the race in 19:28. Broadneck freshman Mollie Fenn placed sixth as the Bruins’ top finisher; Broadneck’s Anna Janke (16th), Madeleine Hurley (22nd), Brooke Quillen (23rd) and Madison Palmer (35th) helped the Bruins in their third-place finish.
As the calendar turns to October, the win for Severna Park’s girls is a confidence booster on what is widely regarded as the state’s most challenging course.
“We wanted to have the girls geared for this run just to get them ready for the state meet,” said head coach Josh Alcombright. “It should give them really good confidence. They executed exactly the way we wanted them to.”
O’Neill said the team is leveraging its depth by competing internally for the top spots, and no one knows who is going to emerge as the literal frontrunner from week to week.
“Our varsity consistently changes, because we have that depth where we’re all just really close together in times,” O’Neill said. “It’s really great because we all just challenge each other in workouts, push the pace and try to get everything out of it we can.”
To wit: Severna Park’s girls also won the JV Large/Elite Schools race at Hereford, and they did it in dominant fashion. Sophomore Abby Weist won the race in 21:48, which would have been a top-40 time in the Elite varsity race. Nadia Aljunadi (second), Marisa Dinunzio (third), Riley Wilbourne (fifth) and Mia Herschelman (eighth) combined to give the Falcons a team score of 19, well ahead of runner-up South River (64) and third-place Broadneck (75).
The Falcons are preparing to race against some of the country’s best runners at the Great American Cross Country Festival in North Carolina on October 6.
“I’m excited to see how we do there on a national level,” said Combs, a junior transfer from Spalding. “We’re taking it week by week. We did great as a team [at the Bull Run], and we really work well together. In practice we’re always pushing each other. The whole team is really encouraging.”
The Severna Park girls program has steadily climbed in placement at the state meet in recent years, from ninth in 2012 to seventh in 2013 to sixth in 2014 and 2015 to fifth in 2016 to second last year.
They’re looking to take the final step up this fall.
“We think about [states] all the time,” said O’Neill. “I’m really excited to run in November if I get the chance to, but it’s just going to be a grind until then, and I’m really excited to see what our team turns out to be when it’s done. We’ll just have to see what happens on November 10.”
The Severna Park boys, meanwhile, have similar ideas about what will happen on November 10, and they’re accustomed to near-weekly wins on their way there.
The Bull Run Invitational was no different for Severna Park’s boys, as the Falcons put seven runners in the top 20 and totaled a team score of 33 to win the Boys Elite race well ahead of runner-up Loyola Blakefield (114) and third-place Dulaney (123).
Garrsion Clark won the race in an eye-popping time of 15:52.2, while Sam Martin (third in 16:20), Jake Gelfand (eighth), Matthew Bateman (10th) and Nick Engleman (11th) gave the Falcons their winning total. Nathan Vandemeulebroecke (18th), Alexander Chaisson (20th), Nick Benedict (23rd), Gavin Ivey (27th) and Jacob Martin (37th) ensured all 10 of Severna Park’s runners finished in the top 40 of the 169-runner field.
The Falcon JV boys were simply dominant in the Large/Elite Schools JV boys race, producing the race’s top nine runners and winning the event with a perfect score of 15. James Dennison won the race in 17:32.6, a time that would have been good for 37th in the varsity Elite race. Thirty-five Falcons ran in the 609-runner field as Severna Park produced 12 of the top 13 finishes. Philip Bansemer (second), Isaac Roe (third), Joshua Weist (fourth) and James Louie (fifth) gave the team its winning score, while, in order, Reid Figlioli, Carson Sloat, Josh Mercado and James Glebocki rounded out the top nine. Daniel McBride (11th), Logan Lee (12th), Ronan Byrne (14th), Mason Siebenhaar (16th), Josh Dutton (17th), Eric McAlexander (19th) and Matt Chaisson (20th) gave Severna Park 16 of the race’s top 20 runners.