The Severna Park boys cross country team ran at its typically dominant level and the Severna Park girls announced their intentions to contend for the state when cross country teams from around Maryland gathered at South River High School for the season-opening Seahawk Invitational on September 1.
The reigning state-champion Falcon boys won the team title and were paced by reigning state runner-up Garrison Clark, who won the 3.0-mile race in 15:17.45.
Running through the thick morning humidity, the Falcon boys totaled 40 points to decimate the 32-team field, easily outscoring runner-up Centennial (159) and third-place Howard (174) to win the team title. Sam Martin (fifth in 15:54.04), Matthew Bateman (eighth in 16:08.65), Jake Gelfand (13th in 16:26.44) and Nick Engelman (15th in 16:28.73) contributed to the Falcons’ winning total, while the races of teammates James Dennison (29th) and Alex Chaisson (33rd) would still have assured the victory for Severna Park.
Jordan Miller was Broadneck’s top finisher, coming in at 45th.
Clark said his time, which was 18 seconds faster than runner-up Jacob Molina of Arundel, was his best-ever at South River, a reflection of the work put in over summer training.
“I entrusted in my coaches training, and I worked with my teammates the whole summer season and into the season that started a couple weeks ago,” said Clark, who last season was county and region champion and runner-up in the state before placing seventh at the Nike Southeast Regionals and 54th in the Nike Nationals in Portland, Oregon, last December. “We gave our best effort for every summer workout, because we know we have to do something this year. We want to do something big. We want to be better. Same with our girls team too. The whole team, girls and boys, we just want to do big things.”
After finishing second as a team at the state championships last fall, the Severna Park girls enter this season with high hopes to contend for the state, and their performance at South River showed their end-of-season goals could be well within reach. Sophia Zell was the Falcons’ top finisher at the Seahawk Invitational, placing eighth in 19:27.78 and helping Severna Park to a team score of 114, good for second place and just three points behind the winning team from Walt Whitman High School.
Leonardtown’s Nelle Ray won the race in 18:40.38. South River’s Bronwyn Patterson was the top county finisher on her home course, placing fifth in 19:01.65. Anna Janke placed seventh for Broadneck, leading the Bruins in their fifth-place team finish.
Severna Park’s Caroline Gage (21st), Kamryn Eveleth (26th), Alyssa Combs (29th) and Cara Vandemeulebroecke (30th) combined for Severna Park’s total, while Abby Weist (32nd) also ran well in the varsity race.
Zell said the humidity, which contributed to a handful of racers collapsing before and at the finish line, was difficult but that the Falcons still ran well.
“It felt good, and it felt really good to see my teammates finish too, and they all did really well,” said Zell. “The humidity is tough, but it makes us tougher. We’re trying to just work on having a really deep team with everyone working hard to get better.”
The depth of the 54-girl Severna Park team was on display in the B race, won in dominant fashion by the Falcons. Severna Park’s seven runners placed 1-2-3-4-10-11-13 to win with a team score of 20. Nadia Aljunaidi won the race in 20:40.83 and was followed by teammates Grace Cambon (second), Bella Dowdell (third), Cameron Zaniker (fourth), Ashley Siebenhaar (10th), Riley Wilbourne (11th) and Mia Herschelman (13th).
Broadneck’s Gabriela Wikar placed seventh in the girls B race as the Bruins’ top finisher.
Internal competition is likewise always a strength for the Severna Park boys, who have 64 runners on the team and who simply crushed in the B race, sweeping the top eight spots. Nathan Vandemeulebroecke won the race in 16:18.79, a time that would have earned him 12th place in the A race. Jacob Martin (second), Nick Benedict (third), Gavin Ivey (fourth), Isaac Roe (fifth), James Louie (sixth), Philip Bansemer (seventh) and Joshua Weist (eighth) assured Severna Park finished with a perfect team score of 15 to easily defeat River Hill (68 points).