The Severna Park boys cross country program is at the point now where the Falcons are running at a nationally competitive level, so the goal of winning the county championship isn’t exactly the end-all-be-all each year.
Still, the Falcons will take it — for the ninth straight time, too.
Running in wet conditions at South River High School on October 22, the Falcon boys totaled 26 points to defeat Broadneck (78), South River (83) and the rest of the field in winning the county championship for the 12th time in the last 13 years.
Severna Park’s girls, meanwhile, captured the county crown that eluded them even in last year’s state championship season. The Falcons totaled 35 to best Broadneck (49) and Arundel (49) in winning their first county title since 2011.
The Falcon JV boys and girls both dominated in the JV races to claim team county titles as well.
“The boys have really probably exceeded expectations from what we thought at the beginning of this year,” said head coach Josh Alcombright. “That’s because they put in the work and developed a little bit more quickly. …For the girls, I was proud that they were the favorites coming in, and they delivered. They handled that, they handled the conditions, they’ve handled trying to figure out the best way to run this year. They’ve grown a lot in the last year. I told them I’m real proud of where they’ve brought the program to. They’re awesome.”
In the boys race, Arundel senior Tanner Piotrowski ran the course in 15:01.61 to become county champion. South River senior Sam Keeny followed in 15:11.48 to finish as runner-up.
From there, a parade of Falcons led Severna Park to the title. Jake Gelfand took third, and fellow junior Carson Sloat placed fourth. James Dennison and Nick Engelman finished fifth and sixth, respectively, ahead of Broadneck’s top finisher, Spencer Tate, who placed seventh. Nick Benedict placed eighth to give the Falcons their team score, while James Glebocki (10th), Philip Bansemer (11th), Collin Mullaney (15th), Colin Leeds (21st) and Chris Kirchner (24th) all finished in the top 25 of the 107-runner field.
Broadneck’s Tate, Aidan Rand (13th), Ryan Gibb (23rd), Henry Taylor (25th) and Colin Booberg (26th) gave the Bruins their team score of 49.
Gelfand said winning the county against other local talents is special because the Falcons have a friendly rivalry with the area’s top runners.
“We get to be friends with these guys, Tanner and Sam and Spencer, and hang out with them, so it’s pretty cool,” said Gelfand, noting the Falcons’ dominant win in the JV race as a point of pride in the program. “It’s just cool to show our depth, because we went 1-13 at the JV level, so it shows that we’re not just a top-10 team. We’re a complete team.”
While the region and state meets are near on the horizon in the next few weeks — the state meet is November 9 at Hereford High School — the Falcons also have their eyes on competing at the Nike Southeast Regionals in North Carolina over Thanksgiving weekend with hopes to qualify for the Nike Nationals in Oregon in early December.
Alcombright said the current Falcon runners are ahead of schedule in their progress.
“We thought maybe next year would be a really solid, big-time, qualify-for-nationals kind of year, and the boys are right in the mix right now,” he said. “If they just keep their heads down, keep grinding and continue, it could be a really special year.”
While every year’s team is different, Alcombright said qualifying for nationals has become a goal that is within reach most years. “We want to be in the discussion and give ourselves a shot,” he said. “As long as we have the capabilities to do that. I don’t want to give them something that’s not achievable, but we’ve shown that we deserve to be in that discussion, and it’s exciting.”
Sloat said the Falcons are not getting ahead of themselves.
“We don’t want to get complacent,” he said. “We don’t want to think we’re better than anyone just yet, because we haven’t had the chance to prove that on the national level. But, I think that come November we can really prove we’re as big as we know we are.”
Severna Park senior Sophia Zell was the girls race’s runner-up in 18:36.81, as she finished second to Annapolis senior Niya Torres. Broadneck’s Anna Janke was the Bruins’ top finisher, taking third. Zell, Alyssa Combs (fifth), Grace Cambon (seventh), Caroline Gage (10th) and Kelsie O’Neill (11th) gave the Falcons their winning score, while Cara Vandemeulebroecke (12th), Neela Baker (13th), Bella Dowdell (17th), Cameron Zaniker (24th) and Olivia Wright (28th) all finished in the top third of the race, which had 84 runners.
Zell said the Falcon girls have ambitions to defend their state crown, and winning the county championship for the first time in their careers was a welcome stepping stone on their path.
“I think it’s really exciting to win the county championships, especially because our team has doing really well this season, and we’ve been working on getting closer as a group,” she said. “That’s really preparing us for the state championships. Very exciting.”
Broadneck’s Janke, Grace Denius (sixth), Madison Palmer (eighth), Stephanie Costello (15th) and Jasmine Jones (18th) teamed for the Bruins’ score.
The Falcon JV boys were dominant in the JV race, winning the team title with a perfect team score of 15. Severna Park produced the race’s first 13 finishers, starting with JV county champion Eddie Sullivan, who won the race in 16:47.57. Sullivan was followed in order by Ronan Byrne, Reid Figlioli, Tyler Engelman, Colm O’Connor, Holden Tatem, Scott Engelman, Conlan McConnell, Mark Antal, James Louie, Spencer Woodbury, Matt Chaisson and Grady McConnell. Broadneck’s Noah Heim was the Bruins’ top finisher, finishing 14th.
The girls JV race was initially postponed due to the rain and course conditions. At practice on October 23, Severna Park assistant coach Justin Marvel told the program how proud he was that the JV Falcon girls were so upset that they didn’t get to race when most everyone else at South River seemed glad to get out of the rain. Marvel described how the Falcons’ anger at the race’s postponement, and how it represented the program’s broader culture of competitive drive, would be a lasting memory of this year’s county championships.
When the opportunity to run finally came in the rescheduled race on October 24, the JV girls made the most of it, winning the team JV championship with score of 17. Severna Park’s Nadia Alijunaidi became JV girls county champion by winning the race in 20:17.9, and she led Severna Park’s top five of Brenna Mullaney (second), Ashley Siebenhaar (third), Abby Weist (fourth) and Cameron Glebocki (seventh) as Severna Park produced the race’s top four finishers and 10 of the first 14. Taylor Green (eighth), Jackie Testerman (ninth), Sophie Magyarosi (10th), Kara Hartley (11th) and Grace Yearwood (14th) all had top-15 finishes in the 97-runner field.