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Get revenge for last year’s close loss; Hornets’ Strickland, Weber each take second

By DALLAS COGLE

Staff writer

Last year’s boys cross country outcome between the Great Mills Hornets and Northern Patriots was close, but it had nothing on their tightest of showdowns Wednesday that required more than five runners from each side to determine a winner.

Knotted at 28 through the top five placements of both teams, Northern owned the tiebreaker with its sixth-best time bettering that of Great Mills by six spots in the overall individual results, as the Patriots came away with a pivotal victory over their fellow elite foe in the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference.

In the process, Northern got revenge on a 27-29 nailbiting loss a season ago to Great Mills.

In head-to-head competition between the two clubs that determined their identical team scores of 28, Northern’s Justin Cerrito boasted the best overall time of 16 minutes 43 seconds to lead a pack of Patriots that included Scott Carpenter (third), Wesley O’Connor (seventh), Corey Heim (eighth) and Owen Thatcher (ninth), while Great Mills was spearheaded by David Strickland’s runner-up overall finish of 16:50, followed by Xavier Stansbury (fourth), Jeremy Pence (fifth), Matthew Sebacher (sixth) and Robert Romano (11th).

The difference in the clubs thus came down to their tiebreaking sixth-place times.

Northern’s Colin Fleming was 10th overall in 18:50, while Great Mills’ Brad Post was 16th in 19:43. Just three spots separated the two determining runners’ times in the head-to-head scoring format between Northern and Great Mills, when only factoring in the top seven finishes for each side.

The La Plata Warriors hosted the quad-meet that also included the Chopticon Braves.

“Every runner definitely counted today,” Cerrito said. “That was a pretty big disappointment last year [to lose by two points to Great Mills]. I knew we had a chance this year [to beat them]. When I found out we won on a tiebreaker, I was very pleased.

“For a cross country meet, this is just about as close you can get.”

Northern head coach TJ Howell added, “We talk all the time that it’s an individual sport, but it’s the team aspect of the sport that was on display today. We ran very well, but it comes down to kids grouping up and running together and pushing each other. We were back and forth with Great Mills. They packed up and we packed up, and we just had the right pack in the right place for the tiebreaker.”

The Northern boys (6-0, 6-0 SMAC) also notched victories over La Plata and Chopticon, each in 15-50 fashion.

The Great Mills boys (4-1, 4-1) cruised to wins in 15-50 fashion over Chopticon (1-5) and by a 15-46 count over La Plata (1-3, 1-3).

The Chopticon boys (1-5, 1-5) were held winless on the day, falling to La Plata by a 17-46 outcome.

“It feels great to put in all that hard work and it comes out how you hope it will,” said Carpenter, a newcomer to Northern this season as a transfer from Florida.

“We added Scott this year and he races well,” Cerrito praised of Carpenter. “He gives me someone to practice against. If I slack off, I know he take over [the top spot on the team].”

In the meets, Cerrito enjoys the rivalry created between him and Strickland. The Great Mills top runner feels the same way, as each traded wins versus one another a year ago. Cerrito won the regular season encounter, while Strickland retaliated by finishing better at the SMAC meet.

“I came in looking to beat him,” Strickland said of Cerrito. “I was planning to stay behind him [at the start]. That first mile was really fast. I tried to pass him once we got out of the woods. I kept getting closer. I couldn’t quite get the breath to get around him. We both started pulling out on the track and he just had the better kick.

“I did the best I could given the conditions. I was still a little disappointed. It’s pretty tough [to lose on a tiebreaker]. A couple of us could’ve gotten [better finishes].”

Cerrito won the battle of the two standouts by seven seconds Wednesday.

“[Strickland] has always been a great competitor,” Cerrito said. “I like racing against anybody who can push me. It makes the race more fun and more challenging. I got out to a pretty fast start. I pushed the pace. [It was even] until the end. I had a good kick with 800 [meters] left and just gave it everything I had.”

Great Mills head coach Arturo Leon added about his boys getting eked out on a tiebreaker, “Considering we felt we lost worse, this is actually good news. At no point, we were doing math where we felt we were close. So I guess there is no disappointment.

“[Our race against Northern] comes down to which No. 1 [runner] wants it more that day.”

Girls race claimed by Northern, Zellman

The outcomes on the female side of the meet featured way less drama. Like their boys teammates, the Northern girls (6-0, 6-0) continued their perfect season with triumphs of 24-33 over Great Mills (3-2, 3-2), 21-37 over La Plata (1-3, 1-3) and 15-49 over Chopticon (1-5, 1-5).

The Great Mills girls knocked off La Plata, 24-33, and Chopticon, 15-49. The La Plata girls tallied their win on the day in 16-46 fashion over Chopticon.

Northern’s Rachel Zellman easily topped the meet’s female field with a finish of 22:02, 30 seconds better than Great Mills’ Vicki Weber in the runner-up spot.

“Today was definitely good for the whole team,” Zellman said. “Everyone ran well. We’ve been training hard and it definitely paid off. We have the same people as last year, but I think more of us care more.”

She added, “It’s my senior year. My goal is to be the best and also for our team to finish strong. If I pick it up just a little bit more, I think I’ll get there. I’m definitely getting better than I was last year.”

Weber and her teammates finished a lot closer to Northern than a year ago when the Hornets females were beaten by 22 points.

“I’m really proud of the girls,” Leon said. “Our girls are trying to rebuild this season. It’s difficult knowing it’s a rebuilding season to be positive every week, and these girls work so hard. It’s exciting to watch them run. They’re growing every day.”

La Plata’s Julie Huber was her program’s top runner for both the girls and boys sides with a quality third-place time of 22:54.

Yet, she was not in celebratory mode afterwards, remarking that the finish is not close to her personal record.

“Because of volleyball, it makes it hard to run and train on a regular basis, so I wasn’t satisfied with my time at all, really,” said Huber, also a key player for La Plata’s SMAC-contending volleyball team this fall. “I tried to stay with [Zellman] as much as I can and use her to help push myself. She’s a great runner.”

Most impressive about Zellman’s first place Wednesday was that one of her shoes came untied early in the race and she seemed unfazed by what could’ve been a jeopardizing situation.

“That was in the first 400 meters,” Huber said, noting when Zellman’s shoe came untied. “She ran with it the entire time. I didn’t doubt her though. I knew if she lost a shoe or something, she’d be able to pick it up and keep going. I didn’t think it would ruin her race at all.”

Chopticon female Briana Edelen finished 17th as the program’s best finish between boys and girls.

dcogle@somdnews.com

Results

Boys

Northern 28, Great Mills 28 (Northern wins on tiebreaker); Northern 15, La Plata 50; Northern 15, Chopticon 50; Great Mills 15, La Plata 46; Great Mills 15, Chopticon 50; La Plata 17, Chopticon 46

1. Cerrito (N) 16:43, 2. Strickland (GM) 16:50, 3. Carpenter (N) 17:12, 4. Stansbury (GM) 17:15, 5. Pence (GM) 18:00

Girls

Northern 23, Great Mills 34; Northern 21, La Plata 37, Northern 15, Chopticon 49; Great Mills 24, La Plata 33; Great Mills 15, Chopticon 49; La Plata 16, Chopticon 46

1. Zellman (N) 22:02, 2. Weber (GM) 22:32, 3. Huber (LaP) 22:54, 4. Delamer (N) 22:55, 5. Emerson (N) 23:08