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Leonardtown boys, girls surge to quad-meet sweep in cross country

By AJ MASON

Staff writer

The Leonardtown Raiders cross country program’s motto for the fall of 2012 is “Harambee”, meaning “all pull together” in Swahili and is part of a Kenyan tradition.

With that motto planked on its team T-shirts, the Raiders all pulled together in a pack Wednesday as the boys and girls teams cruised to a quad-meet sweep at host McDonough in a contest that also included Thomas Stone and La Plata.

“That’s something we’ve been following all season,” Leonardtown head coach Rick Hageman said. “It’s all about coming together as a team; you can’t just focus on an individual. Following this tradition is very important and we’ve been developing a lot of team unity.”

The Leonardtown girls (7-0, 7-0 SMAC) earned 20-41, 15-49 and 15-50 wins over Stone, La Plata and McDonough, respectively. Stone (5-4, 5-4) won 19-38 over La Plata and 15-50 over McDonough. La Plata (2-5, 2-5) picked up a win over McDonough (0-7, 0-7), 15-50.

On the boys side, the Raiders (6-1, 6-1) defeated La Plata 20-41, Stone, 23-38 and McDonough, 15-50. Stone (5-4, 5-4) collected victories over La Plata, 24-31, and McDonough, 21-40. La Plata (2-5, 2-5) picked up a 21-40 win over McDonough (0-7, 0-7).

The Raiders placed six runners in the top eight, paced by senior Samantha Zarzaca’s runner-up finish overall, while teammates Rachel LaBatt, Hannah Sweet, Dianna Aud, Kelsey Hageman and Maggie Nantz were close behind.

“Being in a pack is the most important thing; we are just focusing on the team aspect not individuals,” said Zarzaca, who finished with a time of 22 minutes 16.87 seconds. “This was a nice win for us. The course was challenging, but I actually like this course a lot.”

“We win as a group and we die as a group,” Rick Hageman said. “Our No. 1 runner [LaBatt] stayed in the pack and took third. Sam ran really strong and six runners in the top eight is a very good thing.”

Stone senior Rachel Halmon took first overall in the race with a time of 22 minutes 6.39 seconds, sprinting the last 200 meters of the race.

“The last 800 meters of the race it was all or nothing, I wanted to stay with the Leonardtown girls,” Halmon said. “The course had a lot of roots and rocks, so I had to take pace myself and not go too fast. I’m just staying in shape for [indoor and outdoor] track season; we have good coaches that are preparing me.”

Halmon’s teammate Kaceedra Mitchell (22:54.31) took seventh, while La Plata’s Julie Huber finished in the No. 9 slot at 23:19.11.

“I really wasn’t satisfied with my place or time, considering the fact that I ran faster [on Sept. 22] at [the] Bull Run [Invitational], which is a far more challenging course,” Huber said. “The course wasn’t that simple at all, you really had to work the hills. The rough terrain made it difficult to keep my eyes up ahead of me.”

Senior Chakayla Middleton, one of two runners on the McDonough girls team, finished 33nd overall with a time of 30:59.12.

“I did better compared to how I ran at Bull Run,” Middleton said. “It’s not about winning for me, I just want to finish every race strong and get ready for track season.”

In boys, Leonardtown placed seven runners in the top 11 as senior Ryan Ligon led the way with a runner-up finish with a time of 18:15.56. Harrison Even finished fourth overall, while Spencer Erickson and Stephen Henkel finished in the sixth and seventh positions.

“It’s all about the pack,” Ligon said. “[Stone’s Brendan Johnson] is an amazing runner, but it was great to get the team win. We have a lot of camaraderie.”

“Our boys were a little spread out, but we can work on that,” Rick Hageman added. “If we stay together, we can have a very good showing when we get into the postseason.”

Johnson, a senior, kept his individual SMAC streak going in the regular season, adding another first-place overall outing with a time of 17:34.67. Teammate Cody Jameson took fifth, coming at the finish line at 19:08.48.

“There are a lot of twist and turns on this course,” Johnson said. “It was very humid and there were a couple hills, but I felt pretty good. At the mile mark is when I turned it on because I had the Leonardtown runner [Ligon] near me.”

For La Plata, Nicholas Hill was the boys team's top finisher, coming in at third overall with a time of 18:40.83. His teammate Kevin O’Clair came in the eight spot at 19:31.32.

For McDonough, Chauncey Beatty took 12th overall (19:39.81), while Kyle Thompson finished 14th (19:49.02).

“My kids did well today,” McDonough head coach Nicole Johnson said. “Chauncey and Kyle really dropped their times by breaking 20 [minutes], which was good. It was very humid for an October race, but the course was good and we fought hard.”

ajmason@somdnews.com

Results

Boys

Leonardtown 20, La Plata 41; Leonardtown 23, Thomas Stone 38; Leonardtown 15, McDonough 50; Thomas Stone 24, La Plata 31; Thomas Stone 21, McDonough 40; La Plata 21, McDonough 40

1. Johnson (TS) 17:34.67, 2. Ligon (L) 18:15.56, 3. Hill (LaP) 18:40.83, 4. Even (L) 18:56.58, 5. Jameson (TS) 19:08.48

Girls

Leonardtown 15, La Plata 49; Leonardtown 15, McDonough 50; Leonardtown 20, Thomas Stone 41; Thomas Stone 19, La Plata 38; Thomas Stone 15, McDonough 50; La Plata 15, McDonough 50

1. Halmon (TS) 22:06.39, 2. Zarzaca (L) 22:16.87, 3. LaBatt (L) 22:17.77, 4. Sweet (L) 22:22.28, 5. Aud (L) 22:22.35