SMAC runners prepare to take on state course, competition
By JAMES A. McCRAY III
Through the cross country preseason, through the cross country regular season and even during the early stages of the cross country postseason, all of the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference cross country athletes and coaches mention one word, ‘Hereford.”
Hereford High School in Baltimore County and the infamous Hereford cross country course is the sight of the state cross country championships for all boys and girls races across all state classes.
Saturday, SMAC goes into the state meet with three region team champions in the Northern Patriots boys and Huntingtown Hurricanes girls (3A South) and the Calvert girls out of the 2A South and five individual region champions in David Strickland of Great Mills and D’Atra Davis of North Point (4A East), Brendan Johnson and Rachel Halmon, both of Thomas Stone (3A South), and Trent Herzog of Patuxent (2A South).
Johnson, who will be featured in the boys 3A race, scheduled to start at 11:30 a.m., has already taken on the Hereford course this season, racing to a third-place finish in 17 minutes at the Bull Run Invitational held in September.
Stone head coach Butch Landis said heading into Saturday, Johnson is on course.
“Brendan is where we hoped and planned he would be,” Landis said. “The hurricane messed with our schedule a little last week. Still, we expect Brendan will run a personal record on the Hereford course.”
Johnson will be joined by his Stone teammates, who qualified for the state meet as a team.
Additional 3A boys team qualifiers include Northern, Huntingtown and the Westlake Wolverines. And Nicholas Hill of the La Plata Warriors qualified for the 3A boys race individually.
Adding about the goal for Johnson and Halmon, Landis added, “[They] should have a chance to medal [top 25]. Both our boys and girls teams are a little banged up. We will need for some of our alternates to step up at the state meet.”
The 3A girls race, featuring Halmon, is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Saturday.
That 3A girls race will also feature the 3A South Region champion Hurricanes, led by freshmen runners Hannah Russell and Bridgett Redding, two of five Huntingtown runners who placed inside the top 10 during the region championship performance.
“Our girls have gained a lot of confidence going into states and now have a better understanding of their potential as runners,” Huntingtown head coach Rafaele Simpson said. “The chemistry on the team has grown tremendously and they have done an outstanding job supporting one another throughout the season in meets and practice.”
The Hurricanes will see some familiar faces in the 3A race as conference foes as La Plata, Northern and Thomas Stone each qualified for the race as teams.
The first race of the day begins at 10 a.m. and will feature the Class 4A girls, including Davis of North Point, who won the 4A East individual championship.
Her North Point teammates will join alongside her as the Eagles qualified as a team and will run against a SMAC foe in the Leonardtown Raiders along with the best teams in the state.
The 4A boys race is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. Saturday and will feature Strickland, who also helped the Hornets qualify for the race as a team.
Great Mills will run the Hereford course with the North Point boys team led by Chris Jones, who finished seventh overall individually at the 4A East region meet.
Calvert will kick off its state race at 2 p.m. Saturday in the girls 2A race.
Calvert is led by junior Courtney Mattson, who placed third overall at the region meet and was one of four Cavaliers racers to finish inside the top-10 alongside Elizabeth Hite (fifth), Hannah Aris (sixth) and Kim Gerber (ninth).
The Cavaliers will also race against familiar conference and county foe in the Patuxent Panthers, who also qualified as a team.
Herzog will be featured in the boys 2A competition scheduled to start at 3 p.m. Saturday.
Herzog leads a Patuxent team into the race and they, too, will race against their Calvert counterparts, who also qualified as a team.