Coming off a competitive turn at the Bull Run Invitational last weekend, the Northern Patriots girls cross country team got back to regular season business in a quad-meet at St. Charles High School on Wednesday afternoon that also included the teams from Great Mills and Westlake in addition to the host Spartans.
And the Patriots took care of business, with Oakley Olson winning the girls race to lead the team to a sweep. Northern defeated Great Mills 22-36, while neither St. Charles nor Westlake had enough runners to constitute a team score.
“I thought it was a good race today because it wasn’t as hot as we’ve usually had it,” Olson said after crossing the finish line in 19 minutes 2.63 seconds. “All the girls were really together on the bus ride. We were excited to race a 5K together and work together as a team. The course was really flat, so it helped from last week running at Bull Run which is super hilly. It gave us more confidence in that aspect.”
Northern (5-0 overall) placed its first five runners within the top eight overall to earn the win over Great Mills (4-1). Cooper Brotherton of Great Mills finished second (19:38.55), with Northern’s Sydney Yankanich (20:08.39) and Julia Devine (20:27.11) taking the respective third and fourth spots. Great Mills’ Sophie Chan (20:29.7) rounded out the top five.
The owners of the past three Class 3A state girls cross country championships, the Patriots got an opportunity to see how they stack up against many of the state’s best at Bull Run, which was at Hereford High School in Parkton, also the site of the state championships. Olson, for one, left the invite relatively optimistic about the team’s chances.
“I thought it went really well,” she said. “Our team placed second among all the 3A schools and we were really close to the first place, so I think if we keep working and keep progressing we can definitely still have a shot at bringing back another state title.”
This year’s trip to the invitational paralleled last year’s in some ways for Northern.
“Last year when we raced in the medium school race we lost to Bel Air,” Northern head coach Josh Dawson said. “They were the favorites going into the state meet. I think that took a level of pressure off our shoulders. I think it did for me. So if we went in there and finished second, we did what we were supposed to. If we get first, then we achieved higher than expectations. Going into this year is the same exact situation. We were sixth overall, the first four were 4A schools, and then a 3A school, Bel Air again, and we were running without Hannah Mack.”
Mack, who finished third at last year’s state meet, has been working back from injury through the early portion of the season.
“I think with her back, nothing is guaranteed until No. 5 crosses the line,” Dawson said of what could happen at the state meet. “I’m really excited to see how the end of the season goes. It’s another fun year.”
Often overshadowed by the state-championship exploits of the girls team, Northern’s boys squad equaled their performance on Wednesday in sweeping the field to run its record to 5-0.
The Patriots defeated Great Mills (3-2) 19-40 and Westlake 15-50, while St. Charles did not have a team score. Great Mills took Westlake 16-47 and got a win over St. Charles, while Westlake picked up one win against the Spartans.
If a person looked close enough, Northern’s Gabe Amisano had the remnants of a black eye incurred while having some fun away from the course. But it did nothing to slow him down on Wednesday, as he reached the finish line in 17:55.21 to win the boys race by 48 seconds.
“It was a pretty flat course, so I went out pretty strong,” Amisano said. “Fynn [Yankanich] stayed behind me for a bit, but other than that it was nothing hilly. Overall everyone ran pretty well today.”
The Patriots boasted four of the top five finishers, with Gavin Stevens (18:45.67, third), Yankanich (18:57.89, fourth) and Justin Dowell (19:08.6, fifth) helping the team to their wins. Jeremiah Rhoton of Great Mills finished second (18:43.7). Reginald Seigler Jr. was the top finisher for St. Charles, crossing the line in 14th, while Tyshawn Brownfield paced the Westlake contingent with a 16th-place effort.
Amisano felt that this year’s team is possibly as good as its been since he’s been on it.
“This is probably one of the strongest teams we’ve had in my high school career with cross country,” he said. “We did lose two runners last year, two of our top three runners. Overall, I think we have good runners coming up and I think we’ll perform pretty well at states.”