Northwestern High School senior Dwayne Thomas had to hold off two determined runners in order to win his first Maryland 4A South regional cross-country title last Thursday at Fort Washington Park.

The first was a small white dog that scampered onto the course and ran alongside Thomas and Eleanor Roosevelt junior Matt Bettencourt as they made the final turn before heading to the finish.

"I tripped up at first," Thomas said. "But I'm athletic, and I was able to hurdle the dog."

The second was Bettencourt, who battled with Thomas right down to the finish line. Thomas finished the 3.1-mile course in 17 minutes 26 seconds; Bettencourt finished one second behind him. "I was checking on him," Thomas said. "I knew he was there."

Northwestern, which had three runners finish in the top five, edged Bowie for the team title, 44 points to 49.

Thomas is one of the Washington area's premier middle distance runners; last spring he won the 800 meters (1:54.22) at the Maryland 4A championships. This fall, he has turned into one of the county's premier cross-country runners. Thomas joined the Wildcats in late September, figuring that cross-country would help him prepare for the indoor and outdoor track seasons.

"His forte is track and he concentrates on middle distances, but cross-country can help him for track," Northwestern Coach Roberta Leopold said. "Cross-country gives you the endurance base you need to work from. Once track begins, he'll just have to fine-tune his speed. It's a wise thing to do."

Thomas has had to make some adjustments. The longest training runs for cross-country are between seven and eight miles; during track season, Thomas's longest training runs are two to three miles.

Also, "I had to learn how to spread myself out over three miles," Thomas said. "I had to learn how to run three miles. By my third meet, I just ran my race. But before that, I was off. After the third meet, my confidence level started to increase."

Thomas won the Prince George's County championships on Oct. 27 and will try to continue his late-season surge at the state meet, scheduled for Saturday at Hereford High School. No matter how he does at the state meet, Thomas has already achieved his goal of preparing for indoor track.

"In the 800, you have to have speed plus endurance. The endurance from cross-country will be an advantage for indoor," Thomas said.

"I'll have to just wait and see how indoor goes. I always try to win by trying to do things to the best of my ability."

Other Regional Meets

Roosevelt senior Niki Behrns won her fourth consecutive regional title, finishing in 20:17 in the 4A South meet at Fort Washington Park. The Raiders easily won the team title over second place Laurel, 32 points to 62.

After the race, Behrns headed to High Point for a 4A South regional semifinal soccer game against Bowie. The Bulldogs ended Roosevelt's season with a 2-0 win, which means that Behrns can focus on Saturday's state cross-country meet.

"This is the first year it's been crazy like this," said Behrns, who played in a soccer game following the county championship meet on Oct. 27. "The past three years, I'd have maybe one conflict per season. This year, I've had three. It doesn't bother me, except that they've been big games and big meets [on the same day]. It gets kind of tough." . . .

At the 3A East meet at Centennial High School, the Friendly boys team and the Bladensburg girls team qualified for the state meet with fourth-place finishes. Senior Nate Brunson led the Patriots, placing eighth in 18:06.50.

Greg Rawlins's 17th-place finish (18:39.87) qualified the Bladensburg senior for the state meet. Douglass senior Krystal Perkins (third, 20:59.62) and Crossland junior Erin Jones (15th, 22:48.08) also advanced to the state meet. . . .

At the 2A South meet, also held at Centennial, the Gwynn Park boys team finished sixth, earning a trip to the state meet. Sophomore Larry Hawkins was the Yellow Jackets' top runner, placing 18th in 19:00.35. Gwynn Park junior April Butler qualified for states by finishing eighth in 22:38.34.

Cross-Country Regional Meets

4A South

Nov. 4 at Fort Washington Park

Boys

Team Scores

(Top four teams advance to state meet)

Team Points

1. Northwestern 44

2. Bowie 49

3. Eleanor Roosevelt 60

4. Suitland 129

5. Largo 134

6. Laurel 158

7. Oxon Hill 166

Individual Qualifiers

Runner School Time

1. Dwayne Thomas, Northwstrn 17:26

2. Matt Bettencourt, E. Roosevelt 17:27

3. Peter Ramdial, Bowie 17:38

4. Randy Smith, Northwestern 17:50

5. William Marshall, Northwstrn 17:56

6. Justin Head, Largo 17:59

7. DuWayne Aikins, Bowie 18:04

8. Leon Snyder, Largo 18:26

9. Isaiah Reams, Suitland 18:30

10. Michael Dehnz, Bowie18:41

10. Aaron Payne, Northwestern18:41

12. Darjush Boushehri, Roosevelt 18:48

13. Bryan McReynolds, Bowie 18:56

14. James Mitchell, E. Roosevelt 19:03

15. Tim Howard, E. Roosevelt 19:06

Girls

Team Scores

(Top four teams advance to state meet)

Team Points

1. Eleanor Roosevelt 32

2. Laurel 62

3. Largo 70

4. Bowie 109

5. High Point 112

6. Suitland 124

Individual Qualifiers

Runner School Time

1. Niki Behrns, E. Roosevelt 20:17

2. Ryann Holmes, Largo 20:50

3. Keiona Frenche, Laurel 21:33

4. Simone Baptiste, Laurel 21:39

5. Krystle Behrns, E. Roosevelt 21:49

6. Kate Hilton, E. Roosevelt 21:54

7. Kori Barrett, Suitland 22:49

8. Asha Haji, E. Roosevelt 22:51

9. Kadija Ruzzak, Laurel 22:59

10. Rashonda Van Ness, High Point 23:10

11. Crystal Anyanwu, High Point 23:14

12. Alicia Pease, E. Roosevelt 23:19

13. Jessica Williams, Bowie 23:27

14. Temi Akojie, Largo 23:37

15. Laura Soto, E. Roosevelt 23:58

3A East

Nov. 4 at Centennial High School

Boys

Team Scores

(Top five teams advance to state meet)

Team Points

1. River Hill 17

2. Wilde Lake 71

3. South River 118

4. Friendly 121

5. Annapolis 131

6. Bladensburg 153

7. Long Reach 163

8. Northeast 172

9. Douglass 261

Local Individual Qualifiers

Runner School Time

8. Nate Brunson, Friendly 18:06.50

17. Greg Rawlins, Bladensburg 18:39.87

Winner: Michael Sryczynski, River Hill 16:22.77

Girls

Team Scores

(Top five teams advance to state meet)

Team Points

1. River Hill 32

2. Wilde Lake 54

3. Annapolis 91

4. Bladensburg 129

5. Friendly 139

6. South River 140

7. Northeast 170

8. Douglass 177

Local Individual Qualifiers

3. Krystal Perkins, Douglass 20:59.62

15. Erin Jones, Crossland 22:48.08

Winner: Lee McDuff, River Hill19:50.19

2A South

Nov. 4 at Centennial High School

Boys

Team Scores

(Top six teams advance to state meet)

Team Points

1. Atholton 44

2. Centennial 46

3. Mount Hebron 60

4. Hammond 93

5. Lackey 139

6. Gwynn Park 188

7. Fairmont Heights 204

8. Central 241

9. Howard 258

10. Potomac 274

11. Southern 308

Local Individual Qualifier

18. Larry Hawkins, Gwynn Park19:00.35

Winner: Steve Rivas, Hammond 17:12.16

Girls

Team Scores

(Top five teams advance to state meet)

Team Points

1. Mt. Hebron 15

2. Centennial 86

3. Hammond 92

4. Southern 112

5. Atholton 144

6. Central 157

7. Fairmont Heights 192

8. Gwynn Park 201

9. Lackey 230

10. Surrattsville 239

Local Individual Qualifier

8. April Butler, Gwynn Park22:38.34

Winner:

Kate Frande, Mount Hebron19:40.51

CAPTION: E. Roosevelt's Matt Bettencourt, left, Dwayne Thomas keep pace.