Alison Smith's wrong turn cost her a victory at the Howard County Striders Invitational on Sept. 10, but the Atholton sophomore had no trouble navigating one of the area's toughest cross-country courses to win the Bull Run Invitational's Medium Division on Saturday at Hereford High in Parkton.
Smith covered the three-mile course in 20 minutes 32 seconds to lead Atholton to a third-place showing in the team competition with 134 points, finishing behind Severna Park, with 59 points, and Avon Grove (Pa.), with 89.
The Bull Run Invitational featured boys' and girls' races in four divisions -- Elite, Large, Medium and Small -- and Smith's time was the third fastest overall among the 503 girls.
"That was one of the hardest races I'll run all year because Hereford makes every other course [appear] easy," said Smith. "I made a mistake in my first race, so I was happy to go out and run well and win and get my name back."
Smith, who won the county championship and 2A South Region title and was second at the state meet last year, is hoping to drop her time under 20 minutes before the state meet Nov. 13, also at Hereford.
"I've run 20:01 twice, so I know I have it in me to run a few seconds faster," Smith said. "I really trained hard over the summer so I can reach my goal."
River Hill won the Elite Division with 104 points as Sergiy Zubko placed fifth in 17:52 and teammate Nick Keane took seventh in 18:10.
"As a team, we didn't run a good race, but we were still able to win," River Hill Coach Earl Lauer said. "Sergiy and Nick ran pretty well, but they both can do better, and the rest of our team still has a lot of room for improvement."
Wilde Lake's Scott Gayer placed third in the Large School Division in 17:51 to lead the Wildecats to the team title. Wilde Lake's John Christon placed fifth in 18:53, and teammates Josh Adams and J.P. Allera took ninth and 10th, respectively, in 18:34 and 18:36.
"I'm running better than I ever have, and that has a lot to do with my maturity as a runner," Gayer said. "I'm no longer nervous during the race because I know I've been training for four years, and I'm confident because all of my training has paid off."
Atholton's Andrew Revelle posted the top time by a county boy, placing second in the Medium School Division in 17:49 to lead his team to a third-place finish.
On the girls' side, Centennial won the Large School Division with 89 points; Wilde Lake was second (139). River Hill's Bess Seelaus finished fifth in 23:02, and Centennial's Sarah Lancos finished sixth in 23:21.