With six freshmen making up the top runners on the Leonardtown girls' cross-country team, Raiders Coach Ed Sullivan did not heap high expectations on the team.
But a month into the season, the Raiders have established themselves as the team to beat in the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference. Leonardtown is unbeaten in dual meets and is coming off a weekend in which it took the title at the Doc Jones Anne Arundel County Invitational on Saturday.
Meantime, the more experienced boys' team is also unbeaten, and it completed the sweep with a team title at the same event.
"I thought the boys had a very good shot at the SMAC title, and I still think that," Sullivan said. "On the girls side, I wasn't expecting too much. Having so many freshmen, you just never know how they're going to be until the season starts."
One of those freshmen, Kaitlyn Dillow, took second at the Doc Jones on a fast course at Annapolis High School, clocking a career-best time of 20 minutes and 25.3 seconds. She had been planning to play soccer but opted instead to join the cross-country team and has quickly found success. On Saturday, she stayed tight with Arundel standout Marissa McPhail before McPhail pulled away at the end. Casey Walker took 12th, Jennifer Hause was 16th, and Olivia Webster captured 17th.
The boys are led by two experienced seniors and have lived up to expectations. Danny Page was fourth at Doc Jones with a time of 17 minutes 36 seconds -- behind La Plata senior David Anderson, who took third -- while teammate Jason Beaudwin was eighth. Juniors Alex Smith (12th at Doc Jones) and Chris Glynn (13th) and sophomore Brandon Demers (15th) completed the dominating performance.
"Early in the season there were some doubts," Sullivan said. "Now that they've seen their times drop significantly, they're gaining confidence. The kids are dedicated to their training and have worked hard to get to where they are."
Both Leonardtown teams had 53 points in their wins. La Plata's girls were seventh with 171 points.
Quick Success for 'Canes
In their first season, Huntingtown's girls have made a quick impact in the conference.
The Hurricanes are 6-1 in dual-meet action, their only loss coming against Leonardtown, the conference's top team.
Sophomore Sarah Dawes, participating in cross-country for the first time, has been the Hurricanes' No. 1 runner, while junior Jessica Stanley, who moved to the area from Pennsylvania, has ascended to No. 2.
Dawes and Stanley have led a pack of Huntingtown athletes that run virtually as a unit on the trail. The Nos. 3-5 runners, Samantha Watters, Rose Migliaccio and Christina Aumand, have stayed within 45 seconds of each other.
"The team is really starting to feed off one another," Huntingtown Coach Justin Koch said. "They're really running together."
The boys are winless, but Nick Foor has put on several good performances, including a win at last week's conference meet against Thomas Stone and Westlake.
"Nick has a goal of being All-SMAC, and he's been working very hard," Koch said.