River Hill's Andrew Sasser did not place in the top 20 at last week's Howard County Cross-Country Championships, but his performance made the difference in the meet and demonstrated that every runner is a part of the team.

"You can't rely on your best runners to win the race," River Hill Coach Earl Lauer said. "Everyone has to do their part."

Sasser's 21st-place finish overall gave the Hawks their second consecutive county title.

In cross-country, points awarded to the top five finishers on each team combine for the team score. When River Hill and Wilde Lake tied with 43 points, the tiebreaker was each team's sixth-place finisher. Sasser finished the 3.1-mile course in 18 minutes 24.24 seconds, ahead of Wilde Lake's Scott Levin, who took 46th in 19:27.56.

"I was hoping it wouldn't come down to me, but I was glad that I could help," Sasser said. "I wasn't running a good race, but since I beat the guy from Wilde Lake, it made a big difference for our team. It's like Coach Lauer says, 'Everyone's oar must be in the water pulling equally for us to win.' "

River Hill's Sergiy Zubko won his first county title, in 16:59.48, with teammates Nick Keane taking sixth (17:26.59) and Andrew Bank placing ninth (17:40.06). For the Wildecats, John Christon and Scott Gayer took second and third, respectively, in 17:08.88 and 17:13.71, and Jean Pierre Allera was 10th in 17:53.68.

"I didn't think we ran that well as a team, but I was real pleased with what Matt Fichman gave us," Lauer said. Fichman placed 14th in 18:02.58. "We are going to have to win better than that if we are going to win regionals or the state meet, that's for sure."

Centennial, led by Brian Harvey's fifthplace finish in 17:20.36, took third with 75 points, followed by Mount Hebron (122) and Atholton (123).

On the girls' side, Centennial, led by Sarah Lancos and Angeli Sivaraman, who placed third and fourth in 20:59.90 and 21:14.60, respectively, won the meet with 50 points to claim its first county title since 1996.

Atholton sophomore Alison Smith won her second consecutive county title with a time of 19:56.05 to lead her team to a second-place finish with 76 points.

Mount Hebron, led by Becca Collins' fifth-place finish in 21:25.20, took third with 95 points, and Glenelg took fourth with 107.

The county's 3A teams, as well as Oakland Mills, will return to Centennial this afternoon to compete in the 3A East and 1A Central Region meets, with the county's 2A schools traveling to Patuxent Park to compete in the 2A South Regional.

Individuals who finish in the top 25 percent, as well as the top five to seven teams -- depending on how many schools field complete teams -- advance to each classification's state meet at Hereford High in Parkton on Nov. 13.

"After winning the county championship, we have two more to go to win a state title," Lauer said. "I didn't think we ran that well at the county meet, but that won't make a difference if we win our last meet of the season."

Walker Takes 10th

Atholton junior Leslie Walker shot a two-round total of 166 to tie for 10th place at the Maryland State girls' golf championships last week at the University of Maryland.

After shooting a 17-over-par 89 on the first day to make the 94-stroke cut, Walker shot a 77 in the final round to finish in a tie with Severna Park's Kelly Lynch. Walker's 77 was the fifth-lowest score in the second round, and she was just one of seven girls who scored in the 70s in either round.

"I should have played better because I just wasn't hitting the ball the way I normally do," said Walker, who placed 14th last season. "I've gotten better each year at the state tournament, and next year my goal is to come in the top three."

Stephanie Connelly, a three-time All-Met senior from Northeast, won her third state title by shooting an even-par 72 in each round to give her a three-stroke victory over Pikesville's Michelle Grilli.

On the boys' side, Mount Hebron junior Kyoo Hwang finished in a five-way tie for 42nd place, with a two-day total of 160, and was the only Howard County boy to advance to the second day.

County champion Justin Fabling, a junior at River Hill, and Centennial freshman Justin Wellde failed to make the 89-stroke cut.

Hwang shot a 6-over-par 77 in the first round but recorded an 83 during the final round.

City College's Wilbert Lynn III won the state title by shooting a 69 during the final round to finish with a 140.