Severn cross-country coach Dave Santa and his team don't think Admirals runner Emily Oliver deserves her results at meets. They think she deserves more.
Santa said Oliver has the qualities of a good cross-country runner: the drive at the final leg of a tight race, the desire to be the best and the dedication to the sport.
"The only problem is she doesn't want to make [others] feel bad," he said. "If I had the key to her heart and could open it up, give her that killer instinct, close it up, let her race and take it back out and give her back the kindness, I would. I tell her you can still be friends [with opponents]. During the race they can hate each other but afterwards be best friends."
Oliver, a senior, has led the Admirals in every meet, including at the Meade Autumn Classic last Friday at Blob's Park. She finished sixth (20 minutes 17 seconds) and gave a sheepish grin to her coach about 20 yards from the finish line on the rain-soaked course.
Oliver said her energy began fading halfway through the race, probably the result of sleeping just six hours the night before because of a looming biology test and eating a light lunch four and a half hours before the meet.
Christy Johnson of Bryn Mawr won the private school race in 18:48 and finished with the best girls' time of the day.
Robert Wetzel of Spalding won the boys' private school race in 17:02, followed by teammate Trevor Keen (17:32) and Severn's John Maconi (17:41). In the boys' public school race, the top Anne Arundel finisher was Chris Moody of South River, who finished third overall in 17:11. Wilde Lake's Travis Boccher (16:50) and J.P. Allera (16:53) were the top finishers. Wilde Lake won the boys' team title, followed by Arundel, South River and Severna Park.
Severna Park's Kelsey Hill (19:26) won the girls' public school race and was one of six Severna Park runners to finish in the top 10. Arundel's Marissa McPhail was second (19:43) and Wilde Lake's Katie Williams finished third (20:44).
Following Severna Park in the team title were Chesapeake, Arundel, Wilde Lake and South River.
Oliver has led Severn to a 9-4 record entering the week and has inspired her younger teammates.
"She's a really good team leader. She's very encouraging," said Severn freshman Whitney Avers. "You can tell that she works hard. . . . She inspires me. She makes running a lot more fun."
Oliver is preparing for the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland B conference championship on Oct. 27, when she will again face runners from mainly Baltimore area schools. But while pleased with her performances, she said she is disappointed that she can't race this season against one of the other fastest girls in Anne Arundel County, Arundel's McPhail.
Because the IAAM does not follow competition guidelines set forth by the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association, Severn is unable to compete directly against MPSSAA member schools in cross-country this fall.
That has left Oliver and Santa to wonder about the outcome of a race against McPhail.
McPhail ran the Blob's Park course 34 seconds faster than Oliver, but a continuing rain meant the two were not running under the same conditions. And Santa believes a race between the two might boost Oliver's late-race drive.
"My coach has been talking about McPhail since track season, but I've never actually raced against her," Oliver said. "I feel like she's my main competition. I feel like if I were racing with her, I wouldn't necessarily beat her, but she'd push me."
"In a race, there's only one winner," Santa said. If Oliver and McPhail had gone head to head, who would have had that last kick? That last minute and that last second is what counts."