When Montgomery County's cross-country teams converge on Gaithersburg High on Saturday morning for the county championships, the girls' race will be contested by a familiar cast of characters. On the boys' side, though, a new champion will emerge.

Four of the top five girls' finishers at last year's championships, including defending champion Halsey Sinclair of Blair, are expected back to compete for the title. Only one boy is back among the top six runners from last year, third-place finisher Ryan Janes of Gaithersburg, who should be the leader of a wide-open race.

Sinclair, a junior and two-time All-Met, is the two-time defending county champion and the defending 4A champion. Her twin sister, Ashlyn, is also an accomplished runner, and she finished ahead of Halsey at the William & Mary Invitational on Oct. 1.

Several other athletes will contend with the Sinclairs, including Wootton sophomore Veronica Salcido, the county runner-up last fall and an All-Met miler during outdoor track last spring. She has been one of the state's top runners this year, pulling runner-up finishes at the Bull Run Invitational and the Maymont Invitational, and taking third at the Scorpion Crawl last weekend.

Salcido's teammate Michele Levy was fifth last year and fourth the year before, and she has been near Salcido at all of the Patriots' races this year. Other contenders include Northwest's Emma Eckerstrom and Rachel Forcino and Quince Orchard's Anya Oleynik.

On the boys' side, Janes should be the favorite this week after winning the Frank Keyser Invitational and the large school race at the Bull Run Invitational.

Sherwood senior Chris Barnard was seventh last year and has been the leader of a strong team this year. He won at the Lancer Invitational on Oct. 8 and at the Knights Invitational on Sept. 23. Churchill's Tarik Aougab has not been far behind Janes this season. Other contenders include Whitman's Will Palmer and Walter Johnson's Chris Moen.

Churchill Goes for Four

Churchill will try to add to its own state record by winning the school's fourth consecutive Maryland golf tournament beginning Monday at the University of Maryland at College Park course.

The Bulldogs edged Whitman, 304-312, to claim the District II title on Oct. 7. The top two teams and 10 individuals in each district qualify for the state tournament. Gaithersburg's Steven Delmar won the district title with a 70. Paul Apolenis (Damascus), Chas Golibart (Sherwood), Alex Kamargo (Whitman) and Trevor Malet (Walter Johnson) tied for second with 73. Churchill's Quinn Hunsinger and Billy Peel were sixth at 74, and teammate Devin Kay tied for eighth with Whitman's Adam Klein at 75.

Other individual qualifiers include: Ricardo Camach (Watkins Mill), Taylor Murdoch (Northwest), Corey Hassett (Quince Orchard), Tyler Jacobs (Magruder), Joe Kim (Walter Johnson), Scott Little (Magruder) and Scott Tomasello (Damascus).

"We've enjoyed our share of success," said Churchill Coach Arnold Tarzy, whose team placed second in 2000 and 2001 before winning three consecutive titles. "We certainly want to give our best effort to make it four in a row. We have the talent, we believe, to contend for the state title."