While the two individual champions at the Montgomery County cross-country championships proved themselves after some stiff tests, it was the two runners-up who helped show which teams are the best.
Blair junior Halsey Sinclair and Gaithersburg senior Ryan Janes took home the girls' and boys' titles, respectively, on Saturday at Gaithersburg High. However Northwest sophomore Emma Eckerstrom's second-place finishlifted Northwest to its third straight girls' team title and Sherwood senior Chris Barnard's narrow finish behind Janes guided the Warriors to the boys' championship.
Northwest scored 48 points, well ahead of Quince Orchard (100) and should be a major contender for the 4A title, along with nationally ranked and defending champion Eleanor Roosevelt and defending 3A champion C. Milton Wright, which, like Northwest, was moved up to 4A this year.
"I think the girls on the team, we all want [a state title] so bad," Eckerstrom said.
Sherwood knocked off Whitman, 88-113. The 2003 champion Warriors have been strong this year, winning the large-schools competition at Bull Run Invitational and the Lancer Invite at Linganore.
Broadneck won the state title last year and should have a good shot again.
"We're hoping we can do well at states," Barnard said. "It seems like we're going to have a really good shot."
Barnard pushed Janes to the finish but the Gaithersburg senior kicked hard to earn his first county title. For several minutes after the end of the boys' race, Janes was stooped over, in pain after a grueling, exciting race on his home course.
"It's wet, I'm tired, but if it's going to come down to the last 50 yards," Janes said, "I'm going to give it all I have or else I'm going to regret it for the rest of the year."
Janes won the five-kilometer run in 16 minutes, 15 seconds, one second better than Barnard. On a wet course under a persistent mist, Janes's time was 20 seconds slower than his third-place mark in 2004.
Sinclair won her third consecutive county title by holding off a talented and determined pack behind her. She finished in 18:59, three seconds ahead of Eckerstrom and third-place finisher Veronica Salcido (Wootton). Eckerstrom, Salcido, Churchill's Louise Hannallah and Quince Orchard's Cara Harrison were right behind Sinclair for the final mile of the race, but none of the four could pass Sinclair, the defending state champ.
The regional meets for all county schools are scheduled for Nov. 3. Most county 4A schools and all 3A teams will run in the 4A West and 3A West meets at Watkins Mill. Blake, Sherwood and Springbrook will run in the 4A North meet at Dulaney High. Rockville will run in the 2A West meet at Middletown High, and Poolesville and Northwood will participate in the 1A West meet at Clear Spring High.
All four state meets will be held Nov. 12 at Hereford High.