In the highly anticipated battle between Broadneck junior Matt Centrowitz and Eleanor Roosevelt senior Mikias Gelagle at Saturday's Maryland 4A cross-country championships, there was a surprise leader for half the race.

Centrowitz's senior teammate, Matt Llano, feeling strong on the beautiful morning at Hereford High School, jumped to the lead for the first mile and a half. Though he finally ceded the lead to the All-Mets, Centrowitz and Gelagle, and finished fourth overall, his impact was felt throughout.

Using the brisk pace Llano set, Centrowitz was able to outmaneuver Gelagle, passing him up a hill with a half-mile to go and winning the race in 16 minutes 1 second, the second-fastest time ever run at Hereford's difficult course. Gelagle finished in 16:15.

"I didn't know how the race was going to turn out, so I had a couple of different plans," Centrowitz said. "Matt set a great pace at the beginning, and I just tried to work off that."

Llano said: "I started the race and felt good, so I decided to take it out. I knew if I couldn't keep it up, then Matt could."

Centrowitz and Llano helped the Broadneck team squeeze out the team championship for the second straight year. The Bruins had 69 points; Montgomery County champ Sherwood was second with 72.

Broadneck's win was one of two to go to the champions of Anne Arundel County. Severna Park's girls, with a deep group of freshmen, won the 3A title easily, with 68 points to River Hill's 96.

The key, 18th-year Falcons coach Ed Purpura said, was the leadership of two veterans of the challenging Hereford course, sophomore Liya Kasimova and senior Jennine Strange, who were sixth and ninth, respectively. The next four runners, though, were freshmen.

"Before the season, you never know what kind of athletes the freshmen are going to be," Purpura said. "We got a group of freshmen who are poised and experienced athletes."

Broadneck's Matt Centrowitz (44) has a lead on Eleanor Roosevelt's Mikias Gelagle (131) toward the end of the 4A state cross-country championship meet. The two All-Mets shake hands, below right, immediately after the race.Above, Broadneck's Matt Llano (48) led for nearly the first half of the meet; right, freshman Kelsey Hill helped Severna Park to a team title.