In case no one had noticed which team dominated the 4A girls' race at the Maryland cross-country championships Saturday at Hereford High in Parkton, Md., Eleanor Roosevelt junior Marika Walker and freshman Teshika Rivers wore flashing neon glasses as they accepted their medals for finishing first and second, respectively.
Despite the loss of their top runner, the Raiders easily repeated as 4A champs at Hereford High and solidified their bid for the Nike Team Nationals on Dec. 3 in Eugene, Ore. The Raiders scored 64 points, followed by Dulaney's 96. Roosevelt's score was the lowest winning total since Quince Orchard had 55 in 2001.
Walker led most of the way and won the race in 19 minutes 19 seconds, more than three minutes faster than she ran on the course in the state championship last year and finished 39th.
"That's just amazing for a runner who's not necessarily as experienced as the rest to go and run like that," said Coach Desmond Dunham, the 2004 All-Met Coach of the Year. "She ran a very confident race."
The Raiders' top runner, sophomore Dominique Lockhart, was neck-and-neck with Walker before fading near the end as she suffered from dehydration and exhaustion on Hereford's grueling three-mile course. Lockhart ended up 10th.
Walker, who had been a close No. 2 on the roster all year, led for most of the race with Lockhart, and Rivers trailed right behind. The second place finish was a pleasant surprise for Dunham and the Raiders.
"She ran her plan to a T," Dunham said. "The plan was to race right behind the lead pack, wait for a few people to trail off as the race neared the end and see how many she could pass. She obviously did a great job."
In the boys' race, Roosevelt finished sixth as a team, led by All-Met senior Mikias Gelagle's second-place finish. Gelagle finished second behind Broadneck junior Matt Centrowitz in a highly anticipated battle; he clocked 16:15 to Centrowitz's 16:01, which was the second-best time run at Hereford.
The two, along with Georgetown Prep standout senior Steven Duplinsky, will be Maryland's top entrants in the Foot Locker Northeast Regional, held in New York on Nov. 26.
Two county athletes finished in the top 10 in 2A. In the boys' race, Forestville senior Asteway Ribbiso came in 10th in 17:56. Atholton junior Andrew Revelle won in 16:44. Central senior Jemu ZarZar finished seventh in the girls' race, locking a 21:13. Alison Smith of Atholton, a three-time All-Met, won in 19:25.
A Good Run
Bladensburg boys' soccer coach Sean Flynn inherited a team when he arrived at the school four years ago, but he wanted a program. He worked the hallways, recruiting athletes to comprise varsity and junior varsity teams with hopes of teaching them soccer and building a program capable of competing for a state championship.
The Mustangs fell one game short of that goal Friday night and lost to Sherwood, 1-0, in the Maryland 4A semifinals at Churchill. While disappointed with the loss, Flynn and his players left the field satisfied with what they considered to be a successful season.
"This is beyond my expectations," Flynn said.
The Mustangs moved from the 3A classification to 4A this season, but that didn't hinder them. Bladensburg finished 15-1-3, won the 4A South Region title and advanced to the state final four for the first time (in any classification) in school history.
"It was our first year in 4A, and we proved to them that we could do it," senior midfielder Cedric Mansaray said. "We're going to hope that we can prove it again next year. I hope next year they go farther than this."
Mansaray and senior back James Kpainay were two of the players Flynn tracked down four years ago. This season, they were two of the Mustangs' most talented players.
Flynn said he told them when they were freshmen: "You're going to work together and we're going to build a team around you guys. And hopefully, by the end of that four years, we're going to be in the state championship."
. . . DeMatha did it before warm-ups and after warm-ups. The Stags did it again before kickoff, at halftime and after games. DeMatha formed an arm-in-arm circular huddle so often that it became the symbol of an unblemished season.
"It's kind of like a ritual, you know," senior Drew Yates said. "You don't change rituals when things are going right."
The top-ranked Stags completed the first undefeated and untied season in school history by defeating Gonzaga, 2-1 in overtime, in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference tournament championship Saturday night at the SoccerPlex in Germantown. DeMatha (23-0) won its third straight WCAC title.
A Shootout Loss
If it were up to Eleanor Roosevelt girls' soccer coach Bill Heiser, the Raiders 4A semifinal game against CM Wright last Saturday night in Potomac would have ended in regulation or overtime, with the Raiders advancing.
But faced with a scoreless game and with penalty kicks looming, Heiser felt pretty good about his team's chances for a couple of reasons: Roosevelt had pulled out a penalty kick win over rival Bowie in the 4A South region championship in its previous game and the Raiders had standout Wendy Balogun in goal.
Unfortunately for the Raiders, this shootout didn't end nearly as well as the win over the Bulldogs. After both teams scored on their first opportunity, Balogun gave the Raiders the advantage with a diving save to her left. But Roosevelt couldn't capitalize and after the Mustangs took a 3-2 lead after their fifth shot, the Raiders' season came to a sudden end when CM Wright goalie Katie Kolb turned away Roosevelt's final attempt.
"Luck was on our side against Bowie when we went through it, but it wasn't this time," Heiser said of the penalty kick situation. "We're lucky to have Wendy back there. But even with Wendy back there, as a kicker you feel pressure."
For a team unaccustomed to playing under pressure for the most part after going through another season of dominating play against county opponents, the Raiders (16-1-1) showed that they had what it took to reach their second state championship game.
Roosevelt displayed a suffocating defense, led by sweeper Mary Raffael, a converted midfielder, and Balogun who consistently denied space to the Mustangs attackers and limited their scoring opportunities. Offensively, the Raiders were able to get quality chances from their high-scoring duo of Nonny Onyekweli and Katie Greenwood.
Balogun said the credit for the Raiders' high level of play and team unity is due in large part to their seniors -- Caitlin Salins, Patti Leyson, Jerriann King, Olivia Payne, Rebecca Valdellon, Imogen Davidson-White and Sara Peczkowski.
"Our seniors are amazing not just on the field but off the field as well. They carried us this whole season and we owe a lot to them," Balogun said. "This is the most close knit team I've ever been on and it's helped us this whole season."
Special correspondent Charlie Moss contributed to this report.