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Walter Johnson, Severna Park, Howard and Mount Hebron capture state titles in cross-country

The Walter Johnson girls won the Maryland 4A cross-country meet Saturday at Hereford High. (Kelyn Soong/Courtesy photo)

Walter Johnson Coach Tom Martin said he felt “this” coming — “this” being a state championship for his girls’ cross-country team — about halfway through the season, when the runners bonded at their various travel meets.

“We’ve been through this so many times before that I know it really can’t happen unless the girls all care about each other. . . . Now they’re not running just for themselves but for each other,” Martin said.

So even as none of the Walter Johnson girls finished with a top-10 individual time at the Maryland Class 4A state meet, the team’s depth was unmatched as the Wildcats brought home their first title since 2017, finishing with 80 points to outpace Broadneck (93). Walter Johnson had just a 35-second gap between its first and fifth runners.

In the Class 4A boys’ race, Severna Park won its fourth straight state title with three top-10 finishers, while Annapolis senior Luke Coffin (16:14) placed first overall.

There was a familiar sight at the front of the girls’ race. Bethesda-Chevy Chase sophomore Varri Higgins (18:37) won convincingly.

Senior Amelia Burkhard, who placed 21st, helped push the Walter Johnson girls together and was part of a trio of team captains Martin said is “the best I’ve ever had.” Martin added he has rarely seen someone improve as much and work as hard as Burkhard did, and that carried through to her leadership.

“We’ve been running together all season, and it’s been our goal to race as a pack,” Burkhard said. “We were passing people together. . . . We poured our hearts into it.”

The three-mile course at Hereford High is full of sharp turns and rough terrain and features the famous “Dip,” which leads to slower times.

Howard wins Class 3A girls’ title

When Howard senior Elizabeth Holcombe crossed the finish line Saturday, she knew her teammates were following close behind. She assumed her team would win and didn’t have to wait long for a confirmation.

“We were optimistic going into this race. All season it’s really been about this team and about each other,” Holcombe said. “It feels like a one-in-a-million chance. During warm-ups today, we were saying how lucky we feel to be so strong together.”

Holcombe and Howard (37 points) ran away with the Class 3A girls’ title as the Lions placed five runners in the top 11 to create an almost 80-point cushion between them and second-place Northern. Northern freshman Ella Meccia (18:47) was the top local runner, finishing second overall.

In the boys’ Class 3A race, Centennial junior Antonio Camacho-Bucks (15:51) capped off the season with a 14-second victory, a welcome sign after his 15:03 time at the Class 3A East Region landed him in second place.

The Mount Hebron boys’ team (96 points) won its first state championship since 2008 with a narrow victory over River Hill (102 points).

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