The run through “The Dip” at Hereford High School’s cross-country course has the ability to separate championship contenders from the rest of the pack. Though considerable pain accompanies dashing twice through the ravine so steep it earned a nickname, completing the course has become a right of passage for Maryland high school cross-country athletes.
If expectations hold, runners will once again be able to compete on the grueling 3-mile course as the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association’s state cross-country championship meet is expected to return to Hereford after a one-year hiatus.
Though it’s not a done deal, MPSSAA executive director Ned Sparks said he has been in touch with officials and the construction crew working to remodel the Baltimore County school. At the moment, all signs are pointing to Hereford hosting the state championship Nov. 8.
“You can never tell with construction,” Sparks said. “We know they have a target date. We’re taking them at their word, but also we can monitor their actions. What they’re telling us is holding true.”
Since 1980, Hereford has hosted the Maryland state cross-country meet in all but three years. Construction at the school forced the state meet to move to McDaniel College in Westminster, Md. in 2013.
Hereford athletic director Mike Kalisz said the school is planning to host both the state meet and the annual Bull Run Invitational on Sept. 27. Kalisz said that the construction will cause some minor changes to the course, but that the school administration was “given assurances that we can safely host these events.”
Hugh Harris, who coaches the South River girls’ cross-country squad, said the state meet at Hereford would be a welcomed return, even though it’s a course that requires tremendous of preparation.
“We tell our runners, your first mile has to be a controlled pace and you can’t go out too fast,” Harris said.
Only three boys have cracked 16 minutes at Hereford, including former Sherwood runner Solomon Haile, who set the course record in 15 minutes 43 seconds at the 2008 state meet. Only three girls have run times below 19 minutes.
The Bull Run Invitational was unable to take place in 2013, but generally serves as an opportunity to gain familiarity with the course before the state meet. Harris, who said both the South River boys and girls have signed up for the meet, noted that the Bull Run Invitational is a great way to gain some early preparation for the state championship.
“I always look forward to going there,” Harris said. “It’s a great meet and a tough course.”