MONTGOMERY VILLAGE – The Wheaton High School boys cross country team won the 3A South regional meet after three of their runners placed in the top 20 at Watkins Mill High School Thursday.
Wheaton beat Northern High School- Calvert County’s 55 points with a score of 49.
Knights Head Coach Michael Trumbull said he aimed for his team to run as a pack to minimize the time between the first and fifth runners.
“I knew going into it that if our guys could run together… they had a shot at winning it,” Trumbull said. “That was the game plan going in.”
Two Northern High School-Calvert County boys finished in first and second place (17:01 minutes, 17:02 minutes), followed by Wheaton seniors Jason Scott (17:36) in third and Alexis Fuentes in fifth (18:04).
Trumbull said the regional meet was the coming together of his runners’ hard work.
With three rookies and two veterans, the Knights spent three weeks leading up to regionals working on running in packs.
“I think it was overall the best team performance we’ve had all year, by far,” Trumbull said.
While pack running was new for some of the team members, running hills was not.
Trumbull noted the school’s home course contained multiple hills; they practiced hill repeats throughout the season. He said his runners carried out the strategy well.
“When one would start to slow down, the other would start to pick it up,” Trumbull said.
Scott said he thought he had a shot at winning the race but lost it early.
“I would sometimes catch up to them on the down-hills and then on the up-hills they would pull away,” he added.
Despite Northern-Calvert County’s one-two punch, Wheaton’s third through fifth runners placed the highest of all the teams’ third through fifth runners.
Wheaton’s third runner, Scott’s twin brother Eric Scott (10th, 18:32), and fourth runner Douglas Flores (13th, 18:40) finished before Northern-Calvert’s third finisher Jack Lehnhardt (14th, 18:40), earning their team a better score.
Wheaton’s fourth and Northern-Calvert’s third and fourth finished within three seconds of each other. Wheaton freshman Natnel Tiroro placed 18th (18:51).
Blake’s boys team placed fourth with 97 points, followed by Magruder in sixth with 153 points, each earning a trip to the state finals.
Watkins Mill tied with Magruder for 153 points, after two teams were disqualified for uniform violations, according to Watkins Mill Head Coach Bryant Adams, who hosted the meet.
Great Mills senior Annie Imhof won the girls race with a time of 19:26 minutes.
Two Montgomery County girls, Wheaton senior Gelila Hailermariam and Magruder junior Kathy Peña-Maina, placed in the top 10.
Peña-Maina finished in eighth place (21:12), followed by Hailermariam (22:29) in tenth.
“To hear I got eighth place, it felt pretty good,” Peña-Maina said.
Peña-Maina said the hilly terrain made the course challenging.
“This course is hard, everyone says this course is hard” she said. “There’s three hills, so once you hit the hills the second time, you’re just like, ‘Oh my God, why am I doing this?’ in your head.”
She said she aimed to finish faster than the time she earned last year on the same course, but she didn’t meet her goal.
The Wheaton and Magruder girls teams each earned a spot in state finals, with scores of 120 and 123 respectively to place fourth and fifth of eight teams.