By Craig Clary
At the awards ceremony following the Baltimore County cross country championship meet, Catonsville coach Sandra Gallaher-Mohler accepted a plaque on behalf of her team with a sheepish smile.
It's not that she wasn't proud of her school winning the Champions of Character spirit award as voted by the coaches.
She wants a county championship.
The boys (152) trailed front-running Loch Raven (56), Hereford (63), Dulaney (83) and Towson (95).
"I'm so tired of being there," she said.
Loch Raven's win of the boys title was that school's first since 1985 and it gives her hope.
"Next year, we will be loaded with seniors. We only lose one of our top seven guys and two of our top seven girls," she said.
The Comet boys were led by juniors Ty Stump (20th, 17:59.5) and Kyle Prendergast (21st, 17:59.9).
"Kyle and Ty ran amazing today," Gallagher-Mohler said.
The goal for the Comets was to finish ahead of Towson, but the return of Generals top runner Mason Campbell (5th, 17:07.8) prevented that.
"When he's out there, their whole team turns around. They were the better team today," Gallagher-Mohler said.
They will see Towson again at the regional and state meets.
"We have a pack of seven very strong guys, but it all depends where the pack falls. They want it and they work hard day in and day out," the coach said.
The Comets were also represented by junior Ben Greason (36th, 18:29.4), sophomore Kyle Crum (40th, 18:32.2), juniors Phillip Clelland (42nd, 18:35.7) and Kent Brinks (45th, 18:49.1) and senior Tommy Barber (49th, 19:04.7).
Brinks and senior Chris Fawcett, who didn't run at the county meet, are co-captains.
"The hardest thing as a coach is keeping them focused on being successful and working towards a common goal and I definitely think our guys have that and a lot of that is due to our captains. Thank God for them," Gallagher-Mohler said.
The young Comet girls are also making strides.
At Dulaney, juniors Emily Parr (18th, 21:56.6) and Katie Gill (22nd, 22:34.5) cracked the top 25 and junior Hannah Jenkins (27th, 22:57.3) was in the top 30 in the race won by Hereford junior Kristen Malloy (19:12.4).
Francoise Mandengue (31st, 23:05.2) was third among freshmen finishers in the race.
Senior Ali Schwaab (35th, 23:31.7), sophomore Sarah Willis (38th, 23:39.9) and senior Cathy Gill (50th, 24:56.7) were all in the top 50.
Gallagher-Mohler also praised the hard work of manager Emmarie Myers who keeps the coach straight by recording all the times and splits.
"We have the best manager in the world," she said.
Now if only she could see those times on the master sheet get lower and lower.
"I know its there. It's continuing to build on the reputation we've done in the last five years," Gallagher-Mohler said.
Western Tech senior third in county championship race
The first time Western Tech senior Chris Mills ever ran cross country competitively was his second day at the school during his freshman year.
That season he finished 50th in the Baltimore County championship meet.
As a sophomore, he was 31st.
Last year, he cracked the top 10 by placing ninth.
In his final county race in sloppy conditions at Dulaney High, Mills was third in a time of 17:00.6.
He trailed only Perry Hall's Sumanth Kuppalli (16:19.9) and Loch Raven's Mike Glassman (16:50.2).
Kuppalli was just 14 seconds ahead of Mills, who was in second, with just over a mile to go.
"The second mile, because of the turns and the mud, it really slowed down the race, but that didn't get him (Kuppalli)," Mills said.
Running free of others and in control on the turns and hills was the key to negotiating the slippery trek.
"Mud is like going all up in your face so you don't want to get that close to anybody or you'll get covered," Mills said. "The hills were brutal and there were like four turns you couldn't even make because you would have to slow down. It was difficult."
Mills had a plan, but that plan went awry after three days of rain that forced pushed back the race an extra hour.
"Basically, what happened, I had set a pace I wanted to go if it was dry, 5:20 (first mile), 10:40 and finish in 16:18. I expected the last 1.1 miles in 5:38, but I did a lot worse than that," he said.
Considering where he finished as a freshman, third place was quite an accomplishment.
"If you look at it that way, yea, I did good and my time went down every year," said Mills, fourth in the small schools race at the Bull Run Invitational at Hereford last month.
Now, he hopes his times can keep improving through the regional and state meets.
He projects the Class 1A boys race on Nov. 10 at the state meet at Hereford High to be between five runners.
"We're all like even," Mills said. "It's not who has the better day or who wants it the most because we all want it. You just have to do your thing and hopefully their thing doesn't wreck your thing."
Western Tech finished 10th in the team standings with 274 points.
Joining Mills were sophomore Rodney Harris (61st, 20:13.3), freshman Dallas Boodhoo (69th, 21:04.2), sophomore Chris Evans (89th, 22:40.5) and freshman Sagar Bajpai (99th, 25:20.1).
Western Tech's Samantha Addison (27:59.1) and Jasmine Skinner (33:54.7) were the lone Wolverine girls to participate.