Prince George’s County’s high school cross country runners tackled what John Dye of dyestate.com once termed “the toughest three miles in cross country” this past Saturday when they competed in the various state meets at Hereford High School.
When the dust settled, the results were not exactly promising with just one runner, Forestville Military Academy’s Shaun Allen, finishing in the top 10 and none of the county’s squads factored into the race for the team titles.
In fact, county public school boys and girls cross country teams have not fared as well at the state level since the Eleanor Roosevelt girls won three straight 4A crowns in the mid 2000s. The last boys title was captured by Bowie in 1984.
So what can be done to make the county more competitive?
Well, not a whole lot unless the state championship venue is changed because the courses utilized in Prince George’s County, such as Fort Washington Park, the site of the county championship meet, are challenging, but not nearly the same when it comes to Hereford’s punishing hills and “The Dip,” a steep ravine that competitors must traverse twice — once in the second mile and then again late in the race.
In between those trips to The Dip are jaunts up and down hills and runs through woods and a former cornfield surrounding the huge complex that is Hereford High School. The combination of hills and Dip forced many runners to seek medical help during, or right after, Saturday’s race.
“It’s hard to prepare for it,” Largo coach Darryl Hamilton said. “It’s one of a kind. You’re running on a hill all of the time. Most of the course is on a hill. You can’t prepare for that. It’s a tough course.”
Forestville coach Austin Gibbs believes that the “only way to prepare for a course like that is if we could run a practice at the course at least two or three times. There’s no course like that around here and it’s very difficult to find a place to practice for that course.”
Bowie coach Richard Andrulonis said relief could be on tap as a questionnaire regarding a possible change in state venue recently was circulated to the cross country coaches. A decision on whether to keep the state meets at Hereford or change the venue will be made at a later date, Andrulonis said.
“Hereford probably ranks in the top 10 of courses in the United States,” he said. “It’s much tougher than Fort Washington is in general. It’s tremendously difficult. It’s sort of a disadvantage for those runners not familiar with these types of hills. I’m sure there are a lot of coaches who would like to see it changed, because it’s an unfair advantage.”
The Hereford boys and girls cross country teams have won a combined 22 state titles and finished second 13 times. Of those 22 titles, the Bulls have raced their way to eight crowns since the state meet was moved to Hereford in 1980, where it has been held for all but two years since that time. The Hereford boys have won three straight state titles, but its last title before that current three-year run came in 1978.