Friday, Feb. 8, 2008

2003 All-County Cross Country Team: Raider girls lead unpredictable year for county runners

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by Terron Hampton

Staff Writer

This year in cross country was unlike many others in recent memory.

On the girls’ side, Eleanor Roosevelt became the first county team since 1988 to record a runner-up finish in the state meet.

Meanwhile, a number of youthful and inexperienced runners emerged to take center stage in many of the boys’ competitions. The Flowers boys’ and girls’ teams broke through to qualify for the state meet for the first time, and Parkdale’s boys emerged from obscurity to earn a berth in the state meet also.

This was truly the year of the underclassman, as several new faces came onto the county scene and have set the bar high for the next few seasons.

Here is the 2003 Star⁄Gazette All-County Cross Country Team:

Coach of the Year

Nathaniel Metts – Parkdale: Metts was able to take the Panther boys to the state meet at Hereford High for the first time in school history. Making the feat even more impressive was the fact that none of Parkdale’s runners had ever competed in cross country prior to this fall. But Metts’ effort raised interest in the sport at the school.

‘‘The big thing was the environment,” Metts said. 'I told them whatever sport they play, you have to run. Once I put it like that, they all bought into it. That became the cornerstone of our whole training regimen.”

Boys’ Runner of the Year

Keli Thibou, freshman, Eleanor Roosevelt: This year was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the Raiders after a coaching change and the graduation of the team’s top male runner, John Witter. But along came a freshman that forced observers around the county to take notice. Roosevelt was absent from several races that many county teams ran in during the early part of the season. No one knew much about Thibou until he burst onto the scene to dominate several dual meets. The freshman upset Bowie senior John Slonaker and held off teammate Mikias Gelagle in both the county championship and the 4A South Region championship to capture first-place honors.

‘‘I was fortunate enough that Keli had significant experience before coming to Roosevelt. We just want to build upon that foundation,” Roosevelt coach Desmond Dunham said.

Girls’ Runner of the Year

Andrea Wright, senior, Eleanor Roosevelt: The biggest surprise of the year was the way the Raider girls’ team came onto the scene and had no county team challenge them for supremacy. After losing 2002 Star⁄Gazette Girls Runner of Year Crystal Anyanwu to graduation, many expected for the Raider girls to fall off the radar. Instead, the entire state was shown that Roosevelt will be a force for years to come, and the biggest reason for that was the success of Wright. Having never run cross country before, Wright emerged at the end of the year to capture second place in the county championship and first place in the 4A South Region championship meet. She was the top county runner in the girls’ 4A state championship meet with a ninth-place overall finish. Wright expected to just get into shape for the basketball season, where she is a returning member of the Roosevelt girls’ team, but ended up leading the Raiders to a second-place finish in the state.

Boys’ First Team

John Slonaker, senior, Bowie: Slonaker was the only returning county runner who qualified for the 2002 state championship meet as an individual. Although he did not fall into the logical place of being the top male runner in the county this fall, Slonaker’s season was nonetheless impressive. In every county race this season, Slonaker placed in the top five individually. His finish at the state championship was good enough for second among county boys’ runners.

Dartavius Douglass, senior, Fairmont Heights: Fairmont Heights boys’ basketball coach George Wake told Douglass that it is a good idea for basketball players to run cross country in order to prepare for the basketball season. Douglass did far more than that, placing fourth at the county meet and qualifying for the 2A state meet with his seventh-place finish in the 2A South Region championship. Douglass’ coach Vaughn Jonhson advised the senior to give track and basketball a try to better his chances for a college athletic scholarship.

Mikias Gelagle, sophomore, Eleanor Roosevelt: Had Thibou not won the county and regional championship, Gelagle would have had a strong claim to boys’ runner of the year honors. In just his second varsity season, Gelagle finished second to Thibou in the county championship. He followed that performance with a third-place finish at the 4A South Region meet and saved his best for last, as he was the top male county runner at the state championship, finishing in 41st place.

Omari Daughtridge, senior, Bishop McNamara: Daughtridge finished in 16th place at the Georgetown Prep Invitational with a time of 17:06, running well in a seeded field with some of the best runners in the region. At the Anne Arundel Invitational — one of the toughest courses in the area — Daughtridge ran a time of 18:03. He finished sixth at the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference championships.

Girls’ First Team

Lonique Moore, senior, Elizabeth Seton: A 2002 Star⁄Gazette second-team selection, Moore continued to improve this season. She finished fourth at the Mustang Invitational, a meet where she was pitted against some of the top public school runners from the county. She finished in fifth place at the WCAC championships. Moore ran 22:13 on a tough course at the Anne Arundel Invitational ‘‘I expected she would continue to improve,” said Seton coach Gillian Haskell. ‘‘I think she just worked very hard.”

Marquita Watson, sophomore, DuVal: There’s no telling how good Watson might have been had she been able to run the entire season. Battling a mysterious knee injury that caused her to hobble after practices and races, Watson had to sit out many races. But when she returned, Watson did not disappoint. She qualified for the 2A state championship individually after a 15th-place finish at the 2A South Region championship. She followed that performance by finishing in the top half of girls at the state meet.

Jennifer Redmon, freshman, Eleanor Roosevelt: Redmon began her high school running career with a bang. Often dominant against experienced competition, Redmon finished second to her teammate (Wright) in the 4A South Region meet, while taking top honors in the county championship. Redmon also helped her team capture second place in the state with her 10th-place finish, one spot behind Wright. Redmon is poised to be one of the county’s best runners in the future.

Nayda Pirela, junior, Eleanor Roosevelt: Considering the way that the Roosevelt girls dominated, the Raiders had many deserving runners. Senior Kafi Pollard — who finished third and fourth at the county and 4A South Region championships, respectively — freshman Tameka Jameson and multi-sport dynamo Caitlin Salins all had strong seasons. But in the state meet — where every point counted and Roosevelt lost the state title to Broadneck by just six points — Pirela came through when the team needed her. She was the Raiders’ third finisher at the state meet and helped them reach new heights with consistent finishes all season.

Second Team Selections

Girls: Kafi Pollard, Roosevelt; Caitlin Salins, Roosevelt; Christine Danielson, Roosevelt; Tameka Jameson, Roosevelt; Jovann Jones, Largo; Yolanda Barber, Suitland; Monae Pyles, Bowie; Glendalyn Junio, High Point; Sirdonea Davis, Largo; Shannon Wade, Flowers; Denise Smith, Flowers; Starema Flood, Douglass; Tobie Hamilton, Central.

Boys: Ahmad Wade, High Point; Nicholas Gordon, McNamara; Zach Riegel, Roosevelt; Charles Wilkinson, Suitland; Adrian Green, Suitland; Jarrod Franklin, Flowers; Bryan Redmon, High Point; Anthony Walker, Roosevelt; Jed Pilgrim, Flowers; Marshall Casey, Roosevelt; Romaine McKay, Central; Asteway Addisu, Forestville.