Friday, Feb. 8, 2008

2004 All-County Cross Country Team: Champions take all-county spots

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Boys’ Runner of the Year: Mikias Gelagle

Eleanor Roosevelt junior Mikias Gelagle emerged as the supreme talent in county boys’ cross country this fall. As the top county finisher in the state championship race last year, Gelagle was only able to finish 40th overall with a time of 18:16. Gelagle pulled off an incredible feat this season, knocking more than a minute from last year’s time to finish third individually at the state meet with a time of 16:57 and help his boys team place fifth. Gelagle also won a divisional race at the competitive William & Mary Invitational in early October and helped the Raider boys win a team title at the Spiked Shoe Invitational a month earlier. Gelagle had no problem sweeping the county and 4A South Region championships this year. Gelagle, who ran alongside state champion Mathew Centrowitz of Broadneck until the final 600 meters at the state meet, should be a contender for the individual crown in 2005 and will lead another strong Roosevelt squad.

Girls’ Runner of the Year: Jennifer Redman

Eleanor Roosevelt sophomore Jennifer Redman did not post the best statistics of the year, usually finishing right behind freshman teammate Dominique Lockhart, except in the 4A South Region championship, which Redman won. While not posting better times, Redman did hold an edge. The sophomore, after a stellar freshman season, used her experience to her advantage. Raiders’ coach Desmond Dunham said he does not think the Raider girls would have claimed a state championship if not for Redman’s leadership. Redman was the glue that brought life to the team as she exemplified Roosevelt’s familial atmosphere this season. Redman would often lead the way for the team in practice, giving 100 percent in every drill. And in practice it was Redman who finished trials first and often pushed Lockhart. Together, they helped the Raiders become the only 4A girls team to place two runners in the top 10 at the state meet. With two years remaining, Redman has plenty of time to leave her mark in her school’s record books.

by Terron Hampton

Staff Writer

It was a historic 2004 season for Prince George’s County cross country.

For the first time in 16 seasons, a county team won a state championship, as Eleanor Roosevelt’s girls’ squad made good on its quest for the title after finishing in second place last year. Here is the Star⁄Gazette 2004 All-County Cross Country Team:

Boys First Team

Kelli Thibou, Soph., Roosevelt: Roosevelt coach Desmond Dunham said the only thing preventing Thibou from running neck and neck with teammate Mikias Gelagle is maturity. Thibou picked up where he left off from last season, when he was the Star⁄Gazette Boys’ Runner of the Year as a freshman. Thibou finished ninth in the state championship race with a time of 17:27. Another year of training and maturity should allow Thibou to finish even higher in next year’s state meet.

Chibeuze Njoku, Sr., Parkdale: Njoku made his presence felt in virtually every big race this season. Even when the Roosevelt boys dominated the top 10 in the standings at many events, Njoku would often find a way to rank among the leaders. Njoku finished fourth at the 4A South Region championships on Nov. 4 and third at the county championships, Oct. 20.

Sean Layne, Sr., Bladensburg: The top boys’ runner from the county 3A⁄2A league this season, Layne was able to set personal records. He won the county dual meet at Patuxent Park in October, running the course in just over 17 minutes. At the Fort Washington course, where the county championships were held, Layne cut three minutes off of his time from last season and finished ninth with a time of 18:25.

Zack Riegel, Jr., Roosevelt: When the Roosevelt boys needed a third strong runner, Riegel was there. He came on strongest at the end of the season, capturing third place at the 4A South Region meet at Patuxent Park. Riegel was the third Roosevelt finisher at the state championships with a time of 18:30.

Girls First Team

Dominique Lockhart, Fr., Roosevelt: All Lockhart did was come onto a dominant cross country team and become its most dynamic runner as a freshman. Dunham said Lockhart has not begun to tap into her potential, adding that she is already the most talented runner on the team. Lockhart won the 2004 county championship and was the highest finisher for the Raiders’ state championship team with a fourth-place finish.

Jana Schuhmann, Jr., Friendly: Asked to briefly describe his experience with Schuhmann, Friendly coach Daryal Spencer spent the next 20 minutes raving over his junior German exchange student. Schuhmann took second place in the girls’ 2A race at the state championships at Hereford High. ‘‘You would think she has always lived here,” Spencer said, describing Schuhmann’s ability to adapt to life in the county during her six-month stay. Schuhmann also finished third at the county championships and took second place at the 2A South Region meet.

Nayda Pirela, Sr., Roosevelt: Consistency could best describe Pirela’s contribution to the Raider girls’ team. Despite finishing one second off her mark of 21:39 in the state championship race, Pirela still improved three places from her 2003 state finish and helped Roosevelt claim its first cross country title in 16 years earlier this month. Pirela, a first-team selection in 2003, also finished sixth at the county championships and took fourth in the regional final.

Tasha Stanley, Fr., Roosevelt: When the Raiders lost two of their more consistent runners to injuries, one of their youngest runners filled the void. With no prior varsity experience, all Stanley did was give Roosevelt its third-best finish at the prestigious Manhattan Invitational in early October. She took third at the county championships, fourth in the 4A South Region meet and was the Raiders’ third-best runner at the state meet, taking 15th place overall with a time of 21:27.

Coach of the Year

Desmond Dunham, Eleanor Roosevelt: Perhaps the greatest contribution Dunham has made in his two seasons at Roosevelt is the way he has inspired his runners. Dunham came to Greenbelt from Indiana two years ago with a plan. Initially, the Raider runners thought Dunham was out of his mind when they listened to the demands he placed on them. Eventually his demands generated newfound enthusiasm.

Virtually every returning runner from 2003 set new personal record times in 2004. Perhaps the most revealing testament to Dunham’s impact came during the championship ceremony after the Raider girls had won the state title at Hereford High on Nov. 13. Asked the biggest difference between her first two seasons and her last two under Dunham’s tutelage, Pirela talked of her coach rather than any personal improvements.

E-mail Terron Hampton at thampton@gazette.net.

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