PARKTON — Michael Belmaggio knows the right time to look back while running in a cross-country race is when he’s turning a sharp corner on a course.
The Linganore senior did it twice Saturday at the state meet, where he glimpsed his challenger, Bel Air’s Caleb Zelka, who was trying to close in on Belmaggio.
“I looked back on the sharp turns so I could gauge just how much distance I needed to put between me and him,” Belmaggio said.
Right after the final look back, with about a mile to go, Belmaggio made his move. With a quick burst of speed, he began pulling away from Zelka over the final half-mile, going on to end his cross-country career by winning the boys Class 3A state championship at Hereford High School.
Belmaggio, who was runner-up last year, crossed the finish line in 16 minutes, 16.21 seconds. Zelka was second at 16:38.17.
Linganore‘s boys took second in the team standings behind 3A state boys champion Centennial, 87-126.
Oakdale’s girls were second in the Class 2A division. Brunswick‘s girls finished second in Class 1A.
“When you’re running, you’re not supposed to look back when you’re running straight forward,” Linganore coach Andres Wright said. “Because of those two sharp turns on the course, I told Michael he was allowed two looks back.”
Belmaggio, in keeping with his training, had a smooth start on the notorious 3-mile course. He started with an easy pace, working his way to the front of the pack.
“It was quite windy today,” Belmaggio said. “You have to have mental toughness when you run on a course like this. I felt really warmed up at the start of the race, ready to go.”
Considered to be one of the toughest cross-country courses in the region, Hereford is famous for its hills, wooded areas and maze-like turns, a make-or-break course for many athletes.
Belmaggio ran a smart race. Having previously fallen at Hereford, he slowed his pace as he approached the two dips on the course, coming at the 1.25- and 2.5-mile marks.
“You have to watch out for those spots, and on the sharp turns,” Belmaggio said.
Not long after he crossed the finish line, Belmaggio went back to congratulate teammates and runners he knows from other schools. He also stopped to help runners who had fallen after crossing the finish line.
“He’s such a great kid,” Wright said of Belmaggio.
Linganore placed three runners in the top 10. Carson Buck finished sixth (16:59.35), and Will Cioffi was ninth (17:12.95).
Wright thought the Lancers might have a chance at the team crown with their top three runners having done so well. Instead, Centennial had runners in 11th, 13th, 17th, 22nd and 24th, all but assuring the Eagles of the 2A crown. Linganore’s remaining two runners were 55th and 56th.
Still, Wright was pleased.
“We got three runners in the top 10,” he said. “We didn’t overdo it; we let the race come to us.”
Other local highlights:
Class 3A Boys
Thomas Johnson’s Daveen Bavari finished 15th (17:28.35). Tuscarora’s Jeff Young was 28th (17:47.04). For Frederick, Amir King’oo finished 73rd (18:50.04).
Class 3A Girls
Linganore’s Khelsea Connolly finished 15th (20:38.92). For Tuscarora, Nora Jarrahi finished 51st (22:13.36). Frederick’s Rebecca Toms was 69th (22:42.7). Saoizse Conley finished 76th for Thomas Johnson (22:52.58).
Class 4A Boys
Urbana’s Jonathan Mason was 45th (17:25).
Class 4A Girls
Urbana’s Carly McDonnell finished 25th (20:47.17), Mary Miller was 28th (20:55.34), and Sara Jarman finished 33rd for the Hawks (21:07.51).
Class 2A Boys
Oakdale placed fourth (131), while Liberty won the team championship (110).
Kyle Lund and Collin Dempsey took fifth and sixth for the Bears, with respective times of 16:29.22 and 16:36.22.
Middletown’s Grayson Whitesell finished 57th (17:54.28).
Class 2A Girls
A strong performance by team champion Hereford kept Oakdale out of the running for the state team title. Hereford took the first, fourth and eighth spots on its way to a 68-131 win over the Bears.
Oakdale’s Haley Ross cracked the top 10, finishing eighth (20:42.06). Middletown’s Eleanor Stafford and Campbell Caldwell finished 11th (20:54.69) and 12th (21:07.15), respectively, as the Knights placed fourth in the team standings with 146 points.
For Walkersville, Megan Bertolette finished 13th (21:07.28).
Oakdale’s Aubrey Schaeffer finished 14th (21:07.31). Cara Fliegel finished 24th (21:29.63).
Class 1A Boys
Brunswick finished ninth (224). Noah McGillivray finished 22nd for the Railroaders (18:23.49), while Caleb Shullenbarger got 31st (18:55.09).
Class 1A Girls
After edging out Boonsboro in the Class 1A West championships, Brunswick scored 59 points to the Warriors’ 44 at the state meet.
Elizabeth Willman finished seventh for the Railroaders (21:30.82). Jena Rhodes got 10th (21:39.52). Rebekah Shullenbarger finished 14th (21:54.85).
Two more Railroaders made the top 25: Alison Laverty was 21st (22:28.27) and Amy Tarcza finished 23rd (22:40.6).
Catoctin finished sixth (191). Rachel Waldron led the Cougars, finishing ninth (22:22.11). Brenna Williams was 29th (23:12.67). Emma Strickland was 31st (23:20.39).