Cougar Challenge cross-country 1

Urbana’s Sara Jarman, right, finished first, just ahead of teammate Karly McDonnell, left, on Saturday at the Cougar Challenge cross-country meet at Catoctin High School. View and purchase sports photos at www.fnpinfocus.com.

THURMONT — With the Frederick County Public Schools cross-country championships a little more than two weeks away, Saturday’s Cougar Challenge at Catoctin High School was the perfect opportunity for Sara Jarman and her Urbana teammates to size up the 5-kilometer course they would run on at the county meet.

Although this was her first venture on Catoctin’s course, Jarman, a senior, didn’t back away from the challenge. In her determined style, Jarman led the way for the Hawks, who dominated the 13-team field in this dress rehearsal of sorts, scoring 19 points, easily outdistancing runner-up C.H. Flowers (92), of Prince George’s County.

Jarman won the girls race in 20 minutes, 34.4 seconds.

Catoctin’s Alex Contreras won the boys race (18:03.8).

“Yes, this course was challenging, but we’ve done a lot of training on hills,” Jarman said. “We’ve had a couple of really hard races, so I think we were well-prepared for this.”

Jarman had plenty of familiar company at the head of the pack Saturday. The Hawks’ Karly McDonnell was second (20:57.5). In third for Urbana was Lula Masters (21:08.9). Emily McDonnell finished fifth for Urbana (21:11.9).

Even with the course’s many hills and turns, Jarman said it’s not quite as challenging as the grueling course at Hereford High School, site of the state cross-country championships. Nevertheless, Saturday’s workout went a long way in preparing for the big races that await.

At the one-mile mark of the Catoctin course, runners must take on a somewhat steep hill.

“But running on hills is what makes a good cross-country runner,” Jarman said.

Jarman took the early lead in the race, but she was running among a pack of four, most of them being her teammates. Karly McDonnell was right behind Jarman most of the way.

“It always helps to have your teammates near you,” Jarman said.

Ivy Coldren was eighth for Urbana (21:38.3).

For Urbana girls coach C.J. Ecalano, seeing a bunch of his runners near the top of the heap was breathtaking.

“We’ve been to nothing but crowded meets to the point of where we couldn’t see each other [on the course],” Ecalano said. “So with a lot of smaller schools and a big crowd here, our runners could see their teammates. Make it kind of like a practice, hang with your teammates as much as you can. So they did. They did a really nice job today.”

Ecalano said the Catoctin course had some changes to it, compared to a few years ago when it was run as a short-course event (two miles).

“We knew this course was going to be hard,” he said. “We’ve been doing nothing but hills and running on hard courses, so we were prepared for this. We were just here to preview the county course, to see it and feel it. This course was fun. I mean, this is a cross-country course. You’ve got the hills, you’ve got the downhills, you’ve got the road crossings, the trails. It’s all you want in a cross-country course.”

For Contreras, a freshman, this course was fairly new to him, even though this is his home course. Training typically consists of running mostly on the hills on the Catoctin campus, Contreras said. So when it came time for the main race, he was fully prepared.

“You’ve got to stay steady in the beginning on this course,” Contreras said. “You’ve got to save energy.”

About a mile into the race, after a curve on the course, runners must go up a steep hill toward the school before turning right toward a wooded area. Contreras said this is a crucial spot early in the race.

“When you get to that curve, it’s where it separates a lot of people,” he said. “When you get to the top of the hill, you’ve got to keep pushing. Then, the rest of the race is just keeping space between you and the rest of the runners.”

Contreras took the lead after mastering the hill.

“I took five quick steps, just like my coach taught me. Then, I just cruised.”

NOTES: Oakdale’s girls were third (97). Linganore got fifth (132). Thomas Johnson finished sixth (157). Catoctin was ninth (217). ...

In the boys meet, Fairfax defeated Urbana 76-89. Oakdale was third (96). TJ finished fourth (104). ...

Aubrey Schaffer was fourth for Oakdale (21:11.4). TJ’s Jada Fosburg was ninth (22:03.3). Walkersville’s Megan Bertolette was 10th (22:04.5). Linganore’s Caroline Perrone finished 12th (22:16.9). Catoctin’s Emma Strickland finished 14th (22:24.7). ...

Urbana’s Luke Hartlaub finished second (18:11.2). Thomas Johnson’s Gabe Caprarola-Bianco was fifth (18:18.5). Oakdale’s Justin Cherry was sixth (18:19.1). The Cougars’ Marshall Hahn was seventh (18:31.5). Oakdale’s Nicholas Raumann finished eighth (18:32.2). For Walkersville, Haven Barren was 13th (18:59.6).

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