Middletown girls cross country 1

Middletown sisters Emily Buzzell (278) and Randy Buzzell (280) lead the Class 2A girls cross-country race in 1999 at Hereford High School. Emily went on to win the title and set a course record; Randy came in second. Those Knights, who won the state crown, were among the finest girls cross-country teams in county history. But were they the best? Help decide by voting on our poll at www.fredericknewspost.com.

What are the best high school teams in Frederick this fall?

Thanks to the coronavirus, we’ll likely have to wait until next spring to find out. The Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association postponed fall and winter sports until after the first semester, which ends in January, because of the coronavirus pandemic.

So to help fill the void, The Frederick News-Post thought it would be fun to ask readers to pick the best Frederick County high school teams of all-time in each sport.

Each week, we’ll feature a sport and list contenders from years past in that sport. Readers can visit www.fredericknewspost.com to vote for the team they think is best. We’ll do this for all sports, fall, winter and spring.

Each Thursday, when we list candidates for another sport, we’ll reveal the team from the previous week’s sport that got the most votes.

This week’s sport: Girls cross-country. May the best team win.

1989 Frederick Cadets

Accomplishments: Class 4A state champion, Region champion, Frederick County champion

Moving to Class 4A in 1989, Frederick High won its first girls cross-country state title. No other Frederick County program has won states at the 4A level.

At the state meet, Frederick placed four runners in the top 12, allowing it to beat runner up Walt Whitman (which had been ranked in the top 25 in the nation) by a score of 59-68.

The Cadets ended up being ranked No. 1 by The Baltimore Sun, a fitting honor for a team with such firepower.

“You’re lucky if you have one girl run under 20 minutes,” said Frank Strakonsky, who coached Frederick along with Jim Weir. “We had two.”

Frederick’s Kristin McMichael placed third at states with a time of 19 minutes, 47 seconds on the Hereford High course, while teammate Jennie Novak placed fourth with a 19:51. Strakonsky told The Frederick News-Post back then those two needed to place in the overall top five for the Cadets to win.

Frederick’s top five was rounded out by Lisa Zirkle (11th), Tessia Brust (12th) and Karen Schaffran (29th).

McMichael, Novak and Brust were Frederick News-Post all-county first-teamers.

Strakonsky coached Frederick’s 1995 state championship team. He thought fierce competition in Frederick County during this era served as ideal preparation for runners.

1991 Brunswick Railroaders

Accomplishments: Class 1A state champion, Region champion, Frederick County champion, MVAL champion

After being a finalist the previous two seasons, the Railroaders broke through with authority in 1991, rolling to a 24-67 win over runner up and rival Boonsboro and winning the first of three straight crowns.

Leading the way for Brunswick was freshman Adrian Unger, who won the individual 1A state title with a time of 19:06.9. She was on the cusp of a brilliant career, winning four cross-country state titles — the first girl to do so. She went on to run for Old Dominion.

Right behind Unger at the states was teammate Lora Price, who placed second with a 19:15 and continued her career at Austin Peay. Price won the 1989 state title, meaning this Brunswick team had runners who ultimately accounted for five individual state titles over the years.

Six of Brunswick’s seven runners placed in the top 15 at the 1991 state meet. Karen Carpenter was sixth, Robin Freund was seventh, Cindy Abrecht was 12th and Katrina Peterson was 15th.

Coached by Lee and Anne Zumbach, the Railroaders were 11-0 in meets heading into the states. Nonetheless, Brunswick had to deal with nervousness and guard against overconfidence to deliver the program’s fourth state title at the time (the first three came in the 1980s).

“I have to give them credit for their success,” Lee Zumbach told The Frederick News-Post. “Mentally, they handled it very well.”

Brunswick’s win at the Frederick County meet was also notable, showing how the Railroaders were fully capable of beating bigger schools. Unger (the News-Post runner of the year) and Price (an all-county first-teamer) placed 1-2, respectively, at that event, too.

1995 Linganore Lancers

Accomplishments: Class 2A state champion, Frederick County champion, 2A West region champion, CMC champion

Not even nasty weather could prevent Linganore from winning its third straight state crown in 1995.

After winning Class 3A titles the previous two years, the Lancers completed their three-peat by beating Oakland Mills 41-86 in the 2A meet.

All of those crowns came under longtime head coach John Grim. Unlike the previous two years, however, this one saw a Linganore runner, Kristen Ritter, win an individual title. Ritter, who continued her running career at the University of Tennessee, won with a time of 19:50, braving the elements along the way.

“The wind and the rain were in my face a lot,” she told the News-Post.

Linganore’s top five was rounded out by Cassy Crouse (fourth), Christiana Briddell (11th), Heather Ulmer (13th) and Michele Barrick (15th). Ritter, Crouse and Briddell were Frederick News-Post all-area first-team picks.

“This team is probably one of the physically and mentally tough teams I’ve ever coached,” Grim said that day. That’s high praise from someone who coached plenty of successful teams, including another one — years later — on this list.

1999 Middletown Knights

Accomplishments: Class 2A state champion, Frederick County champion, 2A West champion, MVAL champion

Middletown’s girls cross-country program was a juggernaut during this era, winning four straight state titles from 1997 to 2000.

While any of those teams was worthy of being on this list, the 1999 edition was flat-out dominant, winning every meet it entered, including three major invitationals, and climbing to No. 16 in the national cross-country rankings.

Led by sisters Emily and Randy Buzzell, the Knights placed five runners in the top 11 at the state meet and rolled to a 24-82 win over runner up Catonsville. By then, such showings were almost commonplace for Middletown, which won the MVAL meet with a perfect score of 15.

Emily Buzzell — a freshman — won the individual state title with a time of 18:57.2, setting a course record. Randy Buzzell, who had won a state title as a freshman two years earlier, placed second. The sisters got the same finishes at the county and regional meets.

“How could you be disappointed when you have sisters 1-2?” Knights coach Sharon Boyer told The Frederick News-Post at the state meet. “It took both of them to help each other run that strong.”

Middletown’s average time at the state meet was 20:02. Its top five included Kathy Harrigan (fifth overall), Rocky Morgan (seventh) and Andrea Pope (11th). All five Knights earned News-Post all-area first-team honors, and Emily Buzzell was Runner of the Year.

The next season, Middletown won its county-best seventh state crown. Since then, no Frederick County girls cross-country team has won a state title, although there have been some near misses.

2009 Thomas Johnson Patriots

Accomplishments: Class 4A state finalist, Frederick County champion, Class 4A North region champion

The 2009 Patriots came close to becoming just the second Frederick County program to win a 4A state crown, falling 89-95 to a Severna Park team that was ranked No. 1 by Running Maryland.

TJ’s Savanna Plombon finished second at that meet, and teammate Stephanie Bryan placed fourth. TJ’s top five included Kelsey Igo (21st), Kristen Luttrell (30th) and Kristen Galligan (43rd).

“Our girls ran a tremendous race in very poor conditions,” TJ coach Chris Lewis said. “I’m very proud of them.”

Bryan, who won individual county and region titles (running an 18:35.09 in the latter), was The Frederick News-Post Runner of the Year. Plombon, the only county runner to finish ahead of Bryan all season, Galligan, Igo, Luttrell and Annie Powell (who placed sixth in the county meet despite twisting her ankle) were all-county first-teamers.

2016 Catoctin Cougars

Accomplishments: Class 2A state finalist, Frederick County/CMC champion

This was a historic season for Catoctin’s girls cross-country team, which was coached by John Grim and Ryan Lenhart.

After winning the Frederick County meet title, the first county title in program history, the Cougars enjoyed their most successful showing at the state meet, finishing second — 52-92 — to champion Hereford.

Julien Webster was Catoctin’s standout. She won the county individual crown and placed third at the state meet, where she battled leg cramps after being the frontrunner.

Lillie Perella (10th), Emma Strickland (14th), Rachel Waldron (18th) and Kia Braithwaite (58th) followed Webster.

Webster, who earned a spot in the Foot Locker Cross Country Championships Nationals Finals, was The Frederick News-Post Runner of the Year. Perella, Strickland and Waldron were all-county first-teamers.

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