ACCIDENT — There has been palpable buzz surrounding the Northern Huskies’ cross country program as it embarks on the 2021 campaign.
The girls enter the year as the defending 2019 1A state champions while the boys are also looking to contend at the state level with a squad that’s loaded with upperclassmen.
Overall, head coach Jaron Hawkins is cautiously optimistic as the teams look to compete in their first full season since two years ago.
“We are running on no expectations this year,” said Hawkins. “It is extremely hard to gauge where we might be as a team.”
On the boys’ side, the team is almost all juniors and have a strong core of runners in the top four spots.
“Our goal is for them to move up and have our No. 5 runner close the gap,” added Hawkins. “They are experienced, but of course they missed last season.”
Hawkins also hopes that the successful track and field season from his distance kids led to a productive training summer period.
It seems to be the case as the boys won the Interstate Classic and the meet at Mountain Ridge to kick off the season, both in relatively dominating fashion. However, Hawkins knows that there should be a proper level of perspective with these early results.
“Honestly, that means diddly squat to us,” stated Hawkins. “It’s September, and results at this point are relatively meaningless if you aren’t moving forward.”
Northern’s toughest competition from the boys’ side will likely come from regional opponents Brunswick, Smithsburg, and Catoctin.
Leading the Husky boys in the top four spots currently are juniors Jayden Fike, Josh Brobst, Ethyn Peck, and Ashton Sober. The team’s two seniors are Jesse Spear and Tyler Yoder.
On the girls’ side, the Huskies are looking to be a formidable group when they are at full strength.
“So far we (the girls) have been the last scoring team in the first two meets, but who cares?” said Hawkins. “It doesn’t matter at this point. We are looking at late October and early November for everything to come together.”
Hawkins has every reason to be that confident. The team was nowhere near full strength in the first two meets and still showed several encouraging individual results from younger runners gaining valuable experience.
Half of the roster also plays on the girls’ soccer team which is a big reason why the early-season meets have had smaller numbers from the Huskies. Several of those runners are key contributors, and Hawkins has been nothing but pleased with their work ethic.
“Coach Gregg Hostetler (Girls’ soccer coach) has been phenomenal to work with, and I think we are in the midst of a very symbiotic relationship,” said Hawkins. “The runners from the soccer team are going to make a big impact, and some early workouts with the whole team have shown great potential.”
Northern will have to get out of an incredibly tough 1A West Region on its way to qualifying for states, but if it can peak at the right time, the Huskies could have a chance to rise to the top once again.
Three of the Lady Huskies’ top five runners return from that 2019 state championship squad, and those are senior twins Minka and Arrisyn Amtower and junior Sophia Brown. Northern also has seven freshmen on the roster which signal the long-term potential for the program.
The other seniors on the team are Kylee Barnes, Jaclyn Jacobs, Ava Rankin, and Nicole Savage.
Northern’s regular-season schedule takes the team into several highly competitive meets throughout Maryland before culminating in the regional and state championship meets in November.
The key late-season meets include the WestMac Championships at New Germany State Park (Oct. 22), the Husky Invite at Northern High School (Oct. 27), the regional championship meet at Smithsburg (Nov. 4), and the state championships held at Hereford High School (Nov. 13). There is also an Area Championship meet that is slated for Oct. 7 at New Germany State Park.
For now, the Huskies’ next meet is the Wildcat Invite at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 25 in Williamsport.
What happened in the most recent full season: 2019?
On the boys’ side, the Huskies’ 2019 expectations were built around returning to their previous glory. They had come off a disappointing effort in 2018 where they had failed to qualify for the state meet since the program returned to Northern in 2013. Coach Hawkins even went so far as to call it “A debacle…we had a real wake-up call.”
The result? Northern not only returned to respectability but it qualified for the 1A state championship meet once again and placed seventh out of the 19 teams thanks to sound senior leadership and a solid core of young runners
For the girls, they were hoping to qualify for states again, and then if everything went well, they could maybe finish near the top tier of the 1A class again. With a roster featuring just one senior and six runners who had never run cross country before, accomplishing any of those things could have set up multiple championship runs down the road.
The result? The Lady Huskies decided to just go ahead and win the state championship in 2019. All five of the team’s top five runners placed within the top 20 overall at the 1A state championship, and Sophia Brown ran a blistering 20:44.93 to finish second overall out of 101 individual runners making her the top freshman in 1A that year finishing over two minutes faster and 19 spots higher than the next freshman