Words: Jeramy Stavlas
Photo: Ellie Zoller-Gritz
Starting the season ranked as the 40th best cross country team in Milesplit Maryland’s annual pre-season rankings, Centennial’s boys’ team had clearly taken a step back from last year. With six of seven Varsity runners graduating, the 2018 division 3A state champion Eagles were supposed to have a rebuilding year. Coaches Kevin McCoy and Robert Slopek had a different mindset, however. Along with their competitive nature, they found a way to shape the team into a real contender for a back-to-back 3A state title.
The Eagles placed second at the county championship, with only River Hill High School beating them. River Hill is favored to win the state title according to season statistics and Milesplit Maryland’s current rankings, but Centennial’s scores have been closing in on River Hill every race this season as they look to capture a second straight state title.
Led by juniors Jake Cole and Andrew Bank, along with freshman Antonio Camacho, the Eagles have exceeded all expectations through hard work and dedication, according to Bank. Through an intense training plan, the Varsity team’s race times have improved by an average of 58 seconds since early September.
Bank, who missed the majority of last season with an injury, was overlooked in team and individual rankings and has helped turn Centennial into a serious threat for the state championship.
“I’m coming in and running times that no one expected. It’s really great to have that happen to us and I’m looking forward to a nice and bright future for our team,” Bank said.
Cole finished third overall in the county championship, with Camacho and Bank placing 10th and 11th, respectively.
The girls’ team is also looking to bring home another state title, recently placing second in the county championship behind Howard High School.
The boys’ and girls’ teams will go on to race in the regional championship on Thursday, October 31 at Centennial High School. The girls will race at 2:30 followed by the boys’ race at 3:30.
Coach McCoy and Slopek have high expectations for the team in their last two races.
“We’re going to run as hard and best as we can and if we do that, everything else takes care of itself,” said McCoy.
With the team reaching their fastest point with the season on the line, Slopek added, “I think we’re peaking at the right time.”
For more breaking news and photos, follow The Wingspan on Instagram and Twitter @CHSWingspan.