By ANDREW MASON
11:45 PM EST, December 10, 2012
Sarah Zielinski tends to smile while she’s running.
Now that the Boonsboro senior is a state cross country champion, maybe she finally is happy.
Zielinski is The Herald-Mail’s Washington County Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year for the third straight year.
She earned the honor this season by winning her third straight county title, her second straight Class 1A West region title and her first Maryland 1A state title, while leading the Boonsboro girls to team titles at all three of those championship meets. She also was champion of the MVAL Antietam Conference and the winner of three other invitational meets.
Zielinski, who’s won four individual state titles in track, was determined this fall to win the one state title that had eluded her.
“I wasn’t happy at all,” she said of her second-place finish at last year’s state cross country meet. “I was just like, ‘OK, now I need to train more. I still have another year, and I just need to run harder.’”
That’s what she did, logging up to 50 miles a week this summer in preparation.
“She really wanted to win that state title that eluded her last year,” Boonsboro coach Becky Walter said. “And she worked her butt off all summer, running up and down South Mountain and waking up early to get in long runs. ... If I let her, she’d go out and run 20 miles every day.”
Zielinski clearly was ready to go Nov. 10 at the state meet, held on Hereford High School’s infamously hilly 3-mile course. She ran alone in the lead the final 2 miles and finished in 19:48.6, more than 30 seconds ahead of runner-up Abby Culp of Manchester Valley.
“Looking at her face and body in the videos, she looked like she had a lot more in her,” Walter said.
Zielinski was as good as she needed to be that day as she dominated in the biggest meet of her favorite season.
“Cross country is definitely the most important,” Zielinski said. “I’m a distance runner, and that’s the most distance you get in high school.
“Cross country is just more fun anyway. The different terrain makes it more interesting, and the team is closer than it is in track. We’re just more of a family in cross country.”
After crossing the finish line in first place, as she did in nearly every race this fall, Zielinski didn’t spend much time, if any, celebrating.
“I think she gets excited about it, but she tries not to show it,” Walter said. “She’s a good sport about it. She doesn’t go around flaunting it or bragging about it. She’ll go back out on the course and cheer on her teammates and talk to runners from other teams. She’s very supportive of everybody.”
The remainder of Zielinski’s high school races will be held on the track.
She said she hopes to win more state titles in the 1,600 and 3,200, indoors and outdoors, with the ultimate goal of becoming the first girl in county history to break 11 minutes in the 3,200.
Then she plans to run in college.
“I’m currently looking at UMBC, but I haven’t decided anything yet,” she said.
Joining Zielinski on the all-county first team are:
Brittany Appleby, North Hagerstown
The junior placed 23rd in the 3A West region, seventh in the county, 29th in the MVAL Piedmont and second in the Hagerstown city championships.
Kortney Cunningham, Boonsboro
The junior placed fifth at states in 1A, third in the 1A West region, third in the county and 16th in the MVAL Antietam championships.
Meggan Grams, Williamsport
The sophomore placed 36th in the 2A West region, eighth in the county and 23rd in the MVAL Antietam championships.
Ella Hawkins, Boonsboro
The sophomore placed ninth at states in 1A, fifth in the 1A West region, fifth in the county and eighth in the MVAL Antietam championships.
Chelsea Massie, Smithsburg
The junior placed 15th in the 1A West region, sixth in the county and 21st in the MVAL Antietam championships.
Samantha Smith, Boonsboro
The senior placed sixth at states in 1A, seventh in the 1A West region, fourth in the county and 11th in the MVAL Antietam championships.
Emily Ward, North Hagerstown
The junior placed seventh at states in 3A, second in the 3A West region, second in the county, sixth in the MVAL Piedmont and first in the Hagerstown city championships.
ALL-COUNTY SECOND TEAM
Sage Brewer, So., South Hagerstown
Kimberly Cunningham, Jr., Williamsport
Marley Enfield, So., Boonsboro
Allison Martin, Jr., North Hagerstown
Jenny Moore, Sr., Boonsboro
Keeley Scott, Jr., St. Maria Goretti
Morgan Tosten, Fr., Williamsport
Carly Yost, Sr., Clear Spring
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