PARKTON – Cambridge-South Dorchester High School senior John Condon ended his cross country career as the Maryland 1A State Champion, winning the honor Saturday at Hereford High School.
Condon finished in 16:55.20, finally beating his Bohemia Manor rival, Day Leone, on his fourth and final attempt.
“He raced the same guy four times,” Coach Sean Reincke said. “He lost by a total of 8 seconds for the first three races. Today he won by 20! He went out like a rocket and they never caught him.”
That kind of pace is doubly impressive given the reputation of the Hereford course, acknowledged as one of the three toughest on the East Coast. Hills, more hills, and the dreaded “Dip”, with the steepest angle of all, test and often defeat even the hardiest of runners.
Fifteen boys’ teams competed, with 117 runners. The boys’ team winner was Brunswick, with a score of 55. The C-SD boys’ team did not qualify for the championships, though Condon’s time in the regional championships earned him a spot.
Condon spoke Sunday about his strategy going into the race.
“I was going to stick with the group and try to get away from them in the second mile,” he said. But when he saw the condition of the course – it had rained, and it was muddy – he didn’t want to get tied up in a group, knowing that could allow the race to come down to a “kick”, or the final sprint to the finish.
Some runners have a good kick, others don’t.
Leone has it, as Condon well knew.
So as the race began, the plan changed. “I was just going to run as hard as I could,” Condon said.
The previous couple of weeks had presented their own challenges, as he faced a nagging foot injury. He used biking to stay in shape, and allow his foot to heal enough to compete.
It was still sore on race day, so Condon figured, “As long as I can make the top 5, I’ll be ecstatic.”
Not knowing how close the competition was as he ran through the last leg of the contest, Condon powered through every step, until he crossed the finish line, with his parents Bill and Angie, brother Jeff and sister Sarah, both C-SD cross country and track and field alumni, cheering him on.
“It was surreal,” Condon said.
There were more honors in store for the Vikings. The boys’ and girls’ teams as a unit won the 1A State Sportsmanship Award, for displaying the best overall sportsmanship by a team and its fans at the tournament.
“Congratulations, coaches!” Dorchester County Board of Education member Laura Layton posted online. “The best award and you always expect the best from your athletes.”
The girls’ team winner was Northern Garrett High School, with a score of 47. The girls’ individual winner was Lydia Nelson, a sophomore from Northern Garrett, with a time of 20:27.74.
C-SD placed 11th out of 13, with Luci Thomas 42rd of 104, posting the Viking’s girls’ fastest time, 25:36.65.
Condon, his coaches and teammates returned home celebrating, with a police escort accompanying them through town on the way back to school.
Coach Reincke said, “So proud of our kids. They really are the best!”