Charles Butler’s approach to Saturday’s Bull Run Invitational can be summed in four words: No pain, no gain.

It paid dividends for the Mount St. Joseph senior who claimed top honors in the boys’ Elite race at Hereford. Butler was one of five area performers to win individual titles.

Westminster’s Hannah Toth won the girls’ Elite crown and Grace Tate from Mount de Sales placed first in the Small Schools race. Wilde Lake’s Henry Hooper and Eric Penkala from Southern-AA conquered the boys’ Medium Schools and Small Schools competition, respectively.

Butler clocked a time of 15 minutes, 46.7 seconds, nearly 18 seconds faster than runner-up and MIAA A Conference rival Cameron Davis from Calvert Hall. Tyler Dailey from Dulaney and Severna Park’s Liam Haggerty placed third and fourth, respectively. Davis is the reigning MIAA champion and came in as the pre-race favorite.

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Butler put the field on notice with a blistering sub-five minutes opening mile on the daunting Hereford course.

“That’s what I’ve been shooting for all season,” said Butler. “The sub-5 is the target for the first mile and, based on what the field is doing, keeping up with that.

Mount St. Joseph's Charles Butler handled the field Saturdasy in the Boys' Elite Division race at the Bull Run Invitational at Hereford. (Derek Toney)

Last week, Butler finished second to Davis at the Barnhart Invitational at Dulaney’s relatively flat course. Saturday, he mastered Hereford’s notorious hilly 3-mile course.

Instead of fearing them, I looked forward to it,” he added. “Embrace the pain. Embrace that it’s going to be tough and conquer them.”

Last year, Butler placed seventh (16:58.9) in the Elite race.

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Longtime Mount St. Joseph coach Jack Peach knew Butler’s aggressive style would serve him well Saturday.

“He learned a little last year..he went really hard then died a little bit,” said Peach. “He’s a year older, a year wiser. He’s very confident as a runner.”

A year after finishing 98th in the girls’ Medium Schools event, Toth was the first to cross the finish line in the Elite race. Her winning time of 18:56 was nearly nine minutes faster from her 2021 showing (27:13.4).

“I ran pretty bad last year. This year I did what my coaches wanted me to do,” said Toth. “Stay comfortable through the first mile, then as many people as I can in the second and third (mile).”

Toth admitted her confidence is like Hereford’s up-and-down course. Saturday’s effort has her on the upswing with the postseason approaching.

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“I was pretty nervous coming into this race… I’m pretty confident on hills, downhill running isn’t my strong suit,” said Toth. “I’ve been working on it and it’s much smoother than it has been in the past.”

Tate posted a 21:44 to win the Girls Small Schools Division, beating runner-up Rebecca Gauthier (22:06) of Liberty.

Tate said that she wanted to “take revenge” on the course on which she blacked out last year from a concussion she had received earlier that week.

“I didn’t know I had the concussion,” she said. “I blacked out about a mile into the race.”

Tate said that she looked to see how her teammates were doing.

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“They all did amazingly,” she said. “When I got to the top of the hills, I wanted to walk. But I had to stay strong the whole race.”

Liberty won the girls small school division.

Hopper (16:18) won the Boys Medium School Division, cutting nearly four minutes from his time in the same event last year.

Hopper said that runner-up Dill Peyton from Century made a move on the course’s infamous “dip” before Hopper took command on the ensuing hills.

“I’m a hill runner,” he said. “I’m small and light (5-7, 110 pounds) so It helps me on hills.”

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Century won the boys’ medium team title.

Penkala, a sophomore, topped Alex Contreras of Washington County’s Catoctin by 17 seconds after posting a 17:05 on Hereford’s storied course.

Penkala said he was surprised by his performance.

“I ran a 20:56 last year here,” he added. “I didn’t expect this at all. But I ran a 4:27 mile in track, so I’ve been getting better.”

Even so, the magnitude of his victory was a shock.

“I kept looking back, but I couldn’t see anyone.”

Penkala added that his recent 16:47 at the Seahawk Invitational at South River, and his ability to meet some personal goals give him “hope.”

Liberty won the boys small school division.

Derek Toney is content editor of Varsity Sports Network, a high school sports news network that became part of The Baltimore Banner in August 2022.

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