A slow clap built towards an ovation on a sunny Saturday morning. Northwest High School's Clarence Foote-Talley landed in the sand falling forward. The official's white flag went up and the crowd let out a second ovation. Fans leaned in to hear the official call out the measurement, but instead, he yelled, "Hold the mark!"
To the bewilderment of onlookers, that official, Mr. Todd King, proceeded to run up and down the Morgan State University track stadium, apparently in search of something. The event was delayed upwards of five minutes.
"A state record needs to be verified with steel tape or a laser," explained King, always by the book. It would have been premature to make any announcement without the necessary tools.
By the time King read aloud, "Five-zero. Seven-and-a-half," the moment had passed. It was a new state meet record, but there was plenty of competition still remaining.
That was Foote-Talley's fourth jump and the first time that he broke the Maryland state meet record in the triple jump on Saturday.
Foote-Talley's fifth jump was monstrous, but it was spoiled by a red flag. His sixth jump landed with a white flag and King had the tools he needed.
"I'm just, I'm really shocked. I didn't think it was going to be as far as it was," said Foote-Talley. "I think I vibe off the energy and so when the crowd claps for me, it just gives me a lot of energy to do good. I always clap at states so it just gets everybody into it."
Foote-Talley's mark of 51-10.50 added a foot-and-a-half to his state meet record from last year (50-03.50). Prior to last year, the meet record was 49-06.75. Since 1963, no Maryland boy had ever jumped fifty feet in the triple jump at the Maryland state meet. In two years, Foote-Talley recorded four wind-legal marks over fifty feet and added more than two feet to the state record which stood since 1998.
In his final event of the weekend, Foote-Talley teamed up with AJ Woods, Yannick Gouanette, and Isiah Bishop to win the 4A 4x100 relay in 42.30. They did not know it for sure at the time, but the 4x1 clinched the 4A team state title. At that point, Northwest went up twenty points on Dulaney and Dulaney could no longer catch Northwest in the meet's final two events, the 4A boys 4x400 and discus.
Woods anchored the 4x1 relay and let out a scream that was both celebration and a release of frustration. Woods wanted to win the open 100m and 200m earlier, but he came up short of his goal in both events.
"It felt great to get the win in the 4x1. We've been working hard for this moment all season," said Woods. "I just wanted to score some more points for my team so we could get this team win. It would be great for us as a team because we re-dedicated our season to Tray. [He paused]. Yeah, it would mean a lot to us."
Northwest's lost teammates were top of mind for Northwest athletes who went on the record with Mocorunning.
Before she spoke about herself in any way, Taylor Wright said that the thing she would remember most about her final state meet was competing for Josh Snyder and Tray Dawkins.
Said Wright, "Honestly, I will remember doing this all for my teammates, Tray and Josh, and just putting it all out there. This is my last year. I'll just remember how great of a feeling it was just...when no one expected us to do this great."
Head coach Robert Youngblood said, "We re-dedicated our season, especially with Josh earlier in the season, when he passed away in a car accident, and when Tray Dawkins passed away a few weeks ago. That was it."
Josh Snyder passed away after a tragic car accident this winter. Youngblood described him as a do-it-all, spirited, multi-sport athlete. Tray Dawkins was a primary team contributor and one of the top hurdlers in the state last year. He passed away after a tragic shooting crime just five weeks ago.
"They really wanted to do this for Tray. We just sat there and watched video of him at the mountain top when I take these guys to Sugarloaf, which we did last week, and they all talked about giving themselves for the program."
"Everybody loved Josh. He did everything," said Youngblood.
Youngblood credited Josh's sister, Whitney Snyder, for leading the team in spirit, including tutoring the male pole vaulters while she was sidelined with a broken foot since the middle of the indoor track season.
The Northwest boys team won their fourth consecutive outdoor state title. Between indoor track and outdoor track, it was Northwest's tenth state title since 2013. The girls were 4A state runners-up.
What is Northwest's key to success? According to Youngblood, it is an emphasis on field events.
Said Youngblood, "When I became coach at Northwest, I wanted to figure out how to succeed. And I did it at Damascus, but I knew that 4A is a little bit tougher. I saw that a lot of people stressed, you know, sprints. And I figured, 'What if I could get two per event in the field events into the state meet?' I said, 'That would offset the balance of everything.'...That's one thing I've stressed all the time. Two in the long jump, three in the high jump, two in the pole vault, two in the shot...That's my strategy in succeeding, because I looked at some of the NCAA's and I'm like, 'Well why can't they just get over the hump? Why are they just recruiting in this area and not this area?' I took that idea as far as coaching in high school and I said, 'Okay, I can make a super team every season,' so you build a program that way."
Taylor Wright's triple jump performance of 41-00.50 ranks #5 in state meet history and her high jump performance of 5-08.00 ranks #6 in state meet history according to the MPSSAA record book. The four state title performance gave her nine career individual outdoor state titles with five additional individual state titles from indoor track.
Said Wright, "Probably my best event was triple jump this year and I was surprised about that. I was jumping into a headwind so it was crazy, but yeah I'm pretty happy about that."
She admitted that negative thoughts crept in a little bit when she was the fourth seed and second seed respectively entering the 100m and 200m finals on Saturday, but the nerves were no more than a typical championship meet.
"I'm always nervous. I'm always scared," Said Wright. "There are great people out here. There is good competition always. My coaches were just telling me that I needed to get out, and if I get out, I could do it. They just kept motivating me and telling me positive things."
Coach Youngblood heaped praise on senior Cori Brown who finished her high school career with two state titles won three years apart. Brown won the indoor 300-meter state title as a freshman. She picked up the long jump last year and improved by over a foot in the final two weeks of this season to set a personal best 18-01.00 when it counted most: in her very last attempt at the state meet.
"What Cori did today was amazing," said Youngblood. "It's those two [Wright and Brown], and Whitney always giving themselves. Marissa Branham. They are elite seniors and they know what it's like to be part family."
See also: Mocorunning's Friday Recap and Mocorunning's Saturday Recap Part II