It was 2 o'clock and athletes were flooding the gates, anxiously waiting to get into the Morgan State University Stadium, not so that they could start their warm-up (since you couldn't hit the track until 3), but to get away from the piercing sun and its life-draining rays. The unbearable heat plagued the meet on all three days, making it difficult for me to pay attention with all the sweat dripping down my forehead (note to coaches: invest in a tent). If you took that long walk to the bullpen, you could see athletes getting mentally prepared. This was THE meet. This was the meet that athletes had to endure grueling workouts just to get to this point. Through all the horrible weather, dual meets, invitationals, counties, and then regionals, the crème de la crème made it. In this cramped room, with lord knows what was inside of it , some athletes were praying; some were jogging in the little space available [this was actually outside the bullpen]; some were in their own little corner listening to music; and some were sitting on the benches, looking straight out onto the track. Who would've known that the guy in the corner would run a US #1 4:04? Who would've known that the girl putting on her spikes would run 13.77, breaking the 4A 100m hurdles state record by .38 seconds? Who would've known that the four guys to the left would run 7:47, breaking another state record, only to be DQed for the lamest violation to hit this planet (uniform inconsistency)? As I looked across to the side opposite the press box, with jealous eyes staring at people and their tents, while I used my program as a fan, I knew that regardless of the heat, true champions would separate themselves from the rest of the pack. And that they did.
The State Meet was monumental for some athletes and disappointing for others, but it definetly put MoCo sprints back on the map. Some athletes like Audrey Gariepy-Bougi and the DeCruise twins were able to exit their high school career in grand fashion, posting not only PRs, county or state bests, but also state records. To be honest, before this season, I never took MoCo sprinters seriously. I, like many others (and I know there were many others) always thought "well how do they compare to PG?" Sure there has always been Gaithersburg and Richard Montgomery has done well in the past few years, but two schools don't make up Montgomery County. However, at the 2007 State Championship Meet, a breadth of Moco sprinters demonstrated that PG is not the only sprint powerhouse in Maryland as there were several excellent preformances that either made you gasp with shocked incredulity or rub your eyes to make sure you weren't seeing things. The excellence didn't stop there; there were several female MoCo finalists in the field events across all classes that confirmed that MoCo was strictly b-u-s-i-n-e-s-s.
Ashley DeCruise (RM), who will be attending Mount St. Mary along with Ashlyn, has been consistently smoking girls in the 100m. She holds the county's best time, with 11.90 nearly breaking the county record of 11.80. Unfortunately, she didn't go sub 12 at the state meet for 4A, which would've gave her 1st, but she ran well enough to get a silver medal. She had the fastest qualifying time, 12.38, coming into the finals, getting lane 4. However, she had a bad start, making her play catch up, and even though she ran a faster time, 12.21, Waquesha Canty of C.H. Flowers, who was to her right in lane 5, was able to hold off DeCruise for the win in 12.07. For the 3A boys, Salifu Cham (AE) was the only MoCo contender, as Jamal Lynn's name came across the board with a "DNS" (Did Not Start). After wondering who the hell doesn't come to a state meet, especially in their senior year, I focused back on Salifu's race, where he had the third fastest qualifying time, 11.04, with Zach Brown from Wilde Lake to his left. In the finals, Cham fell back to 4th with 10.93, missing 3rd by .03 seconds to Kenard Harris of Westlake [the winner was Lamaar Thomas from Friendly in 10.63]. On his race, Cham said, "Overall I ain't feel good about my race. I know I could've placed top three. I got out the blocks real good but then after 50m I started tighten up when I saw Zach and 'em leaving, so I ain't run my race, I tried to run their race. But I'm glad I still ran sub and made all-county." So what are his plans for the future??? "I'm gonna do track in college but I'm not trying to name names and not have it work out. I'm probably gonna do summer track too, but I'm not sure with what club yet. I'm still searching." As for the 4A boys, Patrick Pinchinat (RM), who will be attending Wingate University, came in 2nd in his semifinal heat with 11.09, running next to Justin Murdock and placed 5th in the finals with 11.19, which Murdock won in 10.73.
Now this may seem un-sequential, but the 400m has to come before the 200m just because. For the 3A girls, an ill-fated false start prevented Michele Miller (KDY), who will be attending Colgate University, from competing in her last individual high school race. Michele claims, "I did feel defeated after being DQed in the 400m" but she was able to redeem herself later in the meet during the 4x400m. Arielle Statham (PB) had better success, running the fastest time for a MoCo competitor at the meet, 57.29, coming in 5th place. That time was not only a PR, but the 2nd fastest time in the county for this event this season. The young lady with the current fastest time is freshman phenom Kathryn Wolf (CH). However, she didn't run as well as expected, coming in 4th in 4A with 58.48, almost 2 seconds off her best time. Actually, none of the 4A times were spectacular, with the winning time being 56.03 (Jameson from ER). Shayla Davis (WM), who will be attending North Carolina Central, was able to place 5th from the previous heat with 58.71 and Alissa Jewell (GB) ran 58.94 for 7th. Obviously, Leslie Morrison opted not to run this race, most likely to save her energy for the 800m, which she later won in 2:14.02.
The 3A boys had 2 finalists, John Jones (PB) and Alex Gary (AE). Jones placed from the slower heat, coming in 4th with 50.48. And Gary, who was 4th in the fast heat after coming from the back of the pack, placed 6th overall with 50.71. He will be attending UMBC next year. Future Princeton star, Jordan Sawadogo (SB), made big moves on Saturday with two Top 3 performances. While his 1:54 800m was more impressive (especially since he did it from the "slow" heat), he ran a county best 49.08 for 2nd, which is one of the best 400m runs in the county in years. Jordan later said about his race, "Ok, so I was feeling pretty good about the 400. Looking at the heat sheets, we were all in the same range with the exception of the guy who was running 48s. I knew Jon Ryan from RM was in front of me in lane 8 and decided to pace my first 200m off of him. The gun went off. I had a good start, leaned into the curve and opened my stride during the straightaway. Then the back stretch came and as I was rounding the curve I heard this thunder and 4 guys blew by me. Seeing them leave me with 150 left really shook me and I lost my stride a little in my panic. I decided to kick a little early and the last 100m was a fight. I'm a power runner so even in the video I have the slowest turnover but I was gaining ground, according to my coach. I realized after the race, had I leaned in on the second curve and maintained my composure I probably would have broken 49, but there are more races to come so I'm not going to cry about it." Wil Zahorodny (DAM), who was the county and 4A West regional winner, came in 6th with 49.57, which is the 2nd best county time in this event.
3A didn't have any finalists in the 200m, but 4A made up for that with 3 MoCo girls in the top 6. Wolf had the second fastest qualifying time 25.22, which, at the time, was a county best (FAT). Coming into the finals, she was a lane outside of Takecia Jameson, who won in 23.95. Wolf came in 2nd, with a beast time of 24.73, which is definitely the best time in years for this county and even more impressive coming from a freshman. If Wolf continues with this kind of success, one can only imagine what she'll be doing during her senior year. Her performance masked her sub-par run in the 400m, which left her unsatisfied, "I was really disappointed with my 400 time. I had done much better at the past three meets so I was expecting a lot more. For my 200 I felt good going into it. I really wanted to perform well in the 200 to make up for the 400. I knew coming into the two that I was seeded second and I knew Jameson was half a second faster in the semis, but I wasn't sure I could drop that much time; however, I did drop the half second, but she ran an amazing time as well, so I was really happy with a strong 2nd place." Satisfied? I think so. What are Wolf's plans for the future you may ask? "Right now I'm going to take a short break, but I am going to run summer track, so I will still be competing." Look for Wolf on the Montgomery Titans Track Team, who practices at Northwest High School. Jewell came in 5th place with 25.32 after being the 8th qualifier with 26.14. Right behind her was Rianne Webb (RM), who was in a good position coming off the turn, but ended up coming in 6th place with 25.43, after having the 3rd fastest qualifying time with 25.67. Both Pinchinat and Brendan Etzel (RM) qualified for the 4A 200m with 21.98 and 22.39, respectively, but only Etzel placed, coming in 5th with 22.29. Pinchinat talks about his performance at the state meet: "I was good the first day. We won the 4 x200 relay. For the 100 meter dash I was going into the finals at 3rd overall and in the 200 meters, I was going into the finals 3rd overall. I actually felt that I could win the 200 meter dash. The next day was nothing but trouble. In the 100 meter dash, I got out the blocks awkwardly and in the 200, my time was almost a second slower. I don't know the reason for me running slower on day 2, maybe a lack of warm-up , lack of fluids or lack of sleep. I don't know. I was mad that night so I couldn't sleep." Pinchinat might run for the Rockville Striders this summer, but his main focus is "getting faster, stronger, quicker and more flexible for football next year on the college level."
The hurdles had some very high highs and some very low lows. Olivia Durr (PV) came in 2nd in the 1A 100h with 15.56, making this the second year in a row that this sophomore has placed in this event. She also placed 3rd in the 300m hurdles with 45.79, which is her season best. Her teammate, Emily Furr, who did well in the triple jump, came in 4th with 47.00. In the 3A competition, Sasha Waters (AE), who will attend Florida International this fall, won the first heat in 46.99, coming in 5th overall. Waters said, "Well I wanted to win my heat and hopefully place, but I knew that being in the slow heat that would be kind of hard. I just really wanted to place top 6, and I came in 5th, so I'm just really happy." The ultimate high of course came from Audrey Gariepy-Bougi who broke the 4A state record twice in the 100 hurdles. In her prelim race, Gariepy ran 14.10, breaking the record by .12. I honestly wasn't sure who was going to win the battle between her and Takecia Jameson, who ran 14.26 in prelims, but I knew that Jameson had the speed to go sub 12 in the 100m so that had to count for something. It may have led to her 13.91, but that wasn't good enough for 1st place as Gariepy took the race as soon as the gun went off, running another 4A state record in 13.77. The roles were reversed during the 300m hurdles race, where Jameson ran a state record 41.79, but Gariepy still ran an outstanding time of 43.66 which is not only a PR but a county best and one of the best times in the county since Laura Shaw of Walter Johnson competed. For someone who despises the race, Gariepy has consistently gotten better and hopefully she can continue her success while competing for Villanova. Also in 4A, Leah Putman (SW) ran a personal best 100 hurdle race, FAT, with 15.16, which got her 5th in the finals. Putman said, "I felt pretty good. I had a better start than I had been having. It was a pretty good race. I hit a couple hurdles, but I was able to pick it back up." Putman will be running for the University of Delaware this fall. Tara Okusaga (NW), future Towson Tiger, ran 15.42 to get 6th and a personal best of 45.67 to come in 3rd, which was a big come back after her disastrous fall at last year's meet. Jenny McCoy came first in her heat and 6th overall with 47.27. Shaakira Raheem didn't get the chance to close off her senior year as planned. In the both the 100m and 300m hurdles, Raheem ran sub-par with 15.59 in the 100m finals (15.57 prelim) and 47.73 in the 300m. This wasn't the same as last year, where Raheem also underperformed. This year, a hamstring problem that made her sit out in the beginning of the season, returned with a devilish smile, and prevented her from placing at the meet. "Well, you know, it was unexpected for my hamstring pain to come back. I tried running through it and I did what I could do with all that was left. I'm not really upset because the way I see it, everything falls in God's plans and hopefully I can come back during college and perform better." Raheem will be attending Kenyon College this fall.
Another hurdler had a hamstring problem in the beginning of the season, but unlike Raheem, it didn't come back to haunt him. 3A/4A 55m hurdle state champion Tyler Jackson (RM) had to settle for 2nd place in the 100m hurdle race after having a very sloppy race. Jackson ran 15.24 in the prelims and came back to take 2nd with 14.91. Tyler had a good start, but he slipped up at about the 5th hurdle, "my steps were too long in between so I came up too close and hit it [the hurdle]. Then because I hit that hurdle, I floated over the sixth. That's when [Ernest] Cooper (Wise) got ahead of me, and there wasn't enough time to make up the distance. Overall it was good, but I could've done at least a little better." Jackson plans on taking a short break and then beginning summer training for cross country. Jose Lopez ran a season best, 14.95, which was good for 4th place. In the 300m race, coming down the final straightaway, Lopez was in first to win the fast heat, but he began to tighten up and Cooper passed him with about two hurdles to go, wining in 38.87. Lopez still placed 2nd, running a county best 39.10.
On Day 1 of competition, the 4x200 concluded the meet with MoCo on top. Poolesville girls ran 1:45.07, which gave them 2nd place and helped propel to them to their 2nd place finish overall. In the 3A competition, Kennedy girls ran 1:44.36 with Miller as anchor, winning their heat and making them good for 6th. Einstein ran 1:45.96 to come in 3rd in the first heat, behind Kennedy. Richard Montgomery girls came in with the fastest seed time, as they were in lane 4, and they left with the fastest time at the meet and the 2nd fastest time in the state overall for this season. They ran a smoking 1:40.75; Rianne Webb passed off to Ashlyn D. in first, who increased the gap to pass off to Chanel Hamilton. While C.H. Flowers was steadily gaining ground, Hamilton still maintained the lead and passed off to Ashley D. in first, who shut it down, leaving the other teams to fight amongst themselves. I could hear Shaakira in the background saying, "How you have a gap this big at the state meet?," reminiscent of their performance at counties. This team has been known for poor handoffs, but at the state meet, that was not the case. Ashley DeCruise said, "We were really excited. We had been practicing on handoffs this whole week. We wanted to get our blind passoffs down, which we did, and we got our time down so we were really excited about that." Gaithersburg girls came in 5th with 1:43.94 and Walter Johnson ran 1:44.99, only to be DQed (5.11.1.a...whatever that happens to be). Not to be outdone by the girls, the RM boys completed what Webb called the "deuce deuce" by winning the race in 1:27.78. Gaithersburg ran 1:29.75 for 5th and Blair ran 1:29.78 for 6th. Damascus also went sub-1:30, running 1:29.96. For 3A boys, Einstein ran 1:31.23, getting 5th and Paint Branch ran 1:31.96 for 7th.
The 4x100 was full of fast times and upsets. For the first time in years, Kennedy girls weren't in this race, leaving Einstein to be the only MoCo team, but poor handoffs, especially in the last exchange, led to 51.31. If you watched the 3A boys' race, and thought you saw Alex Gary, 3A 800 state champ, running first leg, you weren't dreaming. Internal problems led to him being lead off and they missed out for 6th by .03 seconds, running 44.54. For the 4A girls, Wotton and Magruder ran 50.82 and 50.70 respectively. RM was a contender for the state title in this race as well, but a slip out of the blocks by Webb hurt them. While RM still was in the race, Ashley couldn't catch the Flowers anchor, and had to settle for 2nd with a county best 48.16 [Flowers ran 48.11]. Now typically, RM boys would be the next team to write about. But in this race, Gaithersburg surprised EVERYBODY [and if you weren't surprised, well then damn] taking the 4A state title in 42.75, which is another county best. I seriously sat there looking confused, asking where the hell G-Burg came from. RM came in 4th with 43.13 and Blair came in 5th with 43.23.
I missed what was probably one of the best performances for MoCo sprints. If at the end of the indoor season, you had told me that RM girls would be state champions in the 4A 4x400, I would've said "yeah right." Then, after Penn Relays, if you had told me that RM would be state champs in the 4x4, I would've said, "so you didn't see Roosevelt run 3:39, did you?" But if after the 4x200 at states, you had told me that RM would be state champs in the 4x4, I would've said, "It depends on if Roosevelt puts their A- squad or not (you know how selective they are)." Well Rianne Webb, Ashley and Ashlyn DeCruise, and newcomer Erin Hylton were state champs in the 4x400 in a convincing victory, smashing the rest of the field by 5 seconds, to run a state meet best, county best, PR and school record 3:53.45. After seeing them in indoor, who would've guessed that RM would run such an exceptional time, a time that will probably be the best in the county for years? Ashlyn, who was third leg and split 57, said, "Our goal was to PR. We wanted to go sub-3:50, and obviously we didn't do that, but we knew that we were capable of having a really good time so we went for it. Since we knew Roosevelt was running their B team, we were like , 'We gotta win this.' We wanted to sweep the sprint relays but we got beat, by a little bit, in the 4x100, which we won't talk about [by Flowers]." Ashley, who was 2nd leg and also split 57, added, "Ashlyn and I were talking and we wanted to make it the best race we could since we knew that it was going to be our last high school race." First leg Webb ran a 58 split and anchor Hylton ran a 59 split. Watch out for the RM girls who will run with the Rockville Striders this summer. They'll also most likely run at Nike Outdoor Nationals, along with many other MoCo teams. Northwest ran a season best 3:59.36, getting 5th, being the only other MoCo team to go sub-4:00. Churchill ran a school record time of 4:00.98 for 6th. Michele Miller was able to come back for the 3A 4x400 after her false start in the 400m, to help anchor her team to 4th with 4:02.11. Miller said, "It was a nice way to end four long years of high school track." Paint branch ran 4:03.22 for 6th. Poolesville got 2nd in the 1A competition with season best 4:06.57.
Richard Montgomery ended yet another successful season with a silver medal in the 4x400 with a county best 3:21.56. In this race, Roosevelt did run their A-squad, doing 3:18.44. Blair continued to do well in the sprint relays, coming in 4th with 3:22.75 and Gaithersburg came in 6th with 3:24.57. In the 3A competition, Paint Branch came in 4th with 3:35.37 and Kennedy ran 3:29.99 for 7th.
For those of you who were able to watch the field events, you realized that MoCo was doing damage in that realm as well. Across all classes, there were several finalists or near finalists. For the triple jump, Emily Furr came second in 1A with 36-04.50, which is the second best jump in the county [for public schools] after Gariepy, who jumped a personal and county [public school] best 38-2.25, winning the 4A competition. Okusaga came in 4th with 35-8.75. 3A also had two MoCo finalists with Brittany Villafana (SV) coming in 5th with 35-01.50 and Statham jumping 35-07.00 for 3rd. It was nice to see the smile on Villafana's face after having a good jump. (It was also probably funny to watch me run up and down the stairs to tape some of the jumps, looking like an obsessed weirdo). Later that day, Arleigh Rose (SW) won the discus (which was inconveniently located on the other side of the world) with 119-07 feet and Jacquelyn Adcock came in 3rd with 112-03. The day before in the 1A competition, Ashleigh Nesselt came in 4th with 101-11. Rose also came in 6th for the shot-put with 34-07.25 and Brittany Moreland (NW) came in 2nd with 36-11.75, which is nowhere near her county best 39-01.00. Holly Defnet (PV) came in 3rd with 32-03.25 for 1A and Turqoia Johnson (C-Burg) came in 7th with 34-07.50 in 2A.
Many MoCo girls placed in the high jump as well. Sophomore Ashley Dabney (WHE) jumped 5-2 for 3rd place in 3A. Audrey tied the 4A state record with a jump of 5-8, winning by 4 inches (Vanessa Jones from Sherwood got the record in 1997). Chelsea Reinks (DAM) and Monica Gerald (BK) had the same jump of 5-2, but based on the number of misses, Reinks tied for 3rd and Gerald tied for 5th. For the pole vault, county champ Elizabeth Calhoun (WOO), who jumped 9-00 at counties, came in 4th at the 4A state meet with 8-6.00. Erin Hylton (RM) and Brittany McLeod (QO) both jumped 7-00. In 3A, Statham came in 7th in the long jump with 16-2.25. Putman, who has the best long jump in the county, 17-08.50, came in 5th with a jump of 17-03.00, still being the only female athlete to break 16 feet. Putman said, "It wasn't a PR so it was frustrating. I wanted to do my best at end of the season. But it [her jump] shows how I've been pretty consistent with high 17's. I would've liked to break 18. If I had, I would've placed higher but I can't be too disappointed in myself." Putman will be jumping with the Silver Spring Track club this summer if you want to watch her jump 18 feet and beyond.
MoCo athletes came to the state championship meet ready to do some damage and they left with some well-deserved respect. Reminiscing on my freshman year, there has been so much growth and progress made in Montgomery County in not only the sprint events, but also in the distance and field events as well. As I, and many other athletes, say goodbye to high school track, I know that there is nothing to worry about. With athletes like Kathryn Wolf, Olivia Durr, Antonio Palmer and Sean Stanley, MoCo will easily be the next track and field powerhouse in a few years. Don't be surprised if you see some of these athletes on TV running in the Olympic trials and/or Olympics. Don't be surprised if you see Audrey Gariepy-Bougi or Leslie Morrison on the cover of Sports Illustrated (actually, be surprised because they don't really feature that many track athletes). 2007 has been one of the most outstanding years for not just MoCo, but also Maryland track and I'm damn sure glad to have witnessed history and can only wait for what will happen next. Goodbye to all seniors and good luck to those remaining. Make us proud.