A great deal of talent returns to Montgomery County this year. Four indoor county champions in five different events return this year: Leslie Morrison in the 500 and 800, Morgane Gay in the 1600, Louise Hannallah in the 3200, and Arleigh Rose in the shot put. All 4 members of the county record holding Whitman 4x800-meter relay return this year. Short relays and all three jumping events seem relatively wide open for new athletes to put their foot in the door and score some points.
Eight county meet records were set last year and the only record holders that are returning are Morgane Gay (1600) and Leslie Morrison (500, 800) along with their Whitman 4x800-meter relay. They have set the bar extremely high for themselves, but they will be looking to lower their times as far as possible before graduating.
A record that could possibly go down this year is the 3200 at 11:07.5 which Louise Hannallah bested during outdoor track. It could also be challenged by Morgane Gay and Britt Eckerstrom if they choose to go after it. Considering the strides that Katie Wolf made last year during outdoor track, and the resume that Olivia Ekpone brings with her to high school, the 300-meter record of 40.7h (with that eyesore of an “h” next to it, indicating “hand-timed”) could be at risk.
The key to analyzing the county teams before any races are even run is looking at who they return, looking at who they are bringing on board, and then adding up the weapons. Then you look at the versatility of those weapons and give a fair assessment of where they will score their points and just how many they can rack up. There is something to be said about a school's reputation and ability to develop talent, but good teams really can have down years when their luck runs dry. What is most important right now is the impact players that we already know about.
1. Churchill High School
Churchill is the team to beat until someone takes them down. They have won the last two indoor county titles, and contrary to what some may have you think, those were not one-person teams. They might have had an assured 36 to 40 points per meet from Audrey Gariepy-Bogui (who has now graduated), but they also had the top athletes in the county from the shortest sprint right up to the longest distance, as well as the hurdles and jumps. The departure of Gariepy-Bogui brings these ladies back down to earth, but they still appear to have the most talent in the county by means of sprinter Katie Wolf, distance runners Maryam Fikri, Erin McManus, and Louise Hannallah, and an all-around sprinter/jumper/hurdler in Ale Martinez.
2. Wootton High School
Wootton was already a team on the rise last year as they emerged as a top ten team with good sprinters, distance runners, and jumpers. The good news for Wootton is that they return all of their key point scorers from last year including the Falk sisters in the sprints and jumps and Jessie Rubin and Veronica Salcido in distance events. The great news for Wootton is that they are adding the young and talented Olivia Ekpone to their roster. Last year Ekpone won the AAU Junior Olympic National Titles in the 100 and 200-meter dashes. She also holds the girls AAU Sub-Youth national record in the 100-meter dash. The times that she has already run make her an immediate candidate to win county and state titles in high school this year. She also immediately brings Wootton as a team to a new level.
3. Gaithersburg High School
Gaithersburg is returning to the days of old where few dreamed of chasing after their sprinters. They still have several areas on their team that need work, but they could have the strongest pack of sprinters in the county. They should be the best bet to win the 4x200-meter relay, and should have multiple scorers in the 55 and 300-meter dashes with Alissa Jewell, Simone Harris, Amanda Washington, Nicole Peterson, and others. If they continue to develop their all-around team, they will be a threat to the other top teams.
4. Walt Whitman High School
For the third year in a row, Whitman looks untouchable in the mid-distance. The thing about mid-distance is that the runners can move up or down depending on where they can grab the most points. Nobody has been able to run with Leslie Morrison in the 500 or 800 over the last two years. Morgane Gay, when at her best, also appears untouchable in the distance events, and Debbie Isen should be strong enough to score in open distance events as well. This all adds up to a lot of points from a core group of athletes, but like Gaithersburg, still appear to be lacking the all-around team strength.
Morgane Gay & Leslie Morrison
5. Richard Montgomery High School
The one-year stay by the Decruise twins was all-too short for Richard Montgomery. Their presence will be missed but could have a lasting effect. While they were there, Rianne Webb rose to the top of the county competition in the sprints while Chanel Hamilton and Iesha Jennings developed into fine sprinters themselves. Jessie Weaver and Brianna Fulton appear to be point scorers in the hurdles and shot put respectively. They can certainly steal points in distance races as well. All-in-all, Richard Montgomery may not dominate anything, but they do have one of the more balanced teams in the county.
6. Northwest High School
Northwest has a few weapons, but they will be more distance-based this year than the past few years. They will definitely be missing their star field athletes from last year (Tara Okusaga and Brittany Moreland), but should still put together strong relays to go with their open distance races. The wildcard is the freshman Britt Eckerstrom who showed she is among the best distance runners during cross country season. The question is not if she will succeed on the track, but rather what events she will succeed in on the track. She should be backed up in the middle distance events by Kathy Aherne and Becca Stinner.
7. Poolesville High School
Poolesville will not be as loaded this year as they have been for the last few years, but they still have some nice talent starting with Olivia Durr. Durr is a strong all-around athlete who put in a lot of work over the summer to drop her times in the 100-meter hurdles. She returns this year with the fastest time in the county in the 55-meter hurdles, and she's not bad in the sprints or high jump either. Their top sprinter from outdoor track, Karissa Harris, has decided to do indoor track and should be a point scorer. Also contributing to the Poolesville squad will be Jenny Reid in distance, and Holly Defnet in the field.
8. Paint Branch High School
Paint Branch should be led by two juniors this year. Vanessa Jules had a promising freshman year, but took a year off from track and will be rejoining the team this year as a strong sprinter capable of scoring in big meets. Arielle Statham also started off her high school career strong, but has not done indoor track until this year. Expect PB to put together some respectable relays to add onto the points that Statham and Jules rack up individually.
9. Blake High School
Monica Gerald of Blake returns as one of the better all-around athletes in the county this year. She has the potential to score big, if not win, in the 55-hurdles and the high jump. Teammate Corinne Talley returns as one of the top throwers in the county and Kennedy transfer Dee Diagne was one of the top freshman sprinters in the county last year. Though we haven't seen Blake in the top ten in the county in quite some time, this team has the potential to make it happen this year.
10. Walter Johnson High School
WJ looks good with a pair of sprinters in Renee McClinton and Charlene Cartoux. They should be able to grab a few points in the open sprints, while Jennifer Spencer could potentially grab a few points from the distance races if she comes back healthy this indoor season.
More individuals to watch for not previously mentioned:
Arleigh Rose should be the dominant thrower in Montgomery County this year. She is the defending county champ and enters the season with a PR of 35-10 in the shot put, but definitely watch out for her in the discus during outdoor track, too.
The Zyzak sisters from Damascus are about as versatile as they come. The younger sister Kelsee will be a top competitor in the hurdles while older sister Amanda can do hurdles, sprints, distance, jumps, throws…you name it!
Elana Diestel of Magruder found herself 5th in the 100-hurdles and the 300-hurdles at last year's 4A West Regional Meet. She will definitely be eyeing that spot to the state meet in the 55-meter hurdles this season.
Alex Doll comes to B-CC as a superstar soccer player with some experience in distance running. Expect her to have an impact right away for indoor season only before heading back to soccer practice in the spring.
Addie Tousley of B-CC is coming off a big cross country season where she finished 3rd in the state in the 3A race. She already ran sub-12 in the 3200 as a sophomore and should be expected to continue dropping time.
Indoor season is where Johanna Gretschel of Blair really came into her own last year. As a state qualifier in the 1600 outdoors last year, she will be looking to do the same this indoor season.
Brittanie Morris gained great experience running with all of the talented girls at Kennedy last year, but with the departure of many of them, and several others taking the indoor season off, she will now be expected to lead a young team.
Christina Washington of Springbrook returns with one of the fastest 300-meter times at 43.3. She also looks to be a point scorer in the long jump in her senior year.