In a fast-paced, action-packed 4A State Championship Meet, everything fell in to place for the Quince Orchard boys. Every runner who qualified for the meet scored points. The team that had never won a Track & Field county, region, or state title won the first track state title by a Montgomery County boys team since Paint Branch won the indoor 2A/3A state title in 2003.
QO did not dream of winning a team title over the Eleanor Roosevelt powerhouse or the 4A West Champions, Linganore, until the meet began to play out.
A victory over Roosevelt in the 3200m relay was an auspicious beginning for QO. A 2:00 lead off leg by Wayne Bartholomew gave QO a nice lead, but it was quickly eaten up by ER’s second leg. ER created an 8 second gap which seemed insurmountable by the next handoff. Incredibly, QO’s David Laratta caught ER on the next leg and it became a one-on-one battle between the two teams for the final 4 laps. The two were neck and neck until the final stretch where Quince Orchard’s Josh Joson opened a small gap and held on for dear life. QO won by less than a second in 8:03.88.
After pulling off an unlikely feat, Joson was then asked to do the impossible: turn around and run your heart out in the 1600m run just minutes later. Of course Quince Orchard still had the fan favorite Neal Darmody aiming to win the race, and win he did. Darmody won by 5 seconds by leading the whole way. He finished in 4:22.74. Joson finished 6th in 4:42.78, scoring 1 more point for his team.
As a team that has relied primarily on distance runners in the past, QO got an extra boost this year by qualifying a shot putter and a hurdler to the state meet. Things really began to go their way when both their thrower and hurdler qualified for their respective finals. Marcus Brown placed 3rd in the shot put with a throw of 49-06, displacing Linganore’s top thrower. Malone placed 5th in the hurdles in 8.07. It was an 8 point cushion that they have been missing the last few years.
Not long after the 1600, it was Laratta and Bartholomew’s turns to run an open event off of short recovery. The goal was just to run well and snag some points in the 500m. After the first 2 laps, both runners were in position to do exactly that, but with a tremendous burst of speed, Bartholomew closed the gap between himself and the leader from Gaithersburg. Bartholomew got the narrow victory in a time of 1:06.48. It was one of the biggest upsets of the meet. Laratta finished 4th in 1:08.22. It was 14 more points from the 500.
Quince Orchard had 43 points and a big lead heading into the 3200. With Linganore and Eleanor Roosevelt expected to do well in the 800m, 800m Relay, and 1600m Relay, QO once again turned to Darmody to put them up by as many points as possible before they were done for the day. Short recovery from the 1600m run earlier did not prevent him from taking out the race in well under 5 minutes. Only Sherwood’s Kyle Balderson hung relatively close. Even Brian Graves of Walter Johnson, who has had several giant come backs this year, seemed impossibly far behind. Darmody largely ran the second half by himself and won in 9:34.45. Graves flew by his competitors one-by-one in the second half, but would only place 2nd in 9:47.02.
A few tough breaks for Linganore stifled their team from scoring more than 2 more points in the remaining events. They finished 2nd with 43 points. Roosevelt ran well in the final three events, but would only rack up 42 points total. Quince Orchard won the 4A State Title with 53 points.
Coach Pelkey is especially proud of his athletes for competing selflessly for one another. In a short meet with little recovery time, their team won four open events, and scored in two more. Against the odds, they came together with a great effort and now they can celebrate. With a little bit of rest, Pelkey plans to keep things rolling and bring his team to the Nike Indoor Nationals Championship Meet where they will likely compete in the 4x8 and the DMR.
Congratulations to Quince Orchard High School for winning the 4A Indoor Track State Title.