Once again, the twelve teams of the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference gathered in the third weekend of May to determine the league champions for track and field. On the boys’ side, many wondered whether or not resurgent Our Lady of Good Counsel and Gonzaga teams would dethrone perennial contender DeMatha Catholic, and the girls’ team battle was expected to be a tight battle between PG powerhouses Elizabeth Seton and Bishop McNamara teams. Despite cold and windy conditions, many new faces emerged, old victors reiterated their talent, and champions were made.
On an overcast Friday afternoon, the girls’ 4x800 saw a meet record as Bishop O’Connell crushed its competition with a time of 9:41.10. Nathalie McAdams led off for the Knights with a 2:23 split, giving her team a big lead over Bishop McNamara, Good Counsel, and Paul VI, which O’Connell would never relinquish. McNamara made things interesting on every leg, but by the time anchor Katie Walls received the baton, the gap was too great, and Walls cruised home with a 2:25 split for the win.
The boys’ 4x8 looked to be a repeat of the girls’ as DeMatha clearly held the best credentials in the field with an 8:08 best, and after Chad Rogers led the entire first leg and kicked it home with a 2:02 split, things appeared to be falling into place. The real race appeared to be for second place, as Good Counsel, Gonzaga, and Archbishop Carroll were locked in a heated duel 25 meters back for silver. DeMatha kept its lead through the second and third legs after 2:05 splits from Chad Rogers and Brian Benkhadra as the next three teams continued to see-saw their way through the race. But of course, it wouldn’t be a Championship if upsets didn’t happen. And thanks to Gonzaga sophomore Bill Ledder, upsets happened. Ledder received the baton about 15 meters back from Good Counsel anchor Mark Hamilton, and around 50 meters back from DeMatha anchor Phil Iwugo. But for Ledder, patience was the key, as he waited until the backstretch of the second lap to pass Hamilton, then sustained his powerful kick to close an enormous gap between himself and DeMatha’s anchor. By the time Iwugo realized what was happening with 25 meters to go, it was too late. Ledder out-leaned his rival for a winning time of 8:21.36 to DeMatha’s 8:21.41.
After the 4x800s were the 100 and 200 sprint trials which saw Caleb Porzel run the conference’s fastest times in both the 100 and 200, and Elizabeth Seton runners Dionna Hayes, Adenike Pedro, and Jamiece DeCoster establishing themselves as the women to beat. In between the 100 and 200 trials was the 100/110 hurdle trials in which sophomore favorites Aaron Shepperd of Gonzaga and Taylor Butler of McNamara easily posted the best times and sent a clear message to their competitors.
The 3200s were next, and the girls’ race saw a two-way duel between Holy Cross freshman Chiny Asher and O’Connell senior Katie Walls. Both had already run in the 4x8, but the pace stayed strong, with Asher leading and Walls one step behind, and a chase pack falling farther and farther behind. In the later stages of the race, Asher started to fade, and Walls pulled away in the last 800, using a strong finishing kick to secure the victory. As for the boys, DeMatha sophomore and 2007 Cross Country champion Cory Puffett took the race out hard with a 66-second first lap, and did not let up his relentless pace. He came through the first 1600 in 4:45 and kept moving, eventually finishing almost half a lap ahead of his competition in an outstanding time of 9:38.81. As for second place, DeMatha junior Robert Patterson led a chase pack, but Good Counsel’s Sam Rainard surged in the last 400 meters of the race, holding off a strong kick by Patterson to finish in 10:04.74 to Patterson’s 10:05.44.
In Friday’s last event, the 4x200, sprint powerhouse Elizabeth Seton easily coasted to a win with a time of 1:47.37, while Good Counsel’s anchor stayed ahead of Bishop Ireton senior Colleen McFadden in the final straight for second-place. The boys’ race for first was a bit more interesting, as DeMatha and Good Counsel seemed to be very evenly matched. As expected, Caleb Porzel broke the race open for his team as the second leg, but a bad handoff to GC sophomore Hassan Dixon gave DeMatha the edge. Dixon had caught back up to DeMatha by the fourth leg handoff, but DeMatha’s Mac Reed was too strong for GC anchor Sean Sutton, and DeMatha took the victory over Good Counsel, 1:30.69 to 1:30.71.
The second day of competition brought warmer temperatures and more sun, but many athletes were still affected by the windy conditions throughout the day. While running events did not start until 1pm, field athletes were busy scoring valuable points for their teams earlier in the day. All-Met high jumper Saniel Atkinson of Bishop McNamara once again distanced herself from the competition by winning the high jump in 5-4, 2 inches above teammate Kiersten LaRoche. LaRoche and Atkinson switched the outcome in the long jump, with LaRoche getting the win in 17’05.5” and Atkinson placing second in 17’04.25. Atkinson showed why she is one of the best jumpers in the area by also winning the triple jump in 38’05.5”, well ahead of second-place Teika Robinson of Seton, who jumped 35”11.5”.
The boys jumps saw another strong performance for Johnson Bademosi. The football linebacker-turned-track star won the long jump over Good Counsel’s Hassan Dixon, jumping 20’10” to Dixon’s 20’05.25”. In the high jump, St. Johns’ Steven Brown took the gold over Rashaad Rich of McNamara and Bradley Clements of St. Marys Ryken. The triple jump had Bishop O’Connell’s George Llames winning with a leap of 42-06, almost a foot ahead of McNamara’s Jerome Coupling, who jumped 41-01.5.
In the throws, neither of the pre-meet favorites Aaron Brooks of DeMatha nor Margaret Ngami of McNamara could complete sweeps, but both walked away with individual titles. Brooks, who won the shot put competition last year, unleashed a throw of 50-09.25, but lost to Cory Boatman of Good Counsel, who won in a personal best throw of 51-00.5. Brooks won the discus throw the day before with a throw of 144 feet. Jelani Jenkins of Good Counsel placed second in 137-02, beating out Gonzaga’s Allen Whearry by two feet. Jenkins, who previously ran the 100 and 200, only began throwing recently as a result of a running-related injury, and improved his personal best from a week ago by over 35 feet. Those who witnessed the girls throwing events saw an exciting battle between McNamara’s Ngami , Seton’s Kayla Tucker, and Good Counsel’s Julie Nkodo. Ngami, who won the discus throw last year, was victorious in the shotput with a throw of 34-06.25. Tucker placed second with a throw of 33-03.7, and Nkodo placed third with a 32-03 effort. Yesterday’s discus competition saw these three athletes shuffle positions, with Tucker winning in a throw of 96-02, Nkodo placing second with a 94-00 throw, and Ngami earning third with a throw of 85-11.
Day 2 of the running events started off with a bang, as the hurdle finals were one of the most anticipated events of the day. The girls’ 100h finals saw a rematch between Bishop McNamara’s Taylor Butler, who was the previous WCAC hurdle champ, and perennial contender Tiffany McCarty of St. Johns. McCarty, the All-Met Player of the Year for soccer, could not match Butler’s speed and technical form, and was edged out in the last few meters. Butler won in a time of 15.36 seconds, and McCarty placed second in 15.81.
The boys 110 hurdles was not as highly anticipated, as many expected Aaron Shepherd of Gonzaga to walk away victorious. Despite challenges from O’Connell’s Mark Chauteh and and DeMatha’s Andreas Roberson, Shepherd powered down the last 30 meters to win in 15.28 seconds. Shepherd is yet another member of Gonzaga’s talented sophomore class.
The 100 finals was a prime example of the sprint power of the WCAC. The girls 100 finals, or the Elizabeth Seton show, saw one of the most dominant efforts of the meet, as the Bladensburg school swept the top 2 positions. Dionna Hayes won the event in an unofficial time of 12.10, and teammate Adenike Pedro placed second in 12.37. Underrated senior Colleen McFadden of Bishop Ireton put an end to her strong season by placing third in 12.84.
The boys 100 was expected to be a tight battle for first between Good Counsel junior Caleb Porzel and Gonzaga senior Johnson Bademosi. These two athletes, who both shine in the football field, led the competition by receiving the top two times in the preliminary rounds. The final round had several well-experienced athletes, like Mac Reed of DeMatha and Mike Wallace of Good Counsel, facing off against a slew of newcomers including Mike Little of St. Mary’s Ryken and Johnson Bademosi. In the end it was Porzel who prevailed- the junior used his quick acceleration to gain a big lead in the first 40 meters that could not be overcome. Bademosi ended his stellar rookie campaign in the 100 by placing second in 11.11, and DeMatha’s Reed placed third in 11.31.
1600 meter races are always exciting to watch, as the event demands a balance of both speed and endurance like no other event in track and field. Both the boys’ and girls’ races saw incredible one-on-one duels which led to incredible times. The first race saw O’Connell’s All-Met junior Megan Fitzpatrick take the race out fast, with only Ashley Seymour of Archbishop Carroll, also a junior, following close behind. Fitzpatrick led a swift pace, coming through the 800 in 2:32, and the 1200 in 3:52, but a tiring Seymour stayed close behind. At the bell lap, however, Fitzpatrick made a move and instantaneously put 30 meters between herself and a tiring Seymour. Fitzpatrick sustained her torrid pace for the entire lap for a winning time of 5:06.23. Seymour finished nine seconds back in 5:15.80.
As for the boys, Cory Puffett used the same winning strategy as in his 3200 win the day before: drop everyone immediately with a breakneck pace. Unlike the 3200, however, this mile field was not deterred by Puffett’s pace. Keeping in close contact, a chase pack led by Brian Benkhadra of DeMatha and Bill Ledder lurked a few meters in the background, waiting to strike when Puffett tired. After reaching the 800 in 2:09, Ledder began to move up to Puffett, and the two were running stride-for-stride by 1000 meters. At the start of the last lap, Ledder put on a surge to pass Puffett, who tried to hang on for the rest of the race. Ledder’s speed was too much for Puffett’s, though, and Ledder mowed down the backstretch for a 4:23.77 win over Puffett’s 4:26.28.
Next were the 400-meter races, featuring some of the fastest 400-runners in the area. The girls’ race had some superstars in short sprinter Jamiece DeCoster and long sprinter Ambrosia Iwugo, both from Seton. Though Iwugo had the fastest personal best of the field, DeCoster used a very quick start to maintain the lead for the entire race, running a 58.84 to hold off Iwugo and her time of 59.16. Freshman Jade Whitaker of Good Counsel placed third in 1:00.02.
In the boys’ race, super sophomore Karrie Butler of Archbishop Carroll looked hot after an eye-popping 49.03 performance at the Draper Invitational two weeks ago. But Good Counsel senior superstar Chris Brown, who has been the cornerstone of GC’s powerful sprint relays for the entire season, was determined to beat Butler. Brown took the race out hard, and did not let up for the entire race, and despite a late surge by Butler, Brown powered home for the win in a time of 49.45, over Butler’s 49.76. The two athletes easily gapped the rest of the field, as third place finisher Hassan Dixon finished over a second behind Butler in 51.05.
The girls 300 hurdles race would be one of the deepest events of the meet for Bishop McNamara, who had the top 3 seeds of the race. The Forestville school easily displayed its dominance and swept all 3 medals. All three of the Lady Mustangs gapped the field quickly and never looked back. Sophomore Taylor Butler, who was victorious earlier in the day in the 100 meter hurdles, won again in an eye-popping time of 43.22. At this point in the season, Butler’s time is the fastest in the state. Fellow Mustang Nsia Frenche placed second in 45.69, edging out teammate Saniel Atkinson, who ran 45.77 for third.
While the boys’ 300 hurdles race didn’t quite contain the state-leading times that the girls’ race did, it was still an exciting race that was very closely contested. In an evenly matched field that had no obvious winner, Bishop O’Connell senior Mark Chauteh separated himself from the competition by placing first in 40.60 seconds. Chauteh made up for a sluggish start by boosting his speed in the last 150 meters to create a gap between himself and runner-up Andreas Roberson of DeMatha, who placed second in 41.10. Good Counsel senior Brandon Clark finished in third place with a time of 41.39.
Next up were the 800 meter races. The final heat of the girls’ race was a small one, and Bishop O’Connell’s Nathalie McAdams, in her first race of the day, led the pack through a quick first 300 meters. After that, however, Carroll’s Ashley Seymour took over the race. Seymour established herself as one of the area’s leading 800 runners after a 7th place finish at Nike Indoor Nationals last March, and now, two months later, the middle distance runner showed her true talent. She never looked back after passing McAdams, and gapped the field for a runaway win in a time of 2:16.86. McAdams held off Seymour’s teammate Brianna Adams for silver in a time of 2:22.99.
With Gonzaga’s Carter Ward out with a stress fracture, DeMatha runners looked to gain a large amount of points in the 800, one of DeMatha’s strongest events. Stag seniors Chad Rogers, Phil Iwugo, and Lloyd Foster knew this, and in an effort to score points, ran 1-2-3 for the first 400 of the race, going through in around 57. As the race wore on, though, Foster and then Iwugo fell off, leading Chad Rogers only a few meters ahead of sophomores Blaize Johnson of Paul VI and 1600 champion Bill Ledder. Coming around the turn, Ledder made use of his now-famous finishing kick, and passed Rogers down the homestretch to take the lead. Meanwhile, the relatively unknown Johnson also unleashed a furious kick to stun Rogers and capture second place. Ledder won in 1:58.41, with Johnson a second back in 1:59.55.
Both 4x100 relays featured some of the fastest teams in the state. The girls 4x1 was highlighted by Elizabeth Seton’s powerful squad, who placed second in the Small Schools Championship at Penn Relays, and the boy’s side contained a powerful Good Counsel squad that placed fourth in the same division at Penn. From the gun, Seton’s sprint squad began setting up a lead that they would only build upon throughout the race. The Roadrunners would win in a comfortable 48.51, two seconds ahead of the competition. Good Counsel, Bishop Ireton, and Bishop McNamara battled it out for second. In the final stretch, Good Counsel managed to surge in for a powerful finish in a time of 50.57, and a strong leg from Ireton’s McFadden placed them ahead of McNamara for third in 51.28.
On the boys side of the 4x1, a fierce battle between Good Counsel and DeMatha was expected- despite GC’s fine credentials throughout the year, DeMatha’s time came within tenths of a second behind Good Counsel’s. At the gun, these two teams immediately began to make up ground on the other teams, but at the end of the second leg, a dropped baton by DeMatha eliminated any chance of an upset. Good Counsel cruised to victory in a time of 42.5, well ahead of St. Johns and Carroll, who finished second and third in 44.21 and 44.27, respectively.
The girls 4x400 was one last effort for Elizabeth Seton to take a win, which they did in a convincing manner as a thrilling battle was waged several meters behind between Bishop McNamara and Good Counsel. A dropped baton by McNamara on the back stretch of the third leg gave GC the edge, who cruised to second place.
The boys’ 4x400 lived up to the hype, and was easily one of the most exciting races of the day. Both Good Counsel and DeMatha were only separated by a few seconds during the season, and Carroll contained a slew of underrated runners that performed well throughout the season. The opening leg saw Good Counsel’s Cort Harris taking a quick lead over the rest of the field, but by the end it was only DeMatha’s Chad Rogers who was right on his shoulder. GC and DM continued the struggle for first place during the second leg, with GC’s Jemel Sessoms holding off DeMatha’s runner. Carroll’s second leg put on an incredible surge in the last 200 meters and caught both frontrunners by the second handoff. By the third leg, Good Counsel’s sophomore 400 ace Hassan Dixon had regained the lead and had a small lead on DeMatha’s runner, which was held for the entire leg, despite a late charge. The fourth leg saw both teams hand off almost simultaneously, and those watching knew that they were in for a close finish. Good Counsel’s Chris Brown got out a few steps ahead of DeMatha’s Mac Reed, but Reed was content to stay on his shoulder for the first 200 meters. With about 150 to go, Reed made his move and surged hard, but Brown could not be broken that easily. The two were almost even with 100 left, but Brown gave it everything he had to pull away for the victory in 3:22. DeMatha finished second in 3:23. Both anchors split around 49 seconds.
As for the team competition, DeMatha won its fourth championship in a row with 158 points over Good Counsel’s 142 and Gonzaga’s 118. Seton won its second girls’ competition with 183 points over McNamara, who had 162 points, and Good Counsel, who scored 74.5 points.