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State Storylines Part II
By: Kevin Milsted

At the beginning of the season, a small group of girls from Northwest were told by their coaches that they would sweep all of the relays at the state championship meet and that they would run 1:44 in the 4x200. At the time, the girls thought their coaches were crazy.

As the season progressed, they slowly began to realize that it was possible. They did not lose a 4x800 or 4x400 relay all season and only lost one 4x200 relay race out of a separate heat to Eleanor Roosevelt at the Montgomery Invitational.

In the night before the state meet, Olivia Ekpone and Britt Eckerstrom went out together and had some quality bonding time. Of all the girls on the state squad, Ekpone said that Eckerstrom was probably who she practiced with the least. The two discussed the looming state championship meet and what it would be like running a full slate of events. They anticipated that the challenging teams would be closer than ever and that by the end of the meet, they would be racing more tired than they ever had.

Three relay state titles they did win, and they were not challenged as much as they anticipated.

The 4x800 relay clocked 9:30.67. Eckerstrom was modest in stating that she and Alyssa Henshaw both broke the 800-meter school record with splits of 2:17.

Prior to the 4x200 relay, the girls were nervous and initially forgot to do any handoff drills. Ekpone and India Knight knew their competition from summer track, but didn't tell the other team members how good they were. The senior Alana Rule was credited for boosting everyone's confidence and calming the nerves.

Not only did they win the race by over two seconds, they exceeded their coach's preseason prediction by over a second with an outstanding time of 1:42.86.

The fatigue that they anticipated for the 4x400 was somewhat present in the end and prevented them of breaking 4:00 as they hoped to, but they still won easily in 4:00.17. Eckerstrom ran a strong leg, followed by Knight who secured a lead. Henshaw surrendered the lead to a hard-charging Katie Wolf from Churchill who split 57 seconds. Ekpone immediately regained the lead and brought it home for the win.

With the 4x400 win, the Northwest girls secured second place ahead of Eleanor Roosevelt in the team standings. Aurieyall Scott of Eleanor Roosevelt, who had been having an outstanding meet with new state records in the 55 and 300, pulled up short in the 4x400 and was unable to finish the race. Just about everything seemed to be going wrong for Eleanor Roosevelt, whose indoor state title winning streak was snapped after nine straight. They still finished third while Northwest finished second and CH Flowers finished first.

Despite Olivia Ekpone finishing second to Scott in the 55 and the 300, she said that she was "very, very, very impressed," with the way the meet went for herself and her teammates. She was nervous all day about the 300-meter race.

When the gun went off, she says that she forgot how to run the turns. She did not execute the turns the way that she normally does and Scott gained on her with every curve. Her time of 39.05 broke the previous state meet record but was not a personal best. She notes that setting a personal best time in the 400-meter dash this coming outdoor season is high on her priority list.

One of her goals for this indoor season was to break 7.00 in the 55-meter dash, and she did that here at the state meet. She was very confident in the 55-meter dash and had a big energy boost after running 7.07 in the prelims (although Scott clocked a state record time of 6.92). In the finals, she said everything was pretty good, especially the timing of her start, but she felt that she closed differently and did not drive through the finish with perfect form as she strained herself for the win. Scott clocked 6.93 while Ekpone ran 6.97.

With the state record broken by both girls in both the 300- and 55-meter dashes, it appears that we are witnessing the greatest two female sprinters in Maryland history.

Ekpone is signed up for the Mid-Atlantic Track Classic this weekend and says there is a possibility that they may bring the relays to Nike Indoor Nationals.

It didn't hit him until the next day, but when he woke up the morning after winning the high jump in 6-04, Zach Fetters of Gaithersburg realized that nothing else he had ever done felt quite as good as winning a state title. Coming from someone who has played sports for about as long as he can remember, that is saying a lot. Someday, if he ever leads the football or baseball team to state competition, he may have something to compare it to, but for now, there is no question about his proudest accomplishment.

Rewind three months and Fetters could not even imagine some day becoming a state champion in track & field. Nathan Parry explains, however, that he is one of the best athletes in the whole school and is a terrific person as well. He was one of a few athletes on the team that would often be found practicing three times a day: at 6:30 AM, lunch time, and after school. The morning and lunch time sessions were brief, often not exceeding twenty minutes, but they were key to getting in important drills and allowing the afternoon practice for full-on jumps.

Fetters said that the region meet shook his confidence after he struggled with the slippery floor of the Armory and only cleared 5-11 and finished second, but he went back to practice where he cleared 6-02 and 6-04 regularly.

He entered the state meet full of confidence and cleared 5-08, 5-10, and 6-00 in three consecutive jumps. In his first attempt at 6-02, he missed while the others cleared it on the first jump. He said that at that point he focused and trusted in his ability. After he cleared 6-02, he and all of the other remaining athletes missed the first two attempts at 6-04. On his third attempt, he cleared the bar. He watched as the remaining athletes knocked the bar off the uprights.

When he knew he won, he said there was a lot of excitement, but it did not truly sink in until the following day.

Difficult decisions lie ahead as he must choose which spring sport he will participate in. He says he will rest for a week and make that decision by March 1.

With only four athletes, Gaithersburg finished third in the team scoring with 33.50 points. Alimamy Kallay finished second in the 55-meter dash with a personal best time of 6.55, fifth in the 55-meter hurdles in 7.94, and fifth in the high jump with a leap of 5-10. Trevon Carroll finished second in the 55-meter hurdles with a time of 7.80. The fourth athlete, Dillon Davis, was disqualified for a uniform violation.

While many athletes struggled to keep up the intensity and volume of their work load with the record-breaking snowfall this winter, Sean O'Leary from Walter Johnson was intentionally dialing back his mileage. Fazed by a cross country season that ended with an ambulance ride to the hospital, he spent weeks trying to determine what caused him to collapse after the state race. He came to the realization, as he shared in the mocorunning forum, that he had been pounding his body too much without ever resting and recovering.

This indoor season, he took a different approach. He maintained weekly mileage mostly in the mid-40's, far less than his norm. He did lots of tempo runs and focused on listening to his body. For every hard day of running, he gave himself an easy day to recover. When the heavy snows hit, he did some treadmill running and also did loops around his neighborhood on roads that were clear because they were considered snow emergency routes.

He PR'd in his first official race of the season with a mile time of 4:25.68 at the Montgomery Invitational. He won the county and regional titles in the 1600, both in 4:31. The regional 1600 was at the notoriously slow Baltimore Armory.

Entering the state meet, he knew that Matt Rever of Dulaney had a "crazy" kick. He and his coaches formulated the plan to hammer the whole race with the intention of sucking the kick out of Rever's legs. With less than two laps to go, Rever blew by O'Leary with conviction. It was a kick that O'Leary could not match and he admits that he was pretty scared at the time, but it all worked out as Rever began to fall back to him in the final 100 meters. He moved into the lead on the final stretch and won in a personal best time of 4:21.90.

Commenting on the 4x800 relay, O'Leary said that it was hard to watch from the side as his team barely lost to Richard Montgomery. He said that he will run on the relay and might run in the mile when they run at NSIC in two weeks. He also hinted that they would run their 'A' team much more during this upcoming outdoor season and anticipates battles with RM and Damascus all season.

More state storylines still forthcoming...


2010-02-25 10:16:59

Scott is just stronger and faster right now, thats why she won. don't make excuses for athletes

2010-02-25 17:52:41

No need to be rude. -_- All the athletes did very well. I did wish to hear more about other squads (how Churchill did and what not), but this was a very thorough, good recap. Nice work, Kevin.

2010-02-25 21:25:02

Don't take anything away from Olivia!!!! She is a beast and has accomplished many feats that not many people could've accomplished. She is HUMAN and makes mistakes just like the rest of us.No1 can win EVERYTHING!!! SHOW HER SOME RESPECT. Still #1

2010-02-26 00:33:05

Great Job Northwest Girls Keep Up The Good Work

2010-02-26 02:15:06

Please don't take away from the accomplishments of Aurieyall either. Whether or not Olivia made a mistake or was just out run by Aurieyall is irrelevant Ė Aurieyall did run a great race and great times and that beat Oliviaís best on that given day. Congratulations to all MoCo teams and athletes who even competed at States Ė lets not forget that getting to States in the first place is a great accomplishment.

2010-02-26 09:46:20

True True. On any given day

2010-02-26 11:14:09

When you look at female sprinters nationwide, you had 7 of the top 40 competing at the MD state meets -- Scott, McClure, Ekpone, Byrd-West, Wolf, Barker, and Jackson. And Pedro from Seton would make it 8 of the top 40. While Scott and Ekpone may get all the press, girls sprints in Maryland are a force to be reckoned with.

2010-02-26 13:42:58

Let's not forget that most Moco runners were not able to train during the snow days prior to states. Scott on the other hand was able to train at the PG sports plex during the whole indoor track season including the snow days. No one likes to make excuses for an athlete but the training field needs to be fair before making such remarks. Olivia did a super job at states running off of her summer weight training and running short sprints in the hallways of NWHS. Olivia also beat Scott in the 100 at the USATF Junior Olympics this past summer in North Carolina. Great job ladies:) you did us proud.

2010-02-26 17:26:30

to plenty of middle/distance MoCo girls who performed well even if they didn't take 1st, like Maryam, DeeDee, Grace, Alyssa, Alex, Teresa, Isabel, Stephanie, etc. Many qualified for states in two or more events. Strong showing for MoCo.

2010-02-26 20:01:51

Olivia and Aurieyall did not compete against each other at USATF Nationals this summer. They were in different age groups. Olivia won the Intermediate age group. Aurieyall won the Young Women. No head-to-head competition there.

2010-03-01 11:37:05

Olivia had the fastest time of ALL age groups at the USATF Junior Olympics. Olivia would never have had the opportunity to run head to head with Aurieyall because she is not in the same age group. The bottom line is Olivia had a faster time than Aurieyall at the same meet. Olivia then turned around and had the fastest time at AAU in Iowa. I wonder how many athletes can say they won at both National meets in the same event in the same year....Maybe a handful in its history...Pretty impressive for one of our own MoCo runners!!!!!!

2010-03-03 02:31:30

Olivia and Aurieyall are both great sprinters that ran great times. Instead of making negative uneducated comments why canít we just congratulate them on the success they both displayed at The Maryland State Meet. Letís not forget that a lot of physical and mental preparation is involved in the sport of track and field. Maryland may not ever see this level of sprinting at the High school level ever again. Appreciate Donít HateÖCuz Iím A Fan of Both

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