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Cougar Relays Girls Recap
By: Kevin Milsted

Thanks in part to the unseasonable calm, warm, and dry weather of this past weekend, the 10th Annual Cougar Relays produced 12 new meet records across 28 events and some of the most elite times Montgomery County has ever seen in the month of March.

The Northwest girls won the meet and broke records for nearly every event on the track starting with the 4x800. B-CC led the race with a 2:24 first leg, but Northwest's India Knight took the lead on the second leg and Northwest led for the rest of the race.

A 2:20 anchor leg by Northwest's Naomi Sheppard was enough to hold off a 2:18 effort by B-CC's Brittney Wade. With a time of 9:28.6, Northwest broke the previous meet record of 9:30.5 set in 2010 by Wootton.

Only Bowie came close to Northwest as the Jags swept meet records in the 4x100 and 4x200 relays in 48.6 and 1:41.2 respectively. Things got spicier in the 4x400 and SMR.

Wootton has had the potential to run a killer girls 4x400 relay for at least a year or two, but only now with Grace Corbett and Casey Dowling as seniors and Gwen Shaw and Sylvia Deppen as juniors are all the stars aligning for Wootton.

A 58 second lap by Dowling set the pace on the first lap and Northwest's Dana Eckerstrom handed off just a second after.

Northwest's Tiara Wellman caught and passed Corbett in the first 200 meters of the second leg. Wellman split 59 seconds while Corbett, coming off a third place performance in the mile, pulled the baton around in 62.

Kennedy Knight initially widened the lead for Northwest, but a powerful finish by Gwen Shaw closed the gap and put Wootton in the lead before the final exchange. Shaw split about 57 while Knight ran 60.

All eyes in the stadium were on Sylvia Deppen and India Knight as Deppen fought to hold off Knight with less than a one second lead. Knight threatened to gain the lead, but Deppen, who expanded her range to 500 meters with great success this winter (1:17.45), displayed her strength as she surged in the final 50 meters for a split of 57 seconds to secure the win.

Wootton and Northwest both smashed Northwest's 2010 meet record of 4:02.37 with times of 3:53.8 and 3:55.7. These times are quite possibly the fastest 4x400 relay times ever run by Montgomery County girls teams in the month of March.

As if racing the mighty Northwest 4x400 wasn't reason enough to get the adrenaline pumping, Wootton (at least for head coach Kelly Redmond) had the extra motivation derived from Northwest taking Wootton's 2010 meet record in the 4x800.

In some ways, this 4x400 matchup between Wootton and Northwest has a very similar feel to the 4x800 rivalry between the same two teams in 2010. Things are coming together early for both teams, and it is likely that the rivalry will grow ever more intense as the season progresses.

Several of the same girls came back for Northwest to smash the meet record in the sprint medley relay less than an hour later. The official results are deceptive because Bowie HS crossed the finish line first in a smokin' 4:11, but Bowie was DQ'd for a bad exchange. Northwest's time of 4:13.2 was credited as the new meet record. It is the fastest SMR time by a Montgomery County team since Mocorunning was created in 2006.

Including the 4x400 relay in which Northwest placed second, the Northwest girls broke meet records in the 4x100, 4x200, 4x400, 4x800, and SMR.

The Bowie DQ turned out to be the difference maker in the team standings. Despite all of Northwest's records on the track, Bowie was stronger in the hurdles and field events and would have won the meet with a first or second place finish in the SMR.

Several field event performances were noteworthy including a meet record in the long jump by Quince Orchard's Sierra Isaac. A personal best mark of 17-04 earned her the #8 spot on Mocorunning's "since 2006" leaderboard.

Northwest's Kendra Meredith caught our eye last year as a freshman long jumper, but we didn't know she could triple jump. This weekend she won the triple jump with a mark of 36-02. Longtime Damascus coach, Robert Youngblood, is now helping out at Northwest and is trying some new techniques with Meredith.

Bowie's Antonella Taylor swept the shot put and discus with a meet record in the discus. Seneca Valley's Virginia Owusu-Mainoo also topped the discus meet record with a throw of 112-06 while Jamillah Jonjo set a personal best mark of 106-04.

Owusu-Mainoo was topped by Clarksburg sophomore Claudia Ababio in the shot put, 36-05 to 36-01. This could be an interesting matchup to watch as the county meet approaches.

B-CC freshman Caroline Beakes won the Devil Takes the Hindmost race with 19 laps in a time of 30:07. After running through 5k in 20:08, the race came down to the freshman teammates, Beakes and Nora McUmber, and Severnam Park's Julie Koffler.

Coach Chad Young said that McUmber really only has one speed and couldn't switch gears while Beakes is very competitive and wants to win. Beakes made a decisive move with just over one lap remaining while McUmber finished third. Beakes ran away from Koffler to take the win. She average 6:20 mile pace for 4.75 miles.

Gwen Shaw and Sylvia Deppen's 1-2 performance in the 300-meter hurdles in 44.4 and 44.5 is only overshadowed by the fact that they were clocked just a bit faster in a dual meet earlier this year. They are running in a territory where few Montgomery County girls have ever been, and perhaps no MoCo girl has ever been in March.


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