After losing its first meet to Poolesville, Whitman bounced back to knock off undefeated Northwest, putting them in position to possibly win the division with two more convincing victories. With the Division I title at stake, Whitman Coach Steve Hays had a simple plan: just win, baby.
But with their pride on the line, the Richard Montgomery Rockets and the Quince Orchard Cougars weren’t going to let them have it without a fight.
Said Richard Montgomery coach Matt Wheeler, “We definitely came here to score a lot of points. We’ve got a lot of girls in the sprints. They’re not necessarily stacked, but they are going to score a lot.”
Quince Orchard coach Seann Pelkey also felt his team would perform well despite limiting his star runner Cara Harrison to a tempo run in the 3200. “We’re not giving them anything. The only person we’re holding out it Cara. We’re putting everyone in their events to see how they do.”
If you were only watching the distance events at this meet, you would think that Whitman was running away with it. Morgane Gay spread herself out and won the 1600 and 3200 easily. Leslie Morrison easily won the 400 and 800 for Whitman. Gabe McKenzie and Debbie Isen helped to pick up crucial points in these events as well.
But everyone was expecting that. Where was Whitman going to get the rest of their points?
Midway through the meet, Leslie Morrison toed the line for the 200-meter dash with three of the fastest sprinters in the county: Ashley Decruise, Ashlyn Decruise, and Sonia Gill. When the gun sounded, Ashley Decruise blasted out of the blocks in lane two, blowing by Morrison in lane three. Ashley was the first to come off the curve followed closely by her sister Ashlyn in lane five. Gill was the third girl off the turn in lane four followed closely by Morrison. The two twin sisters accelerated to the finish, going 1-2 in 25.4 and 25.9. Gill appeared to have third place locked up, but with an incredible last second surge, Morrison out-leaned Gill, grabbing 5 crucial points over QO. Each girl finished in 26.7.
Wheeler’s plan seemed to be working. Nobody could touch the Decruise sisters in the sprints, but the twins weren’t the only ones pitching in. Jessie Weaver racked up 10 points by winning the 100-meter and 300-meter hurdles. Whitman’s Anne Peterson was able to place 2nd in these events, which did not help much against RM, but boosted them further ahead of QO.
The meet was very tight going into the final event: the 4x400-meter relay. Jessie Weaver created an early lead for RM. Rianne Webb extended this lead, but Whitman had their two stars, Gay and Morrison, up next. Ashlyn Decruise had nearly 50 meters on Morgane Gay when she got the baton. Decruise did not allow Gay to gain much room on her before passing the baton off to Erin Hylton.
Pause, rewind. Richard Montgomery left their hopes of winning the meet in the hands of Erin who? According to Coach Wheeler, Erin Hylton was not a varsity runner at the start of the season, but worked her way onto one of the best 4x4’s in the county. Despite Leslie Morrison in hot persuit, Hylton was never phased and split 60-flat for the win in 4:09.3. Whitman was 2nd in 4:11.8.
With that victory, Richard Montgomery beat Whitman 71-62. Said Wheeler, “It was a fun meet. It’s interesting how different the strengths of each team are.”
Coach Hays of Whitman commented, “Richard Montgomery did a great job. That 4x4 was the difference and their anchor did a great job.”
While Gaithersburg High School was winning the boys Division I title a few miles away in Poolesville, the RM boys were still expected to come in and run over QO and Whitman. With some of Whitman’s varsity runners sitting out, the only real competition for RM was QO, but the two teams had such different strengths that there weren’t many exciting moments on the track. As expected, RM dominated the sprints while QO dominated the distance events.
RM was also able to pick up the majority of the points in the jumps, but slipped up in the throws, allowing QO’s Ted Worm to win the shot put by 5 inches and Zach Thompson to win the discus by 1 inch. As it turned out, those 6 inches were crucial for QO.
As the meet drew to a close, I assumed RM was already far ahead in the scoring and they would easily win their final event: the 4x400-meter relay. Brian Sickles of RM ran the first leg, earning a small lead over QO’s Wayne Bartholomew.
Gasping for breath, Sickles turned to me and told me, “We need this to win.”
Only then did I realize that RM had not secured the team victory, but the crowd in the stands already knew what was at stake. QO’s Greg Conte evened up the race in the second leg. QO’s Reagan Lynch ran with the RM runner for 150 meters before breaking open a huge gap. Lynch handed the baton to David Laratta with a 20-meter lead. The crowd went wild as Laratta took off, followed by RM’s Jon Ryan. Rounding the track, Ryan closed the gap significantly on Laratta. The home crowd cheered wildly for Laratta to hold onto the lead coming down the final straightaway. Laratta was able to do just that, holding off Ryan and finishing in a time of 3:32.0 to RM’s 3:32.9.
With all that effort, QO took the lead in the meet 70-67 over RM, but the meet doesn’t conclude until the completion of pole vaulting.
The scores right now are as follows: