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Northwest Wins 4A State Title
By: Kevin Milsted

Northwest High School won its second outdoor track & field state title in school history and first since 2013.

It was a nail-biting victory over CH Flowers High School that was not decided even after the last athlete stepped off the track. Flowers pulled the meet to within 6 points after beating Northwest by two places in the 4x400 relay, but the discus was still being contested behind the track stadium. Nanakofi Appiah of Flowers High School led the discus competition from his first throw and launched a 170 foot and 9 inch missle on his final throw to earn ten points for his team. Flowers had two other guys competing but they did not qualify for the discus finals. Northwest had one discus thrower in the competition to offset the points scored by Flowers. It was senior Phillip Kombet who, in his previous state championship appearance in 2015, recorded three straight fouls.

"We knew what Flowers had in the discus," said head coach Robert Youngblood. "They had three guys in the discus and Phillip..."

Youngblood paused.

"Phillip came through...he came in third for us. That was good. That was huge. He just kept getting better as the season went along."

Kombet's best throw of 135-08 to make it into the finals and ultimately finish in third place sealed the team title for Northwest, but Youngblood was still a little on-edge. He second-guessed his math and the team sat in the stadium for over a half hour waiting for the final team scores to be announced. When the announcer finally began announcing the team winners, of course he began with 1A girls first. After ten more minutes of watching every other team get their trophy, Northwest's name was called as the 4A champions with an 86 to 84 win over runner-up CH Flowers.

"It's incredible," said Youngblood. "I knew it was going to be a battle all the way down. I didn't think at the end we were going to have a shot. Everything had to fall in line and everything did. Our 4x4 kept Flowers in sight the whole race. My hurdlers were just incredible. We got points in the high jump. We got points all across the board."

Northwest scored in 13 of 18 events including quite a few 6th, 7th, and 8th place finishes. Andrew Daniels scored in the 110-meter hurdles, finished second in the 300-meter hurdles with the third best performance recorded by a Montgomery County athlete in state meet history (37.77), and contributed to the 4x2 and 4x4 relays. Youngblood said that he moved his senior Daniels to the anchor leg on the 4x4 for the first time because he knew he could depend on him in the moment.

Of course, Northwest accumulated 28 individual points and 10 more from the 4x100-meter relay by way of one very special athlete named Shyheim.

Shyheim Wright scored 28 points by himself by winning the 110m hurdles, 300m hurdles, and placing second in the long jump. He also contributed to the state champion 4x100 relay. He not only contributed to four new school records, his 110-meter hurdle performance of 13.92 was a Montgomery County record and #4 in state meet history, his 300-meter hurdle performance of 37.28 was a Montgomery County record and #3 in state meet history, and the 4x100-meter relay time of 42.30 was the best ever by a Montgomery County team at the state meet.

Without a doubt, we can now look back on Shyheim Wright as one of the greatest Montgomery County track athletes of all time, but the Pittsburgh track commit has had a long journey to get to this point. He was outstanding as a sophomore with a personal best 110-meter hurdle time of 14.47, but an injury prevented him from surpassing that time as a junior. And while his junior indoor track campaign was national-caliber, his senior indoor track season nearly ended before the state championship meet.

"I dislocated my ankle," said Wright about the end of his indoor track season. "It was tough. I knew that states was coming up and I went out and made a stupid decision to play basketball. It was a bonehead decision on me so I had to live with the consequences."

Wright was able to compete at the indoor state meet, but like the spring before, he was unable to surpass his personal bests from earlier in his high school career. He chose not to return to indoor nationals due to the injury.

"I knew that coming into outdoor, I couldn't make the same mistakes."

"It's surreal," said Wright, reflecting on his accomplishments shortly after the 300-meter hurdles race. "Coming in freshman year, I didn't think I was going to be a star hurdler...I was just focused on football, you know. As coaches started telling me that I had a gift, I had to take it and run with it."

With a semifinal performance of 14.04 and a finals performance of 13.92, Wright's performances this year knocked Ron Frazier of Gaithersburg out of the state record book top ten list. Frazier was the only Montgomery County athlete on the MPSSAA wind-legal state meet top ten list in the 110-meter hurdles with a performance of 14.15 in 2000. Coincidentally, there is a tie between Frazier and Wright: both were coached by Fran Parry.

The coach of four outdoor and one indoor team state titles at Gaithersburg High School over the span of three decades, Fran Parry compliments Youngblood and an all-star coaching staff that also includes one of MoCo's all- time greatest former athletes, Thea LaFond.

Said Wright, "I gotta say, Coach Parry is number one. He's one of the best coaches in the state of Maryland if not the country."

When asked to compare and contrast Wright and Frazier, Parry said that Frazier was stronger and had a trail leg that snapped down automatically like you've never seen. Wright, he said, required more maturation to get to where his is today.

"He's definitely got a bright future ahead of him," said Parry.

The results speak for themselves.


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2016-06-14 14:05:40


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