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State Champion Insights
By: Kevin Milsted

As the state championship meet drew to a close, it became obvious that no Montgomery County school had the depth to compete with CH Flowers High School in the girls 4A competition. CH Flowers won with 104 points. Clarksburg was second with 66.5 points and Northwest was third with 63 points.

Said Clarksburg head coach Scott Mathias, "Even with an over-the-top good day, we would have been second."

All three Pyles sisters scored points in the 100-meter hurdles for a total of 17 points in that single event. Clarksburg scored 12 more points in the 300-meter hurdles between Brionne and Alexus. Senior Alexus Pyles was runner-up in both hurdle events. Clarksburg scored at least one point in each relay and scored 28.5 total points in field events.

Clarksburg's lone state champion on Saturday was senior Justina Ababio who won the shot put with a throw of 38-11.00. Ababio has spent much of her high school career overshadowed by great teammates like Alexus Pyles and her older sister Claudia Ababio. Claudia Ababio was one of the all-time greatest prep shot put and discus throwers in the state of Maryland and accumulated 4 individual state titles in her time at Clarksburg. With multiple county and regional titles but no state titles prior to this weekend, Justina says that she experienced just a little bit of pressure internally to live up to her sister's name.

"Within myself, I relate myself a lot to my sister because she's so amazing, but I don't get any of that from my coaches or teammates. It's just more myself pushing to be as good as her."

Ababio admits that she was getting frustrated earlier this season as she was stuck in the 36 to 37 foot range in the shot put for a long time. That all changed at the 4A West Regional Meet a week prior to the state championship when she recorded a mark of 39-06.50. The throw was the fifth best mark all-time by a Montgomery County athlete. She says that that was a relief and a huge confidence booster leading into the state championship.

As for winning the state title, Ababio said, "My coaches and teammates have been working so hard with me to get me to this point so it's more of a thank you to them. The state title is my way of thanking them for everything they've done. I felt like I needed to win for them."

B-CC's Victoria Toth cleared 11 feet and defeated Gwendolyn Zeckowski of South River High School with fewer misses to become Montgomery County's first female 4A state champion since 2001. Toth entered the competition at a height of 9-06 and did not miss until the bar was raised to 11-06. The mark of 11 feet was the best ever by a Montgomery County athlete at the state meet and tied the best mark by a Montgomery County athlete in any meet since 1998.

Entering the competition at 9-06, Toth had a lot of time to watch and worry about the heat and her competition before she had an opportunity to perform, but she said that she settled down once it was time to go.

"I tried controlling my emotions once I was on the runway and focus on the three main things I had to do."

The mental checklist of a pole vault state champion:
1. Build up speed. Don't slow down
2. Look up. Don't look down.
3. Have a good solid swing.

The 2015 version of Victoria Toth maxed out at 8-06 at both the regional and state meet. The biggest difference between this year and last year is her commitment to her training routine with the DC Vault program. She has been doing Sunday practices with DC Vault every week since her freshman year and just in the last year she began the "Level 3" training with DC Vault which entails very rigorous workouts for three hours three times a week in the fall and winter. The rigorous workouts prepare the body to perform the extreme task of vaulting one's self more than 10 feet in the air. The program also offers technical expertise and corrects mechanical issues.

"I'm definitely a lot more confident with my run now. The training I've had has taught me what my main mistakes were. I would always bend my arm and now I'm keeping it straight so that's one of the biggest things."

"I'm really happy," said Toth with a sigh of relief. "I've worked really hard, so I'm glad I was able to do that."

Northwest High School's freshman phenom Taylor Wright has dominated Montgomery County sprinting since she exploded onto the scene last December. She has five combined indoor and outdoor county titles and three regional titles in her first year running track and on Friday she won her first state title with a personal best mark of 39-02.75 in the triple jump.

Things were almost coming too easily for Wright, but in the 100 and 200-meter dashes on Saturday, one athlete from CH Flowers was better. Wright took second place in both events.

"I'm going to train a lot harder," said Wright immediately following the 4x100-meter relay in which Northwest placed 3rd. "...put in more weekend work and really just try and come back stronger than I was before."

She also says that she wants to try high jump and long jump next year, but when asked about trying out the hurdles, she said definitively, "Oh, no. No."

"I don't feel comfortable going over hurdles. I'm actually pretty clumsy."

The self-described clumsiness clearly does not affect her while competing in the triple jump as she topped several older, more experienced girls and did it coming from behind. She had to switch to a different preliminary section due to scheduling of the 200-meter dash and then she "only" hit a 37-03.75 in the prelims.

"I was doing decent jumps. I was in the finals...3rd place...and the last jump I figured I had nothing to lose so I just put it all out there."

Until 2009, Montgomery County never had a girls jump farther than 39-02 at the state meet. Wright's winning mark of 39-02.75 was the fifth best in state meet history by a Montgomery County athlete behind two performances by Thea LaFond, one performance by Arielle Statham, and last year's state winning mark of 39-03.75 by Alexus Pyles. LaFond is currently coaching at Northwest and Statham is currently coaching at Paint Branch.

Thierry Siewe Yanga of Montgomery Blair High School has his priorities in line:

1. He was happy to win the individual 800-meter state title.
2. He was happier to win the 4x800-meter relay with his teammates.
3. He is happiest that in one week, he gets to see his mother for the first time in six years.

Siewe Yanga is an immigrant from Cameroon and has been living with his father, cousin, uncle, and brother in the DC area for six years. His mother has remained 6,000 miles away in Cameroon, but her first visit to the United States is scheduled in one week.

"I moved here in 2010. This year has been really great for me if you only count indoor. But the 4x8 and way...county, regional and state champ...that hasn't happened in years. I mean Blair is not really a team that is under the spotlight so I'm just really happy.

"And also, my mom is coming here to the United States from Cameroon next week so that's also another gift for me. I haven't seen my mom in six years, so I'm just really happy. I mean, this year has been just...God has really just blessed me and I'm so grateful and thankful for the opportunity."

Siewe Yanga spoke so fast that you might think he learned English in New York City.

"My brother just watched me. He's here from college. He goes to college in Wyoming. Having him to support me is just a blessing. The athletic director is here from Blair. The principal is here. Just them coming down just to see me run is just incredible. I'm very thankful."

Slowing him down in an interview is debatably harder than slowing him down on the track.

There is no question that this has been a breakout season for Siewe Yanga. Even though last year he clocked 1:57.50 to qualify for the state championship meet, and even though he almost won the indoor county title in the 800m in January, only recently has he become an unstoppable force that can seemingly make up any deficit in the 4x8 relay or win the open 800-meter no matter how the race unfolds.

The muscular junior has obviously physically matured in the last school year, but the biggest difference between last year and this year, he says, is in film study, something that he never would have done last year as a sophomore.

"Last year when I made states I was so happy. Going to state was really its own honor so I didn't care about place. Last year I did not watch any video but this year it's something I've really been working on... I just watch videos of my opponents and also I re-watch my own video to see what kind of mistakes I make and what I can improve on."

Those videos he said helped him develop a very specific race plan that unfolded almost exactly as he expected.

"I had never raced Cameron Burgess before or Andrew Link, so what I did to help me defeat them was basically watch videos. I knew that I had Dre [Andree' DiReumante of Northwood] who always likes to take the pace out. He always likes to lead so basically my plan was to just be in fourth behind all three of them. The plan for the last 400 meters was to gradually move and the last 200 meters is usually when I start my kick. That's when I open my arms...and just try to have the best kick possible."

His winning time of 1:55.22 was the fastest by a Montgomery County junior at the state meet since 2012. His time of 1:53.94 at the 4A West Regional was the fastest by a Montgomery County junior in any meet since 2010.

Mocorunning's recap of Friday events led off by stating that there must be something in the water in Silver Spring. Springbrook High School is getting their fair share of the magic water because they certainly experienced their share of success at this year's state meet. The girls set a school record in the 4x200 relay (1:43.92) and the boys set a school record in the 4x400 relay (3:21.05).

But forget about Silver Spring for a minute. Springbrook's Jacari Ramsey did something that no Montgomery County male athlete has accomplished in 23 years. He won the 400-meter dash state title in the 4A classification. The 4A 400-meter dash is typically reserved for Prince Georges County. Take a look at the MPSSAA state record book and you will see that PG County has won the boys 4A 400m 19 of the last 23 years with a Baltimore City school swooping in to win it the remaining four times. It is something that they take pride in in PG County and a 400 meter title is certainly not something they would ever want to give away to Montgomery County.

There was one athlete from Gaithersburg High School who came close to winning a 4A 400-meter state title in 2002. He recorded a time of 48.02 at the state meet, but Oxon Hill had two runners faster. That athlete was Bryan Steele who went on to an All-American collegiate career before returning home to coach the Springbrook High School track team. Now Ramsey has checked the one box that Steele was unable to check back in the day.

No one in the stadium celebrated Ramsey's win harder than Steele according to Springbrook coach Rebekah Harrison.

"Bryan Steele is the brains behind Jacari's training and has worked with him one-on-one every single day since the beginning of indoor season. They've been working towards this goal for the entire year up to this point."

Ramsey won the race by three-hundredths of a second out of the slower section with a final time of 49.41. His teammate Mayen McClain was two-tenths of a second behind him, but both athletes were racing the clock to stay as far ahead of the second heat as possible.

"With the help of my coaches, all I knew was I had to get out," said Ramsey. "I did perfectly what I had to do. On the back stretch it felt like I was going a little slow so I knew I had to pick it up a little bit. Once I got to about the 150, I knew it was my time to shine."

Ramsey credited his coaches multiple times in a brief interview.

"I got my new coaches sophomore year. From the beginning they were like, 'You're going to do well. You're going to do great.' It's been a lot of practice and a lot of training and I really give it to them."

According to Coach Harrison, a former Maryland state champion herself, Ramsey's progression as a sprinter was not nearly as linear as that of most other high school athletes.

"As Jacari was a sophomore, he was hit by a driver while walking on the street," said Harrison. "He has had a lot of hip and leg pain ever since. He had a lot of issues in rehabbing his leg so over the past three years he has had to work against that to build him back up again."

"He's also worked this entire year. He's balanced his work schedule with his track schedule and he's had to work twice as hard. If he missed a workout, he had to double up the next day and put in twice the amount of work."

Harrison added that Ramsey won a scholarship set up by Springbrook High School because of his perseverance and dedication.

Who is Kyra Badrian?

As of a few months ago, she was a versatile middle distance runner on the Paint Branch track and XC squads. She was a role-player that could be plugged into relays and was willing to contribute in any way that she could.

Who is Kyra Badrian the state champion?

She is a fierce competitor bursting with a newfound confidence. She is aggressive with a desire to win and the wheels to get her there.

Ever since she chased after a couple of CH Flowers girls and won the 800-meter run at the TC Williams Invitational in 2:19.20, everything changed.

"TC Williams where I broke 2:20...I was really excited about that," said Badrian. "After breaking 2:20 I was like, 'I can do anything now. You know what? I can win counties. I can win regions. I can win states.'"

And she did.

The state 800-meter race did not go exactly according to plan. She said that she wanted to sit on whoever went out the fastest, but nobody really went out as fast as she wanted. She took over the lead early in the race and by the 400-meter mark, only B-CC's Lily O'Dowd was within 10 meters. She continued to widen the gap on the second lap to the extent that it was impossible for anyone to reel her in. Kayla Durham of Suitland eventually closed the gap slightly down the home stretch, but Badrian won by nearly two full seconds in 2:17.06.

"Coming into the race, I knew I had a good chance," said Badrian. "I really fought and it just feels amazing."

Proving that he is no one-trick pony, Richard Montgomery's Rohann Asfaw won the 1600-meter and 3200-meter 4A state titles in two very different ways. In Friday's competition, Asfaw led for essentially the entire 8-lap race for the win in 9:24.05. In the 1600-meter race on Saturday, he employed what he felt was the safer strategy to sit with the leaders and kick the hardest on the final lap.

Said Asfaw, "Coming off the 32, I knew the solo effort took a lot out of me so I wanted to play it safe."

By the second lap of the race, the two race leaders were familiar faces in Wootton's Colin SyBing and Quince Orchard's Liam Walsh. Asfaw tucked into third place for most of the race while two more familiar faces from Dulaney High School, Eric Walz and Andrew King, appeared to key off Asfaw. When it was time to go, Asfaw turned on the jets and moved into the lead. It might have turned into a blowout if not for another runner with even more leg speed than Asfaw. Nick Boogades of South River High School emerged from way back in the pack with an incredible shift in gears. Boogades had spotted Asfaw too much real estate before deploying his kick and came up about one second shy. Asfaw won in 4:20.95.

"It feels like I really proved myself," said Asfaw. "I was on the come up the entire year and I'm glad I finished off strong."

Asfaw became just the fourth junior in state meet history to pull off the 1600/3200 double in Maryland's highest classification. The other three were Wayne Morris of Laurel in 1978, Zach Martinez of Gaithersburg in 2004 and Vincent Ciattei of Perry Hall in 2012. Only Morris repeated the double victory in his junior and senior years.


2016-05-30 21:01:57

It is spelled Cameroon, not Camaroon.

Clark Kent
2016-05-30 21:49:21

This is the best thing mocorunning has ever done. Awesome stuff

2016-05-31 10:06:33

I believe Zach Martinez of Gaithersburg was a junior when he won the 1600/3200 double in 2004.

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