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State Championship Highlights
By: Kevin Milsted

Since the first practice of the season, Paint Branch coaches and athletes openly discussed the possibility of winning the 4A state title. That possibility became reality on Tuesday evening when Paint Branch topped the 4A standings with 62 points, 21 points ahead of second place Wise High School.

"After time trials, we came to practice and literally just put everything on the board," said Paint Branch head coach Dessalyn Dillard. "I was like, 'Look guys. It's here if you want it.' So they committed to it all season."

Dillard said that they used each meet as a checkpoint to fix little mistakes.

Paint Branch proved that it was on the right track at the Montgomery County Championship Meet in January when it scored in all 14 boys events and racked up the second highest point total in meet history. Coach Dillard said that she was worried after the 4A West Regional Meet because the team did not qualify as many middle distance and distance performances as they wanted. She added, "But God has a plan for everything and it just worked out the way that it was supposed to."

After the Paint Branch 4x800 relay finished second early Tuesday evening, sprinters carried the team home with 34 points in the 55m, 300m, and 500m. 18 more points were scored between the 4x200 and 4x400 relays. Chukwumdi Osuji was the individual champion in the 300m dash with a time of 35.46.

Said Dillard, "The sprinters have been amazing all season...Our mid-distance guys, the 500, they came through for us. We were a little banged up coming into the meet, but like I said these guys are soldiers. They got in there and they fought it. They fought with their hearts."

Record Breaking Bengals

Blake High School's girls broke the 3A state record in the 4x200-meter relay with a time of 1:42.29. The performance also ranked #5 in state meet history and #1 all-time by a Montgomery County team, according to the MPSSAA winter record book.

"They definitely wanted to go after the state record. They did a really good job," said Blake head coach Brandon Tynes.

Blake also won the 4x400 relay in 3:57.69, just missing the top ten in meet history, and took 22 points in the open 300m and 500m events. Despite tallying 42 points, the third place overall finish was not what Tynes had hoped for.

Said Tynes, "We had a rough regional meet so we just wanted to come in and finish strong for the regular season."

Specifically, Tynes was disappointed in a regional disqualification of Noelani Phillips, a state title contender. Phillips was DQ'd at the regional meet for breaking early.

Blake will take their talents to New York City for New Balance Indoor Nationals, but Tynes had not yet decided on their focus.

Change of Plans

A minor quibble between athlete and coach led to a prescient compromise and another memorable performance by Northwood's distance runners. Northwood's Eldad Mulugeta wanted to run a fresh 3200-meter at the 4A state championship on Tuesday, but he said that Coach Darryl Spruill wanted him to run two events before the 3200m. When the dust settled, Mulugeta skipped arguably his best event, the 1600m, in favor of an event that he had not run all season, the 4x800.

By entering Mulugeta and teammate Obsaa Feda in the 4x800-meter relay for the first time this season, Northwood dropped from a season best 8:17.20 down to 8:05.37 to win the state title. It surprised just about everyone to see them entered in the race, but it surprised no one when Mulugeta took over the race on the third leg.

Said Mulugeta, "I wanted to run the two-mile only, but we won [the 4x8]...I'm happy with the 4x8 win so I can't complain."

After several hours of rest, Mulugeta and Feda swapped leads in the 3200 while pulling away from all other challengers. Mulugeta's time of 9:17.94 was #5 in state meet history and #1 by a Montgomery County athlete according to the MPSSAA winter record book. Feda's 9:21.90 was #8 in meet history according to the MPSSAA winter record book.

*Note: There is a conflict between the 3200-meter meet record listed in the MPSSAA winter record book (9:12.3) and the meet record published in the results this year (9:16.00).

Mulugeta wanted the meet record and more. He declared that he wanted to run sub-9:00.

Said Mulugeta, "I was trying to take it out like 4:26, 4:28 so I had a chance to break 9. I think the 4x8 messed it up because we weren't really planning to run the 4x8 until last minute."

"I wanted to take it out the first mile," he continued, "but [Feda] took it after 800. I was surprised when he did that. I wanted to take the first mile and see what happens, but 4:36 was too slow."

He already has his sights set on the outdoor 3200m state meet record of 9:06.13, but before that he hopes to earn All-Amaerican honors in the DMR and 4xMile at New Balance Indoor Nationals.

Not Playing Around

Paint Branch's Kaya Rae Dunbar was fed up with second place. In her first two years of high school, she took second or third place at a county, region, or state meet 15 times. For her to sweep the 55-meter hurdles county, region, and state titles in her junior year is evidence that her hard work has paid off.

Said Dunbar, "It actually means a lot because I've been working for it so hard. And it's been my goal for the past three years. I've always been second so for me to come first today is actually a really big deal to me."

Though she showed great improvement last spring, dropping to 14.26 in the 100-meter hurdles, she said that her mindset really changed last summer.

"A lot of hard work was put in at practices...It all started during the summer. I practiced with an outside club, USAJA, and then came back into the school year...I wasn't playing around. I made sure that I was serious and just did my best."

She said that her state-winning performance of 8.14 was still not up to her full potential. She thought that getting out of the blocks was the worst part of her race and that she could have PR'd if she executed better. She will get a chance to improve her execution at New Balance Indoor Nationals where she expects to compete in the emerging elite 60-meter hurdles.

Too High, Too Quick

Northwest's Taylor Wright knows that competing in the sprints reduces her speed in the high jump. When she has a busy day such as her 4-event performance at the state meet, she compensates for fatigue by adjusting her run-up in the high jump.

"As I tire," explained Wright, "I go slower, and so I adjust my steps accordingly."

She breezed her way through 5-06, but when she attempted to break the indoor state meet record of 5-09 with the bar set at 5-10, everything was off.

"I think with the 5-10, I tried to go too high too quick after the 300 and my legs weren't fully recovered, so my steps were off. I was just getting faster as I was recovering more and so it was making it difficult for me to find a rhythym. The one good attempt that I had was just not good enough."

Her attempt at breaking the state meet record in the high jump was tense and exciting, but that was nothing compared to her anchor leg on the 4x200-meter relay. Facing a deficit of about two seconds, she spent 150 meters working up to the race leader from Mervo and blew by her in the final 50 meters. Northwest won by almost a full second in 1:45.19.

"I was honestly just thinking that I could do it - that I could get her," said Wright, "and I wanted to do it for the team."

As a team, Northwest finished second behind Urbana with 40 points. Wright scored 25 points alone (first in 55m dash, first in high jump, fourth in 300m) and 10 more points with the 4x2 relay. Her career indoor and outdoor state title total increased to ten.

Wright is looking forward to New Balance Indoor Nationals where she can focus on one event: the high jump. She said that she was very pleased with her performances at the state meet, but she added, "Coming in with fresh legs, I hope I will get six feet."

Congrats to All the MoCo 2019 Indoor State Champs

2019 Montgomery County Indoor State Champ
Class	Event		Name			School			Performance
4A G	55m Dash	Taylor Wright		Northwest 		7.15
4A G	300m Dash	Caia Gelli		Richard Montgomery 	40.94
4A G	55m Hurdles	Kaya Rae Dunbar		Paint Branch 		8.14 
4A G	4x200					Northwest 		1:45.19
4A G	High Jump	Taylor Wright		Northwest 		5-06.00
4A G	Shot Put	Janise Bestman		Paint Branch 		37-08.50
4A B	55m Dash	Anthony Woods		Northwest 		6.48
4A B	300m Dash	Chukwumdi Osuji		Paint Branch 		35.46
4A B	3200m		Eldad Mulugeta		Northwood 		9:17.94
4A B	4x200 					Paint Branch 		1:30.84
4A B	4x800					Northwood 		8:05.37
3A G	4x200					James H. Blake 		1:42.29
3A G	4x400					James H. Blake 		3:57.69 
2A G	800m		Melissa Kameka		Damascus               	2:19.11
2A G	1600m		Nandini Satsangi	Poolesville            	5:15.58
2A G	3200m		Nandini Satsangi	Poolesville           	11:27.51


Coach Dave
2019-02-20 19:49:35

Nice write up. Thanks Kevin. Gburg is coming back!

2019-02-20 22:13:54

Not knowing the competition in the 4xMile(Loudoun Valley maybe), I think Northwood has a shot to take the national title. So deep in the mile. 415 421 430 433 best 1600/mile this year. 6 under 440 with another 2 at 440/441. Crazy

2019-02-21 11:15:26

They are running well as a team for sure, but you aren't going to be anywhere near a national title with 2 guys running 4:30 low...even with a 4:15 and 4:21. Podium is very doable. Good luck to them!

2019-02-21 14:54:09

What usually wins the 4xmile at NBIN? Averaging mid-4:20's has to be in the hunt.

2019-02-21 15:57:08

If Loudoun Valley goes for it, there gonna take it with a 4:09 top guy, and two others under 4:20. the thing is about these New Balance meets is that they put in so many relays and so many distance events(i.e. 5000m) that the races are relatively watered down. Not many southern teams have chances to qualify too. so averaging 4:20s will definitely put Northwood in a good position even if there many be better teams on paper.

2019-02-21 16:09:02

Its much worse in outdoor tho. They got 4x1, 4x2, 4x4, 4x8, 4xMile, DMR, SMR 800m, SMR 1600m, Swedish Relay, Shuttle Hurdle Relay. Overkill. Not a true national championship. So many teams that could possibly put together better teams don't because its just too many events. And they like to put the 800m and the mile near each other so one doubles and tries to win two national titles(at least in distance events). And then there Brooks PR too. Its a shame we don't have a true national title in track or XC. But then I guess more people get to qualify for national championships, which you could argue both ways is a good or bad thing.

Last 8 winners
2019-02-21 17:21:48

17:01.82N, 17:25.5, 17:16.4, 17:11.0, 17:07.17, 17:40.4, 17:20.20, 17:37.0. 17:00 would be 4:15 per mile. 17:40 would be 4:25 per mile. 18:00 would be 4:30 per mile. 17:40 should get you all-american. Sub-18 would be very good but still 40 seconds off the average winning time from the last 8 years.

2019-02-22 11:31:37

Ok but what the heck happened to seydi sall

2019-03-01 20:34:42

he's at Bullis

not gone
2019-03-02 17:47:25

he's not.... catch him at nats

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