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Hoco/Moco Meet Notes
By: Kevin Milsted

The Hoco/Moco Challenge is a combined meet with all schools from Howard and Montgomery Counties. It was the first meet of the year for Montgomery County athletes and many athletes looked very strong, but there was a huge number of new faces and rookie performances as well. Some teams chose not to run their star athletes or at least went easy on them so that they can last the entire season and into outdoor season. On the boys side, B-CC was strong in the distance events while Blair, Clarksburg and Paint Branch look as good as advertised in the sprints. The Whitman girls put on a good show in the middle distance events and Wootton showed flashes of why they will be a good team this year.

The day started off on the track with the girls 4x1600. Alex Doll, the freshman from B-CC, made her debut in a big way by leading off the 4x1600 in 5:25. Chasing after her was Kathy Aherne of Northwest and Johanna Gretschel of Blair. Whitman took the lead in the second leg with Leslie Morrison coming through in 11:14 overall, with a 5:29 split. Debbie Isen maintained the lead over the third leg, although Britt Eckerstrom of Northwest closed the gap with a run in about 5:30. Morgane Gay anchored for Whitman and broke the race wide open. She came through with a split of 5:11 and an overall time just under 22:00.

In the boys 4x1600-meter relay, Howard's Joey Thompson opened up with a blazing fast 4:33 mile. In a pack ten seconds back was B-CC's Alex Prevost, Sherwood's Kyle Balderson, and a River Hill athlete handing off in 4:43. Howard held a big lead for the 2nd leg with Walter Beller-Morales of B-CC leading the next pack. Beller-Morales caught the Howard runner before handing off. Kyle Short blew open the race in the third leg and Dylan Straughan brought it home in 4:52 for an overall time of 19:19. B-CC later had a very strong showing in the DMR, but River Hill beat them out with a very strong anchor leg from Craig Morgan.

The Clarksburg boys were the strongest in the shot put highlighted by Avery Graham's toss of 46-11. Graham would be all over the place for the rest of the day.

Clarksburg also won the 55 shuttle hurdle relay. Tyler Jackson of RM looked very strong in his leg.

Vanessa Jules of Paint Branch and Ashley Dabney of Wheaton were the final two girls standing in the high jump relay. Dabney outlasted her opponent by clearing 5-0 and nearly clearing 5-2.

A new star athlete was discovered in the boys high jump. Ryan Mulsteff is a scholarship volleyball player who joined the Damascus track team and began high jumping just two weeks ago. He sat out a few rounds while other jumpers were eliminated. He rejoined the competition to clear 6 feet and then 6 feet 2 inches. He stopped there without attempting anything more.

Ian Francis of Walter Johnson was the top triple jumper of the day with a jump just under 43 feet. It was a few feet off of his personal best.

Later on in the 1600 sprint medley, the girls of Poolesville kept the race close before Karissa Harris took the lead in the 400. Jenny Reid proved to be the strongest runner in the field on the 800 leg. In a later heat, Paint Branch put a big lead over the field in the first three legs. Blair's final leg Johanna Gretschel worked her way up and made it an exciting final 400 for the win.

The first heat of the boys 1600 Sprint Medley, Wil Zahorodny showcased his speed in the first leg, and Damascus held on for one more leg while Clarksburg worked their way up. Clarksburg's third leg, Avery Graham, took the lead with some serious speed. Clarksburg faded with the lack of an 800 runner.

The 400 leg of the next heat of the SMR was loaded with John Jones of Paint Branch, Louis Varella of Blair and Derrick Powell of Northwood. Jones pulled ahead proving to be the strongest of the three on this day. Blair took over the lead over the next two legs and Nilan Schnure appeared home free in the final 800, but Giovanni Reumante of Northwood closed a big gap and outkicked him for the win.

In the girls 4x800-meter relay, Morgane Gay of Whitman blasted off the starting line to put a large gap on everyone before the second turn. She finished her leg with a split of 2:16 with the next runner coming through in 2:29. Gabe McKenzie and Itziar Belausteguigoitia ran strong legs to keep the race under their control. Leslie Morrison cruised at the anchor leg for a 2:30 split and the win in 10:05.

Russell Speiden ran the fastest first leg of the 4x800-meter relay, but Ben Constantinides held close. The Damascus twins teamed up for about 4:20 on the first two legs. Damascus's third leg was able to hold off Clarksburg before handing off to Wil Zahorodny. After that, no one stood a chance. He went all out, picking off lapped runners like it was nothing. He finished in 8:40 with a 2:02 split. 2nd place was 8:56.

Olivia Ekpone had an impressive high school debut, at least for those who knew to look for her in the relays. She split 58 seconds in the 400 in the sprint medley relay. Later in the 4x200, Wootton looked strong as a team but lost the lead right at the end of the 3rd leg. Ekpone got the baton and absolutely smoked her competition, splitting around 25.7.

Paint Branch ran great in the first heat of the 4x2, but later on, Blair dominated their heat in about 1:33. Blair came back and dominated the 4x4 in about 3:36.


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