The 2008 Montgomery County Indoor Track Championship Meet was held at a new location. This new location gave the meet a very different look. Instead of athletes and parents in grandstands watching every event attentively, most athletes were sprawled out across the infield staring at the ceiling. Cheering and whooping was noticeably lacking. The most screaming some fans did was when a shot put was launched into their team's space by Sean Stanley. Few spectators had a good view of the finish line. The logistics of holding a large meet in a moderately-sized fieldhouse were not as bad as most people expected, but it seemed like much of the meet went unnoticed. In short, it was not the most electrified meet I've been to.
While the view might not have been spectacular and the sounds might not have been deafening, this year's competition gave rise to a very different feel. This meet had an edge to it unlike any other indoor meet in recent years. Several teams were aiming for both the boys' and girls' team titles, and none were totally confident in their chances. Multiple athletes had legitimate shots at meet records and showed awesome determination in pursuing them. Some athletes longed to defeat an opponent who had always gotten the best of them. I got a sense like never before that everyone was out to prove something and they were willing to sacrafice whatever it took to achieve their goals.
It is rare to have a track meet on this level at this time of year where so many teams have a stake in the team competition. Coaches and athletes were seen counting up points throughout the entire meet.
Conversations were overheard all over the fieldhouse:
"We've still got the 800 and the triple jump."
"We can make up points here but it won't be enough."
"So-and-so wasn't going to run the 4x4, but we need him."
"We really needed those points from so-and-so."
"We need team A to beat team B for us to win."
These are the type of conversations between top teams at outdoor championship meets...usually not the buzz at an indoor meet, and usually not from more than two teams with a chance to win.
Besides teams obviously wanting to dismantle predictions that they read on mocorunning.com, here is why this year's indoor meet had so much edge to it.
11. Avery Graham - How can you not love a kid who runs 6.5 in the 55-meter dash and throws over 50 feet in the shot put?
10. Arielle Statham - Olivia Ekpone might have stolen the spotlight, but Statham is next in line if Ekpone ever slips. Expect her to surprise some people in 3A this season, and expect more heated matchups between Statham and Ekpone this outdoor season.
9. Sean Stanley - There was never any question who would win the shot put. It was also very likely that he break the county record as a junior. Just because it's predictable doesn't mean it's not fun to watch. And as I said in my opening paragraph, he kept spectators on their toes as he launched the shot right at them with only a tiny barrier in the way.
8. Quince Orchard Distance - Watching Neal Darmody steamroll through his competition in the 1600 and 3200 was impressive, but what's more impressive is how the entire team is performing on the track. In the last few years, QO's transformation from a cross country team to a track team took months. This year it seemingly came naturally. Every single one of their distance boys are clicking on all cylinders in the 500 through the 3200.
7. Northwood and Clarksburg - Clarksburg boys finished 5th and Northwood boys finished 7th. So why is that a big deal? Clarksburg High School has been open for 2 years and Northwood has been open for 4 years. Watching these teams come from nothing to beating up on over half the teams in the county has been enjoyable. I'm guessing there aren't many teams at their schools who are as successful as them. Enjoy it now, boys. You aren't underdogs after this year.
6. Chris Moen - Chris Moen is still the face of Montgomery County. Ask anyone in the county or out of the county. Everyone is a Moen fan and wants to see him do well. Some major bumps in the road have only made things more exciting for when he gets back on track, which seems to be happening now.
5. Blair vs. Richard Montgomery - This was a hell of a battle between two very strong 4x200 relay teams. It could have been good in the 4x4 had they run against each other. Don't expect this one to cool off the rest of this season. Expect it to heat up at states and during outdoor track.
4. Leslie Morrison - I could be to blame for this, but how many people realized that Leslie Morrison just won the 500, 800, and 4x800 for the third year in a row? It almost goes unnoticed becuase she didn't break her own records this year, but doing that three years in a row as the competition seemingly got tougher is legendary.
3. Wil Zahorodny - I'm going to deem Wil Zahorodny as the most fun runner to watch in the county. When fresh, he can win just about any event on the track, and that is especially apparent in the relays. Watching him make up impossible gaps in the 4x8 is about the most exciting thing you are going to see. Watching him come back and set the meet record in the 500 was just spectacular. No one at that time knew that it was the best time in the country this year. He might not be the best runner in the country, but he has risen so far above the county competition that it is just fun for everyone (almost everyone) to watch.
2. Richard Montgomery - How can you three-peat with only three good athletes? That was my thinking when I predicted RM to go down this year. I underestimated their desire to win by spreading themselves thin. I also underestimated their unsung heroes and ability to grab key points. The fact that RM won, or even the fact that they won three titles in a row, is not what made this meet exciting. It was the fact that they kept the team score so close that all of the top teams adapted their plans throughout the meet, manipulating their relays in an attempt to come out on top. True Montgomery County track fans were doing the mental math right along with the coaches.
1. Olivia Ekpone - Everyone was excited to see this star freshman sprinter, and she delivered. She won both open events she ran, coming within milliseconds of breaking the long-time meet records in the 55 and 300. She turned the 4x2 and 4x4 relays into perhaps the most exciting girls' races of the day with her come-from-behind finishes. What she did in the relays was representative of what she did for Wootton in the team scoring. The entire Wootton team, male and female, rallied around their star runner and were noticeably more involved. As a hero to her peers, she has transformed the entire program at her school and is well on her way to transforming the face of Montgomery County.
Richard Montgomery pulls off the three-peat, proving mocorunning and all the other doubters wrong
It came down to the wire, but Wootton pulled it off 84-82 over Churchill
MoCo Athletes Assault Record Books
Boys Break Records in 8 of 14 Events - Girls Take Down One Record
Whitman 4x8 9:37.25
Neal Darmody 9:35.11 3200
Sean Stanley 55-00.75 SP
Chris Moen 1:58.49 800
Keenan Woods 44-05 TJ
Wil Zahorodny 1:05.09 500
QO 8:10.46 4x800
Gary Frazier 6.50 55
21-09.00 Long Jump
Intense 4x200's Get Fans on Their Feet
R. Montgomery 1:32.83
Paint Branch 1:48.66