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State Championship Boys Recap
By: Kevin Milsted
Photos by: Brandt Silver-Korn, John Roemer, and Kevin Milsted

Louis Varella could have thrown a fit. He could have cursed and sworn. He could have kicked over the FAT cameras. Instead, he stood tall and did not let his emotions get the best of him.

Had a Blair athlete been disqualified in the 400-meter dash any other year, nobody would have given it a second thought. Blair spent so long working on their reputation as a team of careless, renegade athletes that people stopped paying attention to them long ago. But the team that Blair sent to the 2008 state championship is unlike any team they have ever had. They are dedicated, motivated, and flat-out fast. Track fans have had no other option but to take notice. Their determination and discipline brought them within reach of their first team state title since 1979, but an uncharacteristic lane violation stopped them just short of their dreams.

Up until that point, Blair had executed perfectly. They won the state title in the 4x200 relay in 1:27.61. Mohamed Mansaray placed fourth in the 100-meter dash and the 200-meter dash. Jonathan Haughton became the first Montgomery County athlete to win the 4A 200-meter dash in over ten years. He outran his opponents to win in a time of 21.91.

After the victory, Haughton said, "Can't wait for that 4x4."

Varella placed second in the open 400 in a time of 48.6, but was later told that he was disqualified for going too far into another lane. He was unaware of this and disagreed with the call, but knew that all he could do was come back and anchor his 4x4 to victory.

They finished third in the 4x1 in 43.39. An hour later, in the very last race of the meet, they led Eleanor Roosevelt around the track for four laps. Varella closed in 49 seconds and they held on for the victory in 3:20.42. Roosevelt was second in 3:21.80.

The Eleanor Roosevelt boys team won the meet with 46 points. Blair and Quince Orchard tied for second place with 44 points.

Legends Finish On Top

Chris Moen and Wil Zahorodny have been the two most iconic athletes in the history of Montgomery County track. Newspapers may not devote the resources to covering track and field, but in an age where dozens of websites are devoted to track and field on every level, coverage of track and field is more prominent than ever before. No athletes have stolen the headlines on over its three year history quite like Moen and Zahorodny.

Fans have been mesmerized by Zahorodny's rise from being the kid at Damascus who doesn't know how to pace himself to being the kid who just can't lose from 100 meters to 5000 meters. He did everything that he was expected to do at this year's state championship. He helped his team win the 4x800 relay in 7:58.04. He won the 800 in 1:52.83. He came back and helped his team score in the 4x100 and 4x400 relays. His only regret is that nobody tried to push him in the 800 race, and therefore he did not run his fastest time. Although high school season is over, there may be more racing to come in the next month for Zahorodny as he attempts to lower his personal best 800 time.

No question has been asked more often over the past two years than the ever-so-cautious: "What's wrong with Moen?"

It is a question that will be lost in the sands of time as people forget the details of his high school career and focus on the numbers he has left behind. Numbers like 4:13.05 - his 1600-meter county record. Numbers like nine - the number of county titles that he owns. On Saturday, he increased his total number of state titles to four when he won the 1600 in a modest 4:20.13.

Early next week, Moen will turn in his WJ singlet for the final time. The Walter Johnson track will be torn apart and reconstructed over the summer and the sun will set on the high school career of Chris Moen.

MoCo Champs Have Bumpy State Meet

The first graduating class at Clarksburg High School has only spent two years in the hallways of their new school, but few athletes have more school pride than those from Clarksburg. Covered in sky blue and occupying a section of the stadium larger than any other 2A school, Clarksburg gives off the appearance of a perennial track power house.

The track program at Cburg High may not be very long-lived, but they know how to compete with any other team in the state and brought a team that was hopeful of winning the 2A state track title.

Contrasting their flawless day at the Montgomery County Championship two weeks earlier, things began to go wrong on the very first day of the state championship. A struggling 4x800 relay ran 23 seconds slower than they ran at regionals.

After seemingly qualifying for the finals in the 110 hurdles with one of the fastest times, Morgan Mott found that he was disqualified for clipping a hurdle in another lane. It was a lost opportunity and points out the window for the team.

Avery Graham was doing great on day one. He won the state title in the shot put in 48-09 and ran the fastest preliminary 200-meter time at 21.96. But in an attempt to run one last race and scrape up more points for his team in the chilly night air, he pulled a muscle and ended the night on the ground. A return to action two days later would be questionable.

Graham was able to return and started off the meet by winning the 100-meter dash state title with a time of 11.01. Unfortunately he pulled his hamstring again coming around the curve in the 200-meter dash, and ended his season on the ground in pain. But what a season it was. In his junior year he won two shot put state titles as well as a state title in the 55-meter dash and the 100-meter dash.

Petros Bein continued the trend of unfortunate mishaps when he clobbered a hurdle during the 110 hurdle finals. The state champ hopeful settled for sixth place.

Mark Small did his best to make up for the points lost from Graham in the 200. Small finished in fifth place in the 100, 200, and 400 to end a strong junior year. Small has had injuries in the past that have prevented him from finishing a season with his high school team, but he has been a welcome teammate and training partner for Graham this season.

Marcus Kinney put it all together for a perfect throw of 137-08 in the discus which was good enough to win the state title.

Four by Amazing

It has been a dream year for Quince Orchard.

Cross country state champions - okay, they expected that.

Indoor track state champions - that was a delightful surprise.

Come time for the outdoor track state championship, they wanted to win and the pieces were in place to get it done.

Marcus Brown had five throws over 50 feet, the longest being a monster 55-09.50. This was good for second place behind Gaithersburg's Stanley. Brown went on to place fourth in the discus.

Wayne Bartholomew, Ryan Priovolos, David Laratta and Josh Joson ran the most remarkable 4x800 race this state has ever seen, and they have the state record to back up that statement. Bartholomew pushed the pace from the start, opening up a large gap and coming through in 1:57. Eleanor Roosevelt closed the gap on QO's Ryan Priovolos who split 1:58. The third Eleanor Roosevelt runner made several attempts to take the lead, but QO's Laratta held on tightly to the inside lane. Laratta relinquished the lead in the last 200 meters, but split 1:55 which prevented ER from blowing their doors off on that third leg. Joson got the baton with some room to make up. He retook the lead in the first 200 meters, but the ER runner coasted behind over the next 400 meters. The two were side by side with 200 meters to go. Joson dug deep and opened up a small gap and hung on for dear life. He outkicked the Roosevelt runner and finished with a split of 1:55 and an overall time of 7:44.67. Both QO and Roosevelt broke the previous state record.

QO's top long distance runner, Neal Darmody had a productive meet for the team, placing second in the 3200 in 9:28.67 and third in the 1600 in 4:21.51. Joson placed fourth in the 1600 in a personal best time of 4:24.78.

QO had its fair share of remarkable performances and scored a few single points here and there. They came up short of winning the state title by two points. QO tied Blair for second place behind Eleanor Roosevelt.

60 Foot

Gaithersburg Coach Fred Joyce still remembers watching Tom Brosius compete. The 1968 Springbrook alumnus was big and in a league of his own. He went on to be an All-American thrower in college. After 40 years, his state meet record of 64-06.50 in the shot put is the longest standing record of the meet, but Joyce's latest shot put star, Sean Stanley, is staring down that record after his personal best throw of 60-00.25 at this year's state championship meet. Only a junior, Stanley still has another year to compete in high school. He has aspirations of playing NCAA football, and college coaches are already expressing interest in him. He will have to see where football takes him next fall, but there is no question that he is equally passionate about football and track and field.

Stanley is just one of about a half dozen sophomores and juniors who were the main contributors to this year's Gaithersburg team. Antonio Palmer capped off his remarkable junior year with a 4A state title in the 800 with a time of 1:54.76. He pushed the pace from the beginning and opened a large gap. Daniel Edmund of Eleanor Roosevelt began to close that gap with 200 meters to go, but Palmer was too far ahead. It was a joyous moment for Palmer who has come so close to winning various titles many times before but has always fallen short.

With a season best jump of 6-02 in the high jump, Owen Cain finished this season ranked in the top five in Montgomery County in the high jump, triple jump, and 110 hurdles. He will be one of the best weapons in Montgomery County next year, making the 2009 Gaithersburg team look mighty good from a year out.

35 Year Old Record Toppled By Newcomer

Five months ago, Solomon Haile came to America from Ethiopia. He was a good 5k and 10k runner, but was not too familiar with the shorter track races that high school athletes run in the US. He caught national attention when he ran his first 3200 in 9:17, and later when he won the 5k race at Nike Indoor Nationals in 14:53.

Things quieted down for Haile during the spring season. He did not appear in any major invitationals until he ran the 3000-meter run at the Penn Relays where he finished second in 8:34.5. He didn't go under 9:17 until his run at the State Championship.

It was a familiar scene as Neal Darmody from Quince Orchard tried to hang on for as long a possible. But Haile picked up the pace in the second half and broke away from Darmody. Just three months after his first 3200-meter race, Haile proceeded to topple the 3200 state record of 9:07 which has stood since 1973. He ran 9:06.13 and made it look effortless.


Sharon Foretia
2008-05-26 00:10:48

This is like....the best article ever.

2008-05-26 00:30:18

I also like this article, but I would like to point something out. There were probably about four teams thinking how "Oh, if we did this, or if this didn't happen, then we would have been state champs." The article mentions how Blair may have won, with Varella's DQ. The same could be said for Wise, whose star hurdler, Cooper, had a false start DQ in the 110 high hurdles and who took a nasty fall in the 300 hurdles. He may have added 18 points with those two races, which would have tied for first. QO is interesting, though. Although they never messed up with a DQ, etc., it seems like there were some guys who could have scored a place or two higher, and then they would be state champs. Gaithersburg had a triple jumper that may have scored third easily, had he not forgotten to jump while his 110 hurdle race was at the same time. Overall, the closeness of this state meet illustrates how important it is to get points in every event in which you have a guy competing. QO, Roosevelt, Blair, High Point, Wise, and Gaithersburg each could have won this meet. Really. If you think about it, these six teams are equal. It is so close. Blair, as emphasized in the article, was not the only school thinking about how they could have won.

2008-05-26 00:41:13

You are completely right. Track is just like all sports - woulda, coulda, shoulda doesn't count for anything. I could have approached this article from ten different angles. I am so impressed by how far Blair has come in the last two years that I put them at the top, but I just as easily could have started with Solomon and gone in the reverse order.

2008-05-26 10:13:44

Chris Moen is seriously my hero. I wish him the best of luck at App State.

2008-05-26 13:40:24

I also forgot to mention how High Point may have also won with a second place in the 4x400 relay. Roosevelt just beat them at the finish by 0.04 seconds. But Kevin is right. It doesn't matter what could have or may have happened, because it didn't happen. Roosevelt won, and that's it. Roosevelt was the team that did the best they could when it mattered most. They deserve the state championship.

2008-05-26 16:36:48

Awesome recap!

2008-05-26 19:51:18

Wonderful article, very very well written the spacing out of each reigon 2A, 3A, 4A etc...I felt was a nice touch..Blair has a bright future with their momentum coming off this year, great job to all especially Moen a rough start this year but ended it on a VERY HIGH note. Congrats to Palmer as well finally getting that one win he needed, and a great time to do it as well.

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