Montgomery County has many great things, but most importantly, it has great track athletes. And this past weekend, the females of MoCo really proved themselves yet again and I left the meet saying to myself, "Montgomery County is on point!" Durr breaks a record and I said, "That's MoCo right there!" Ekpone walks down Tasha Stanley and I said, "That's MoCo right there!" Clarksburg takes gold in the 4x1 and I said, "That's MoCo right there!" No matter what class or event, the MoCo ladies were right there.
MoCo started the meet in great fashion with Olivia Durr of Poolesville setting a new 1A 100m hurdle record in 14.74. She won by one hundredth of a second, edging out Fallon Rovel-Jones of New Town in a very close race to the finish line. Durr, a junior, has certainly improved since her freshman year and has replaced Audrey Gariepy as MoCo's top hurdler. She has another year left to break her own record and with the way she's progressed over the years, Durr is definitely on the right track. Thea Lafond of Kennedy, who barely made it to the finals with the last qualifying spot, ran 15.65, which was good for 6th place and a major improvement from prelims. The 4A 100m hurdle race was a bit complicated. There was a rerun after the Boys 100m finals because Linganore's Chowan Brightful impeded on another athlete's race. While Amirah Polite of Churchill placed 5th both times, she improved on the second race, from 15.44 to 15.14. Polite looks like she'll be Durr's biggest competitor for the next season.
Olivia "Ekpwn" (as she is affectionately called on the MocoRunning forum) left a lasting impression on Saturday. Individually, she accounted for 30 of Wootton's 60 points, helping them to a 2nd place finish overall for 4A. In her first race of the day, she owned the 100m race, running 11.77, which was the fastest final time overall. By the first 10 meters, it was clear that Ekpone had the race in the bag as she distanced herself from the rest of the field. Katie Wolf of Churchill also ran an excellent time of 12.10, grabbing a 3rd place finish. Since when has MoCo owned sprints? Must be a new era. In 1A, sophomore Karissa Harris of Poolesville who ran in lane 8, placed 5th with 12.77. Le'Quisha "No Blocks" Parker of Northwood was edged out by Alese Forbes of Northwestern (BC) by just one-hundredth of a second for 1st, running 12.28.
Following the trend, MoCo girls had several finalists and great times in the 1600m race-nothing out the ordinary. 1A had no finalists but Jenny Reid of Poolesville came in 8th with a decent time of 5:29.66. In the 2A race, Amy Ferro of Rockville stayed with the second pack of girls but had a strong finish, flying by some girls in the end and ran 5:25.38 for 6th place. BCC's Addie Tousley and Paige Donnelly, together for a good portion of the race, stayed close to Jenna Simino of Hereford, who won the race in 5:11.24. Tousley had a great finish and came in 2nd with 5:17.55. Tousley said, "Going into the 1600 I was still pretty tired from the day before and I wasn't that sure of how the whole race would play out because a fair amount of the girls I was racing had run the 3200 with me the day before." It wasn't until she saw Donnelly get in front of her that she realized she needed to make a move, "Coming into the last turn I just tried to close as much as I could and since my legs felt pretty good I ended up having a pretty nice kick." Although she PRed, Tousley was most proud of Donnelly's performance because she had a 4 second PR. How sweet. BCC will continue to be dominant in the distance events as they return many girls from this year.
Leslie Morrison, who is known for her dominance in the 800m, won the 1600m in 5:04.59. When asked why she decided to run the 1600m this year, Morrison said, "because I want to try to run the 1500 in college so I figured I should try the 1600 out first. Plus, I'd never gotten the chance to really race the mile during my four years of track so I definitely wanted to race it my senior year." She'll be attending Duke next year where she'll focus on middle distance. Although she didn't break the 5 minute barrier like she wanted, she was still happy with her time and believes that the Whitman underclassmen can carry on Whitman's legacy.
Erin McManus of Churchill ran 5:09.52 for 2nd place. Not only did she PR, but she was .5 seconds off her school's record. Her strategy "was to go out there and leave everything on the track." Clearly it worked for her. McManus, who was nothing but smiles after her race, feels that Churchill really stepped up this year since the loss of Louise Hannallah [due to an injury]. "Not having Louise for the majority of the season was definitely hard on all of us--she is such a positive influence and we all look up to her. But one person doesn't make a team and we dealt with it." McManus and Hannallah will be attending Vanderbilt next year; McManus will most likely be a 1200/1500 runner. Other notable performances were Kathy Aherne of Northwest who ran 5:13.70 and Alex Giedd of Churchill who ran 5:14.22. Johanna Gretschel couldn't keep up with the pace and faded away, but she ran a gutsy race and plans to run Cross-Country and distance at Tulane University next year.
Parker had a strong start in her 400m race, catching girls on the first curve. Coming into the final straightaway, she battled with Baltimore Poly, winning her heat in 59.08 and placing 5th overall. For a girl who can run 24's, she should certainly be running a faster 400m and hopefully by this time next year, she'll be winning the 2A title. Arielle Statham of Paint Branch had an amazing performance, running a season best 56.66 for 3rd place in 3A. Statham was in a good position coming off the turn and used her strength to pull her to a great finish. In the first heat of 4A, Alissa Jewell of Gaithersburg made a strong come back to win her heat in 58.08. The 2nd heat was what I was waiting for-Ekpone versus Tasha Stanley of Roosevelt. Ekpone had a strong start as usual, breaking the stagger on the first curve. However, coming off the final turn, Stanley was in first and I thought, "Damn. Olivia is going to have to work to win this one." And like a true champion, she did. She went stride for stride with Stanley, but Ekpone surged past her and took gold in 54.18 over Stanley's 54.77. This was probably the first time she's been challenged in the 400m and Ekpone delivered wonderfully. All the MoCo girls went under a minute; Nenna Akpaete of Springbrook ran 59.46 and freshman Sarah Mcmillan of Blair ran 59.32.
Durr continued to dominate the 1A hurdles as she took the victory in the 300m hurdle race. She stuttered a bit going into the first hurdle but made ground and was in second coming off the final turn. Durr battled down the final straightaway, winning in 44.78, which was one of the best times across the classes. Korine Duval of Paint Branch came second in her heat for 3A with a solid time of 47.82. Christine Walsh of Walter Johnson won her heat in a very close race against a runner from CM Wright, edging her out in 48.37. Wolf underperformed, running only 47.97. Reflecting on her race, she said, "I was really disappointed with my 300 hurdle race. I got out really slow and gained no momentum." Relying on her speed rather than form to carry her through her race, it was clear that she had a lot more on which to work. Luckily, she already has the strength to do well in this event and with some fine tuning, Wolf will be a contender for the state title next year. This summer she'll be running with the Maryland Titans alongside Ekpone; they're in the same age group so look out for their 4x400m to do some damage.
In her final race of the day, Parker of Northwood captured the 2A 200m title in 24.59. I wonder if everyone will follow her lead and stop using blocks??? In 3A, Statham was in the back of the pack coming out of the final turn, but a solid finish put her in 5th with 25.06, which is another season best for her. Like Parker, Ekpone finished her first outdoor State track meet on a high note, winning her third individual title in 24.15. There was no doubt about who was going to win that race as she left the competition and flew down the straightaway in perfect form. Wolf came in 7th with 25.12, which certainly isn't her best, but a still a solid time nonetheless.
3A had no state finalists in the 800m, but Tousley came close, running 2:25.77 for 7th place. In the 4A 800m, Stanley of Roosevelt was in lane 1 and Morgane Gay of Whitman was in lane 2. Stanley got out in front but Gay and Morrison were in the middle of the pack and I wondered when they were going to make a move. Gay took control of the race going into the final turn and made terrific ground, but Stanley refused to lose again. She unleashed a monster kick and on the final straightaway, they went stride for stride, with Stanley edging her out, 2:11.31 to 2:11.58. Gay will be attending the University of Virginia next year to run track. Morrison placed 4th with 2:15.36.
MoCo fared well in the last sprint relays. The Clarksburg 4x100m team came in with the fastest 2A seed time and left with the gold. They had good blind handoffs, which are critical in this relay, and as a result placed 1st with 49.74. Wootton ran in the fast heat of 4A from lane 8 and even without Ekpone, who already ran 4 events, they still ran 49.60, which placed them in 4th. Running out of lane 5, Gaithersburg placed 3rd with 49.00.
Paint Branch was the only MoCo team to break the 4 minute barrier in the 4x400m relay, coming in 3rd place with 3:56.89. 4A had three MoCo teams in the top 6: Whitman placed 3rd with 4:01.17; Churchill placed 5th with 4:03.95; and Blair placed 6th with 4:04.68.
Arleigh Rose of Sherwood preformed the best she could going against a nationally-ranked Emily Vannoy of Thomas Johnson. She said, "For my last performance of high school track and field, I think it ended well. I performed my best in the shot put and I did ok in the discus. Sometimes it all clicks and sometimes you just don't feel right that day." After placing 2nd in the discus on Friday to Vannoy, Rose placed 2nd again in the shotput with a throw of 38-09.75 feet. She'll be at Colorado State University next year and will throw the discus, shotput and hammer. Corri Talley of Blake threw 35-08.50 feet to place 4th in 4A. In 2A, Turquoia Johnson of Clarksburg threw 37-01.00 feet to place 3rd. Holly Defnet of Poolesville placed 6th in 1A with a throw of 33-00.50 feet. Monica Gerald of Blake tied for 2nd place in the high jump with 5-04.00 feet. In 3A, Ashley Dabney of Wheaton and Vanessa Jules placed 2nd and 3rd respectively although the Top 4 in 3A all jumped 5-02.00. Liz Calhoun of Wootton came in 3rd for the pole vault with a jump of 9-06.00 feet.
In the high jump, Monica Gerald of Blake finished second in 4A tieing her season best with a jump of 5-04. In 3A, four girls finished at 5-02 with Shaunte Boney of Largo taking the title, Ashley Dabney of Wheaton taking second place, and Vanessa Jules of Paint Branch taking third.
Suzanne Falk of Wootton, who is a solid jumper, placed 5th in the long jump with 16-10.00 and wasn't too happy about it. "I was pretty disappointed with my long jump performance. I could have easily hit 17 but every time I had a good jump I didn't even hit the board, so it was really frustrating." But looking back on how Wootton has preformed this season, Falk couldn't be any more prouder of her team and believes that even though Ekpone was a major reason to their improvement, "we had an entire core group of ladies that were all vital to the success of our team." She'll be attending the University of Wisconsin-Madison and will most likely be focusing on the jumps.
Many questions were answered this past weekend. "Is it true that you don't have to be a recruit to win the 100, 200, and 400m in 4A?" True. "Is it true that you don't need blocks to win a state title?" True. "Is it true that the MoCo girls can dominate in distance, sprint, and field events?" True. "Is it true that most of those MoCo girls are here to stay? Very, very true.