Boys Indoor Track Preview
Finally after a long one year hiatus, we return to the wonders of indoor track. What’s better than arriving at the PG Sportsplex Saturday mornings to spend the day watching a good old track meet? While some view indoor as a down time between cross country and outdoor…not I. The crowds, the races, oh and how could I forget: the world’s greatest concession stand - What’s not to love?
The trend in county sprinting in the past year has been Richard Montgomery domination. The Rockets look to continue this dominance with their tremendous returning squad led by Patrick Pinchinat. Patrick, the defending county 100m champion sets the bar high for the county’s top sprinters. Paint Branch’s Quadell Sprately, Damascus’sJamal Currica, Springbrook’s Nick Oates, and Sherwood’s Jamal Olatunde are all seasoned veterans who have proven themselves in county competition. Each of whom will be in the competition to score big points for their team as well as the individual title in both the 55m and 300m dashes.
Ask a spectator at any indoor track meet what their favorite event to watch is, and there’s a good chance they’ll shoot a sprint relay back at you. When discussing sprint relays, one invariably returns to Richard Montgomery. They are the cream of the crop in Montgomery County. The Rockets were the fastest in the 4x200 and 4x400 indoors as well as the 4x100, 4x200, and 4x400 outdoors capping their year with the 4a state championship in the 4x200. They must deal with the key losses of Keenan Crutchfield and Bret Ligon, but the strong depth of Pinchinat, Brian Sickles, Brandon Etzel, Gary Frazier, and Tyler Jackson makes these losses manageable. The trouble with being the favorites is everyone is gunning for RM. In Montgomery County it will be tough to come out unscathed. Paint Branch, Kennedy, and Gaithersburg will all have their chance to dethrone the Rockets, as will all.
Montgomery County hurdles took a strong hit due to graduation in 2006. For this reason it becomes one of the most exciting and unpredictable events within the county. The void created by the absence of Stefan Grundmann, Vincent Bosha, and Alex Gray will have to be filled. RM’s Tyler Jackson and Poolesville’s Jackson Jordan may be just the athletes to do it. It will not be a push over for these two as they will almost certainly face stiff competition from new faces in a relatively wide open event.
The mid distance events of 500 and 800 meters will be as hotly contested as any this winter. The meeting ground for county sprinters and distance runners, makes for exciting races particularly in the 800 which is generally contested by tired athletes at the end of meets. These conditions make surprises the norm and rarely will things turn out as expected. Brian Sickles looks to be a force in both events. Coming off another strong cross country season proving himself as the most versatile county athlete, the defending 400m county champ (with a blazing 49.4 to his resume) may find the 500m matches his combination of speed and endurance perfectly. Pushed along by Paint Branch’s Quadell Sprately and teammate Patrick Pinchinat, the three may end up giving the county record of 1:05.79 a run for its money. The 800-meter enters the realm of the county’s fastest returning distance athlete, Chris Moen, and the county distance runners. While some run the 800m simply in hopes of stealing a few points at the end of a meet, other individuals focus on the 800 as the event to make their mark on county competition. In particular, Churchill’s Evan Whetsell and Gaithersburg’s Antonio Palmer fit this bill. Evan has been a consistent performer and is among the fastest returning athletes in the event this year as a senior. Antonio stunned MoCo with his brilliant freshman campaign and looks to build upon it as a sophomore. Regardless of who I may predict, the mid-distance events never disappoint in terms of surprises
The 4x800 is up in the air among the distance powerhouses. Quince Orchard comes off an undefeated cross country season and returns their entire 4x800 which ran 8:03 a year ago. Whitman, with the addition of freshman cross country phenom Andrew Palmer, is thrown into contention in what may have been considered a rebuilding year for them a few months ago. Gaithersburg must replace Ryan Janes - no easy feat - but combining Antonio Palmer with their successful cross country squad is a recipe for success. Then there are the teams which must find athletes to fill in roles but have great potential. Walter Johnson, BCC, and Wootton all have powerful duos and are a couple runners away from competing for a county title. Churchill and RM have strong individual leaders in Whetsell and Sickles respectively, but must find a supporting cast to compete at the top level in one of the most competitive events in the county.
What can be said about Montgomery County distance? Without a doubt the strongest in the state, there are literally dozens who are competitive at the state level. The question is who can be competitive among county competition? Fresh off of the cross country season, fans have become familiar with Kyle Gaffney of Blake, Chris Barnard of Sherwood, the Palmer brothers and Sam Epstein of Whitman, Wil Zahorodny of Damascus, Neal Darmody, David Laratta and myself,Reagan Lynch of Quince Orchard, Chris Boyd of Wootton, Chris Bowie and Elias Tousley of B-CC, and Jared Schneider and Chris Moen of Walter Johnson.
The questions on my mind regarding the distance events are: How many county athletes can qualify for the state championships with the 3a/4a Regional returning to the PG Sportsplex? Can Will Palmer defend his indoor 3200 county title and record or will Kyle Gaffney return to his early season cross country form? Can anyone challenge Chris Moen in the 1600, and can Chris challenge footlocker cross country finalist Matt Centrowitz at the state meet after missing the opportunity a year ago due to illness? With such depth in the county, will a new face match the breakout season of Elias Tousley a year ago? I don’t claim to have any answers to these questions, but I will say I look forward to finding out.
The field events are hard hit by graduation, and will be wide open this winter. Shot Put in particular loses the top 8 public school athletes from the 2006 outdoor campaign. The lone standout appears to be Kennedy’s Chimso Okoji who placed 3rd at the indoor 2a-3a state championship with a throw of 49’2.5”. Outside of Okoji, the scramble for points is between Kennedy’s Delano Ferguson, Whitman’s Charles Mouton, Gaithersburg’s Sean Stanley, and Einstein’s Terrell Pettis.
The only jumping event competed at the state championship is the high jump. Damascus’s multi-event star Jamal Currica leads the group with a PR of 6’-6” but the title is really up in the air (pun intended) with 5 other athletes over 6’. The athletes chasing Jamal are Kalgeri Robinson of Magruder, Northwood’s David Badinga, and Blair’s Muhammad Roberson.
While not held at the regional or state championship, the long and triple jumps are contested at the county championships. Many top sprinters use their speed and athleticism to compete in the jumps while others rely on technical precision to compete. Student of the sport Ian Francis of Walter Johnson is a perfect example of the latter. Francis placed 7th at the 4a Outdoor State Championship with a performance of 43’8” as a sophomore. Along with Francis in the triple jump, Gary Frazier is a favorite in the long jump. Jumpers are often spread thin across a number of events both on the track and infield, thus tactics will come into play due to the four event limit in order to try and win the most points for the team title. Salifu Cham from Einstein and Magruder’s Kalgeri Robinson will all be competitive in either or both events depending on what other team responsibilities in the relays and sprints they have.
The depth of county competition across the board is unparalleled anywhere else in Maryland. The responsibility to go even further falls on the athletes, keep training hard and represent MoCo well this winter.