Overall the ladies of Montgomery County are stacked at the top in a variety of events. This should make for an exciting season because almost all of the top ladies return from last year and every year there are many young faces that show promise for the future.
One of last year’s top short sprinters Ini Akpandak of Magruder has graduated, but make no mistake, the girls of Montgomery County are not sad. Last year we saw some great talent in the sprints and with a plethora of stars returning we can only hope that these girls can drop the times and end the season ranked higher in the state.
Look for girls like Michelle Gellman of Churchill, Sonia Gill of QO, Rianne Webb of Richard Montgomery, Alyssa Jewel of Gaithersburg, and Michele Miller of Kennedy to make some noise. It’s too early to guess on what events they may do during indoor but they all have great range from the 55 to the 400. Gill, Gellman and Miller head into their senior seasons with great marks in all of the sprints and the previously mentioned youngsters will most definitely hope to sneak into the limelight. Also look at Shayla Davis of Watkins Mill, Sarah Armstrong of Poolesville and Suzanne Falk of Wootton throughout the season as they may make a big jump into the upper echelon of the county sprinters.
The 500 and 800 runners are a special breed and our county has two of the finest in the state. Leslie Morrison from Whitman and Meghan Rose of Poolesville went head to head just a few times last year, with Morrison eating the cake, but both had remarkable indoor seasons overall. Rose does drop down to run the 300 during the season but she really can be classified as a long sprinter and her endurance at last year’s state meet proved it when she ran home with three individual golds. Morrison is the backbone of her team and has blistering speed over 400 and 800 meters. She wasn’t able to win at the state meet last year but she gave a warning to the girls at Roosevelt that she is for real. Other future stars will be the duo from Northwest Becca Stinner and Kathy Aherne. Both of these ladies had great cross country seasons but last year they felt very at home on the track with Aherne running very well over the half mile and Stinner running solid 400’s and 500’s. The Sinclair sisters also show great range and both usually run the 800. Ashlyn Sinclair, the fine steeplechaser and long hurdler usually prefers for the 500 and the 800. Stephanie Alberico of Walter Johnson and Ashlee Payne of Kennedy both had fine seasons last year and should also find themselves near the top of the standings. Lastly we can not forget about Veronica Salcido. After a solid return during the fall, will she get her track legs back and return to her dominant state from two years ago?
The distance events in Montgomery County are stacked. On any given day, one of a number of girls is quite capable of dropping an eye opening time or taking home the victory. Seniors Halsey Sinclair of Blair and Cara Harrison of Quince Orchard will look to cap their fabulous careers with victories at the big meets. Halsey has proven that she can dominate on the track in the 1600 and the 3200 but at times others have been able to sneak by her in the closing moments. Harrison had a fine cross country season and will look to break Halsey’s reign on the championships like she did last year at the regional championships. Emma Eckerstrom of Northwest won last years outdoor 3200 state championship and will be a big factor this season as she looks for more gold. Morgane Gay of Whitman has great range from the 800 to the 3200. Her speed over the final stages of the race could be her ticket to victory. Louise Hannallah of Churchill also brings a first rate game to every meet and is a threat as she is always at the top of the leader board when all is said and done. Lastly Laura McCary of Magruder came on the scene last year. She did have an illness that prevented her from having a great cross country season, but she did show signs of being in great form by the state meet. Any one of these ladies can win and I really expect to see fast times because they are all very competitive.
The hurdles will be exciting. Audrey Gariepy – Bogui should be in top form when February rolls around and may leave the others fighting for 2nd. She is the returning state champion in the 100HH and often left her rivals a full hurdle behind. But look for Tara Okusaga of Northwest, one of the counties most versatile athletes to give Audrey a run for her money. Shaakira Raheem of Einstein improved immensely from the beginning of Indoor to the end of Outdoor last year and the three should continually push each for a faster time. Other hurdlers to watch will be Jessie Weaver of Richard Montgomery who had an outstanding summer campaign, Dominique Wright of Kennedy, Shanta Parasuraman and Anne Peterson of Whitman, and Jenny McCoy of Walter Johnson. Raheem and Wright should have little trouble qualifying for the state meet but to make it out of the 4A region for the other girls will be very difficult.
Now we will move on to the jumps. Audrey Gariepy – Bogui, Tara Okusaga, Emily Furr of Poolesville, Suzanne Falk, Chelsea Rienks of Damascus and Arielle Statham of Paint Branch lead the way. All of these girls are very well rounded and often compete in both the vertical and horizontal jumps. Gariepy - Bogui won both the indoor and outdoor HJ state championships and placed 2nd in the outdoor TJ. She has great runway speed and her fall season of volleyball conditions her well for the demanding jumps. Furr and Rienks are very consistent at and around 5 feet for the HJ and both of these ladies qualified for the Junior Olympics with Gariepy – Bogui. These three ladies will be the leaders in the HJ. The triple jump and long jump are extracted from the state meet but all of these girls improved their marks last year and will hopefully provide the fans with some nice attempts when the time comes.
For the average fan the throws are often neglected, that is why I will be brief. Just kidding. Damascus, Poolesville and Gaithersburg always have great throwers, so how about Blake? It must be the coaching. In indoor the throws only count for a maximum of ten points, but those ten points could be important. Cori Talley and Octavia King of Blake return and they are two of the very few throwers over 30 feet returning. I can not see into the future but my guess says 31 feet wins the county championship. But during the season watch for the teams that usually produce the strongest throwers to once again send their ladies towards the top of the podium.
The 4x800 this year will be dominated by the distance powerhouses of Montgomery County. These teams have strong runners who can handle the relay and move onto individual events later in the meet. Whitman and Churchill had some really awesome races last year that came down to the last leg. Whitman for the most part was on the top looking down. Churchill graduated two members off their squad so it may take a while to get them going but they have a million kids on their team so they will find some talent. Look for Whitman to run some outstanding times this year and if they are feeling great, who knows, they may inch closer to Roosevelt. Also competitive will be Northwest, Richard Montgomery, Magruder, Walter Johnson and Quince. With the talent of Aherne and Stinner we may see Northwest in a runner up position once or twice. My eye is on Whitman though.
The 4x4 was dominated by Churchill in indoor last year, but by the end of outdoor, WJ, Northwest and Kennedy moved into the forefront. WJ lost Hilary Moen to graduation so that will hit hard. With the depth of Churchill I would put them at the top for the time being. Northwest with Stinner, possibly Okusaga and Aherne would field a really nice team and will be a viable threat as they were only 2 seconds off of Churchill in the state indoor finals last year. This event always comes down to who has the freshest legs and strongest pain threshold so anything is possible.
The 4x2 often times comes down to handoffs, fast starters and a strong anchor. Damascus had a good squad last year, but graduated two of their top runners. Northwest is always deep in the sprints and so is Gaithersburg. In the past we have seen Gaithersburg take it easy during the indoor season so we can only speculate. Kennedy is two years removed from a state championship 4x2 squad in outdoor so I would not be surprised to see them give it one more shot. Paint Branch runs in cycles. One year the guys’ team is strong, and the other the girls are strong. Watch for the young ladies of Paint Branch to capitalize on their youth and fresh legs. Churchill only graduated one member off their 5th place showing during the state meet so a healthy squad would make them the favorites.
Overall I think the depth of Montgomery County track and field has improved since last year and this year I think we can really expect to see some awesome races. With the new fresh faces from cross country coming aboard and the ever growing summer track programs sending athletes to MOCO schools we can also expect to see some young surprises. The race of the year will be the fast heat of the 500 and the 1600. For both of these events we will see fresh legs and a lot of action. Train hard and cheers.