This website has admittedly had a bias towards track events since it was created just over three years ago, but the Montgomery County throwers of the 2009 track season have started the season in such a way that is impossible to ignore. With one thrower already over 60 feet, three more over 50 feet, and still more knocking on the door for the 50 foot mark, this crop of strongmen, all from a relatively small area outside of the nation's capital, are set on a legendary path that may never again be followed with quite the same intrigue.
The discussion of throwers begins with Gaithersburg's Sean Stanley, who for now is still the man to beat. Stanley, who has won four county titles, four region titles, and four state titles in the shot put over the last four track seasons, started off this year's Montgomery Invitational with two throws over 57 feet, knocking on the door of the six-year-old meet record of 58-feet 5-inches.
Right on Stanley's heels, however, was the rapidly emerging giant from Quince Orchard, Marcus Brown. Brown is noticeably several inches taller than Stanley, and has just as much mobility when he gets in the circle. Brown threw a personal best of 57-06.50 on his second throw to take the lead.
Stanley regained the lead by a few inches on the very next throw.
On the third and final throw, Brown launched it about 59 feet, but could not maintain his balance and fell out of the circle.
Stanley tossed a 60-foot and a half-inch bomb. It topped his personal best from last year's outdoor state championship by a quarter inch.
Both throwers returned to the circle for the finals over two hours later, but neither had a better mark than the opening round.
Stanley and Brown get along well. Brown says that this year is all about bettering himself and becoming more of a student of the sport. While he believes that he can throw 60 feet and win a state title before indoor season is over, he says there is no rivalry between the him and Stanley. They both understand what they are doing and there are no hard feelings between the two whatever happens.
Brown has narrowed down his college choices to two or three schools that are recruiting him for track and says that he is getting close to making decision. Stanley has committed to Penn State for football, and despite rumors that he would leave high school early to join the Nittany Lions, he has said that he will be finishing out his senior year with Gaithersburg High.
The discussion of throwers would not be complete without mentioning Clarksburg's Avery Graham, who not only throws over 50 feet consistently and owns two 2A shot put titles, but also happens to be one of the fastest sprinters in the nation. Though Graham only threw for 50 feet and a quarter inch at this year's Montgomery Invitational, he also finished second in the 55-meter dash by less than a hundredth of a second. His time of 6.35 in the finals smashes the best all-time mark on Mocorunning.com. Although Mocorunning.com only spans the past four indoor seasons, this is also the fastest mark by a Montgomery County athlete in the era of automatic timing. The mark should rank him in the top five in the nation, but he's still not up with fellow Marylander Devon Smith of Westlake who currently leads the nation at 6.21!
To conclude the discussion on throwers, Victor Wang of Blair High School threw 50-07.25 inches for fifth place at the Montgomery Invitational. Other athletes who are likely to reach the 50 foot mark before the end of the year are Christian Smith and Rob Thompson of Clarksburg, and Jake Furr of Damascus.
It's not surprising that Churchill and Damascus led the way in the boys 3200-meter relay. Both teams showed championship-caliber potential early this season, but for both teams to run under 8:07 indoors, a feat only accomplished this decade by the QO relays of the past two years, was a special treat for distance fans. The two teams alternated leads on each leg of the race and never exchanged batons more than 2 seconds apart. While many 4x8's end with a strong anchor who saves his team with a very fast split, this was nothing more than a tightly contested matchup of eight runners on two teams running very close to 2:00. The result was a victory for Churchill in 8:05.17. Damascus was second in 8:06.89. This newly born rivalry, if you want to call it that, will go on hiatus after the indoor county championship as both teams will challenge for their respective state title, but we can expect exciting things from them outdoors. Both marks hit the qualifying standard for the Penn Relays.
Perhaps nobody was prepared for Olivia Ekpone's explosive freshman year on the track, but the ladies of Montgomery County are now fighting back. The star sprinter from Wootton had previously not lost to a Montgomery County athlete head-to-head in any open event, but at the end of the day, Churchill's Katie Wolf got the best of her in the 55-meter dash while Paint Branch's Arielle Statham was the meet champion in the 400.
Not surprisingly, Ekpone and Wolf easily made their way into the finals of the 55-meter dash. The two came out of the blocks even with each other and never appeared more than a few inches apart. The FAT cameras gave the edge to Wolf, 7.14 to 7.15, but neither had the burst at the end of the race like Amanda Kimbers of McDonough had (7.05). Wolf and Ekpone took second and third place respectively.
Statham got out hard in the 400-meter dash, coming through the first 200 in first place in 27.0 seconds. Meanwhile, Ekpone was back in fourth place, a half-second off the pace. Ekpone worked her way up to Statham over the backstretch, but Statham maintained her position. The two athletes pulled away from the rest of the field, but Ekpone gained no more ground as Statham charged to the finish. Statham's victory in 57.03 was an indoor PR and just 0.4 off of her outdoor 400-meter PR. Statham also won the triple jump in another personal best jump of 37-07.50
Ekpone, who finished the 400 in 57.24, three seconds off of her personal best, says that this meet was an eye-opener for her. Practice has not been as intense for her this year working under new coaches and having lost several key teammates who used to push her in practice. Her starts were poor in the 55 because she has had little time to work on them and she feels that she has lost most of her base that she draws upon for the longer races. Not all is doom and gloom for the naturally gifted athlete, however. Ekpone plans to rethink her training and get back to base work so that within about a month she can be where she needs to be.
Whatever may happen, Wolf and Statham have made things very interesting as the county championship rapidly approaches.
Events not yet mentioned:
Boys 400 - The 400 featured some top tier talent from Montgomery County, but the surprising top finisher from MoCo was Joseph Woiwode in 50.79 (2nd place). The junior from Georgetown Prep was Mocorunning.com's freshman of the year two years ago but has largely been missing from action due to injuries since then.
Girls 800 - Churchill's Maryam Fikri appears ready to take on all challengers in the 800. Only Carly Simmons from Delaware topped her in the 800, 2:22.16 to 2:22.82.
Boys 800 - A bizarre final section left Churchill's Sean King the meet winner out of a slower section with a time of 2:00.47. The fast section was strangely slow with nobody pushing the pace until the final lap. Gaithersburg's Antonio Palmer won the heat in 2:02.69, but settled for third overall.
Girls Mile - Northwest's Britt Eckerstrom was said to be sick and had an uncharacteristic performance in the mile, but spectators did see a very exciting finish between River Hill's Katie Harman and Tatnall's Juliet Bottorff.
Boys Mile - This event lived up to the hype as Western Albermarle's Tyler Stutzman continued the trend of breaking this meet record (now at 4:14.91). Whitman's Andrew Palmer ran a strong 4:23.00, the second best indoor mark all-time on Mocorunning.com after Walter Johnson's Chris Moen.
Girls 1600 - B-CC's Addie Tousley was fourth in 5:19.85, a time that may have been sixth in the invitational mile.
Boys 1600 - WJ's Sean O'Leary finished seventh in 4:30.82, making a case for himself as the best public school miler after Haile and Palmer.
Girls 3200 - Churchill's - Alex Giedd ran all alone in no-woman's-land for most of the race and finished seventh in 11:47.58. Harman of River Hill doubled back from the mile and got the win in 11:13.20.
Boys 3200 - A highly anticipated race was dominated by Mountain View's Thomas Porter after other elite athletes dropped out before the race. Magruder's Nicolas Escobar stuck with Porter for the first mile but ultimately fell to seventh in 9:52.76.
Girls 55m Hurdles - Poolesville's Olivia Durr topped her previous best time from last year in both the prelims (8.58) and the finals (8.63, 5th).
Boys 55m Hurdles - Gonzaga's Aaron Sheppard won a major race for the fifth week in a row while Gaithersburg's Owen Cain took the top county time in 7.92. He was followed closely by Whitman's Jonathan Hale (8.01) and Paint Branch's Malcolm Wyche (8.04).
Girls 4x200 - Paint Branch's 1:46.42 was their best of the season by a half second. They finished fourth, but they were over three seconds ahead of the next MoCo team.
Boys 4x200 - Several Montgomery County teams got over the 1:35 hump including fourth place Paint Branch (1:34.25) who won their heat, but watch out for anchor Avery Graham on Clarksburg's team when they meet head-to-head - whoop whoop!
Girls 4x400 - Tired Churchill and Paint Branch squads ran in separate heats at the very end of the long meet. Churchill took fourth overall in 4:08.07, and Paint Branch was fifth in 4:09.31.
Boys 4x400 - Mount St. Joseph's won the event in the fast heat in 3:28.78, but Northwest was not far off, finishing third overall from a slower heat in 3:29.66.
Girls 4x800 - Western won in 9:51 while Churchill took third in 10:02.66.
Boys DMR - Georgetown Prep was in second place when Ramsey Chapin got the baton. A 4:20 1600-meter split gave his team the easy win in 10:37.98.
Girls DMR - Damascus took third in 13:16.35, but B-CC Tousley nearly caught them, finishing in 13:17.48.
Boys High Jump - Gaithersburg's Owen Cain took fifth at 6 feet.
Girls High Jump - Paint Branch's Vanessa Jules took second place, hitting 5-6 for the third time this season. Meet Record of 5-8 by Pearl Bickersteth of Potomac.
Boys Long Jump - QO's Jacob Adedji and Gaithersburg's Owen Cain tied for 8th place at 20-feet and 9 inches. Meet Record of 22-10 by Dwayne Powell of CH Flowers.
Girls Long Jump - Freshman Alert: Springbrook freshman Lindsay Pinckney had the top county mark at 15-08.00, 13th place. Asha Ruth of Bowie set a new meet record at 18-06.75.
Boys Triple Jump - Northwest's Marvin Lisk took fourth at 43-08.75. Gaithersburg Cain took fifth at 43-08.25. Meet record of 47-11.75 set by Justin Gross of McDonough.
Girls Shot Put - Blake's Octavia King remains Montgomery County's top thrower but only threw 31-01.50 for 13th here.
Girls Pole Vault - Northwood apparently has a pole vaulter. Naami Wagner jumped 8-6 for 5th place. Gaithersburg's Lauren Rose took 8th place at 8 feet.