Arielle Statham of Paint Branch High School is usually seen at track meets with a stern look of concentration on her face, but she and her teammates were all smiles as announcer Al Smith declared Paint Branch the 2009 3A indoor state champions. The five girls were not only thrilled to be state champs, but also shocked at the outcome. According to Statham, they had not even discussed the possibility of winning the team title ahead of time.
Statham had the best single day performance of her already remarkable high school career. She finished second in the 300-meter dash behind Xauddina Whittington, the outstanding sophomore from Catonsville. It was not her personal best at 40.40, but her teammate Vanessa Jules did set her personal best with a fourth place run in 41.30. Things would only get better for Statham and Jules.
Statham knew she had a good chance to win the 55-meter dash if she had a good start. She said that her start in the prelims was better than in the finals, but she closed hard in the finals for her first state title. Her time of 7.11 in the finals was her personal best by over a tenth of a second.
Korine Duval chipped in two points for Paint Branch by taking 5th in the 500-meter run with a time of 1:22.25. Madina Diao finished 7th in 1:23.55.
Meanwhile, Jules was a nervous wreck on the infield. The defending high jump state champ was matched up head to head with Shaunte Boney of Largo High School. The two both cleared 5-06 and then had three misses while attempting 5-08. On Jules's final attempt at 5-08, she hit the bar and came down in pain. She wasn't quite sure what happened but she said her back and shins suddenly hurt. She would finish the competition with a limp in her stride.
In a jump off, Jules and Boney both missed attempts at 5-07, 5-06, and 5-05. They both cleared 5-4. Jules's anxiety was visibly growing as she would not even watch her opponent jump, choosing instead to let the crowd reaction tell her if her opponent made the jump.
Boney checked out of the competition to run the 55-meter hurdles race. Instead of waiting for Boney to return, Jules attempted 5-05 and cleared it. Boney returned from her race and missed her attempt at 5-05. Jules dropped to the ground and covered her face. She says that she was feeling a great sense of relief that it was over.
Once all the Paint Branch girls completed their individual events on the track, they were able to rest through the 3200-meters runs and come out for one of the most memorable moments of the meet in the 4x200 relay.
Korine Duval, Vanessa Jules, and Jasmine Jones held position in 3rd place through the first three legs, but Westlake and Lackey controlled the race up front. Statham got the baton and quickly charged into second place. Around the final curve she blasted into first place as the fans went crazy. She created over a whole second of separation between herself and the Westlake runner for the state title in a season best time of 1:43.40. It was the best indoor 4x2 time by a Montgomery County team at least since mocorunning was created in 2006.
With 44 points and a solid lead in the team standings, the Paint Branch girls still needed to distance themselves from Western and Hereford in the 4x400 to win the team title. It didn't help that a Hereford girl won the 800, and Hereford's 4x400 relay won the first heat.
Jules by this point was showing no sign of the fatigue from the earlier high jump. She led all competitors through the first leg of the 4x400 with a split of 60 seconds. Duval held onto the lead with another split of 60 seconds. Western's third leg became aggressive and took the lead over Diao of Paint Branch. Diao split 63 seconds and put her anchoring teammate in perfect position to win. Statham immediately regained the lead and flew around the track for a split of 59 seconds and the win in a time of 4:03.03.
After collectively winning four events as a team and piling up additional points in the 300 and 500, PB was sitting on top, but the championship was not solidified. Two Hereford girls continued to compete in the pole vault as the field house began to empty out.
Hereford only scored 8 points between the two vaulters giving them a total of 51. Paint Branch won the state title with 54.
The B-CC girls placed fourth with 30 points. B-CC's 4x800 relay finished third in 9:47.93. Addie Tousley placed second in the 1600 and 3200 and seventh in the 800. Paige Donnelly finished 5th in the 1600 and 3rd in the 3200.
Damascus scored 16 points for 8th place by scoring in the same events as B-CC. Their 4x800 relay was fourth in 9:55.44. Freshman Courtney Mason finished 5th in the 3200-meter run while Alex Carroll took 4th in the 800m and 3rd in the 1600m.
Kennedy's Thea LaFond finished 4th in the 55-meter hurdles in 8.65.