There must be something in the water in Silver Spring.
Montgomery Blair and James H. Blake High Schools are experiencing track revivals in 2016. Each school has been
rewarded with at least one state title after the first day of competition for 3A and 4A schools at Morgan State
University in Baltimore.
First there is Montgomery Blair High School. The record books show that Blair was a distance running powerhouse
in the 1980's, but who knew that you would need to fly your DeLorean time machine from 1985 to 2016 to see the
Blair boys team win another distance event state title and the Cubs win the World Series? [Gratuitous Back to
the Future references]
Today's 4A boys 4x800 relay was a little
different from other races that Blair has competed in this season. For example, some schools such as Laurel shot
off the line at national record pace, but Blair and all the other Montgomery County schools maintained
composure. As they did at the county and regional meet, Blair's first three legs kept them in contention. Anchor
leg Thierry Siewe Yanga hunted down all teams in his path to win the state title in 7:58.58, the best time by a
Blair boys team since that last state champion 4x800 team in 1980 which ran 7:57.9h.
James Hubert Blake High School, the school that produced just two male track & field state champions in the 17
years since opening its doors in the fall of 1998, doubled that total in the 2016 school year with indoor and
outdoor state titles by sophomore Jabari Bennett. Bennett won his second state title (first outdoors) today with
a mark of 55-09.50 in the shot put. The Blake Bengals, who took second place at the Montgomery County
Championship Meet two weeks ago, sit in third place in the 3A competition with 22 points after a day of
According to long jump specialist Ty Mason, the Bengals
are seeing the payoff for dedication and hard work.
"All we've been talking about is big payback on the football field and on the track," said Mason. "I just wanted
to make it possible for [Coach Brandon Tynes] to come home with a state championship and bring home a state
championship for my team."
Only a junior, Mason recorded a massive leap of 23-06.50 on his final jump which he believed at the time was the
state-winning jump. On review of the results, the state winning leap by Poly's William Henderson came earlier in
the competition from a different flight; however, Mason's jump tied the previous #9 best performance in state
meet history and ties the #3 all-time best performance by a Montgomery County athlete in any meet in history
according to Mocorunning's best available records. It was the best leap by a Montgomery County athlete since
1998 (coincidentally the year Blake High School opened) and the Blake junior says that he is hungry to come back
and get the state record next year.
There was no confusion about the state champion in the
3A boys shot put. Bennett's first throw of 50-11.50 would have won the competition, but he said that that was
just a warmup throw.
"The next throw was a 54. I kept improving each throw," said Bennett. "I just brought the intensity."
Bennett, who won today's competition with a best mark of 55-09.50, was a mid-year transfer from Gonzaga College
High School in Washington DC and has dominated Montgomery County and the Maryland public school scene ever
since. He transferred due to what he called "a lot of problems at Gonzaga."
"I couldn't be around that. I knew a lot of people at Blake so I just went to Blake and the rest is
When asked what it meant to be the first shot put state champion from Blake High School, Bennett said that it
meant a lot, but the 16-year old sophomore was quick to add that he had more work to do.
"I'm trying to be #1 in the U.S."
Already Montgomery County's best sophomore shot put thrower in at least thirty years with a mark of 56-06.75 at
the county championship meet, Bennett said that he has been throwing shot since he was 9 years old. How will he
continue to improve?
"Lifting. Running. Eating Healthy. Technique. And that's it," he said.
Staying in the realm of throwing events, Einstein's Dalina Julien had a noteworthy performance in the 4A girls
discus competition. She opened up the competition with three consecutive throws over 120 feet including a best
mark of 123-08.00. It was a personal best mark by about two feet and that makes her the #6 all-time best discus
performer in Montgomery County history from any meet according to Mocorunning's best available records. She
controlled the competition through three throws but was surpassed by Burrell of CH Flowers who recorded a toss
of 131-04 in the finals.
According to Julien, she was a basketball player who was never supposed to be a thrower. The Salisbury-bound
senior described how it all started:
"I came in thinking I was going to be a sprinter," said Julien. "I injured my ankle and had a sprained ankle for
a good week. So they took me down to throwing instead of hanging around and doing nothing. I was actually pretty
"I started taking it more serious in my second year doing it because I made it to states my first year and I
thought I could actually do something with it so I just kept working hard and here I am."
After Rohann Asfaw of Richard Montgomery High
School won his first state title by leading wire-to-wire in the 4A boys 3200-meter run, he briefly fell to the
ground in what appeared to be a physical collapse. But according to Asfaw, his moment on the infield after
winning in 9:24.05 was more emotional than physical.
"I was reminiscing a little bit... I was doubtful. Honestly throughout the race I was doubtful. I was like,
'Man, Walz is probably on my shoulder. He's probably going to sit and kick.' But that didn't happen and on my
last lap I was thinking to myself, 'Wow, I'm actually finally going to win a state championship.' So when I
crossed the line it was just exactly how I imagined it in my head."
Quince Orchard's Dylan Bikim cleared 6-06 to win LAST
YEAR's outdoor state title. He chose not to play basketball as a senior which paid off during the indoor track
season when he won his second high jump state title. But it hasn't been as easy as he sometimes makes it seem.
His third career high jump state title was all the more gratifying due to the adversity he faced with injury.
"I didn't realize that until this year, but injuries play a big part," said Bikim. "If you're injured, it's
pretty hard to clear the higher heights. I've been battling patellar tendonitis the whole season and it sucked.
Today, I was going through that today and my knee was killing me."
Bikim was very nearly eliminated from the competition after only clearing 6-00 and missing twice at 6-
"The pressure was definitely on," he said, describing his clutch clearance of 6-02 and subsequently 6-04 with
fewer misses than his friendly Clarksburg rival, Andrew Kostecka.
Taylor Wright of Northwest won the triple jump with a mark of 39-02.75 and sits at the #2 seed entering the
finals in the 100m and 200m tomorrow.
Helnsarah Penda of Seneca Valley leads all 100-meter hurdles competitors in the 3A competition after the trials
with a time of 14.88.
Alexus Pyles of Clarksburg is the #2 seed in the 4A 100-meter hurdles entering tomorrow.
The Damascus girls led almost the entire race in the 3A girls 4x800m relay, but the anchor leg fell to the back
of a tight pack for a fourth place finish in 9:33.75.
Bethesda Chevy Chase won its third girls outdoor
4x800 state title in four years with a time of 9:32.28.
Ciciely Davy of Einstein High School turned heads in the much-anticipated 4A girls 3200-meter run. The expected
battle between Maria Coffin of Annapolis, Bethlehem Taye of Paint Branch, and Abigail Green of Walter Johnson
was turned upside down when the pace went out a little slowly by 2016 standards and Davy took over to push the
pace. Davy pushed the pace for over 6 laps, but ultimately, Coffin was too strong and ran away with the victory
in 10:45.90. Green had a strong finish in 10:51.14 and Davy set a school record with a third place time of
10:55.86. The normally invincible Bethlehem Taye appeared to be pinching a cramp for part of the race and fell
to 7th place.
Shyheim Wright of Northwest recorded a wind-legal time of 14.04 in the 110-meter hurdles preliminaries which
ties #6 all-time at the state meet. Wright also took second in the long jump with a mark of 22-06.00.
The Northwest boys recorded 1:28.28 in the 4x200 meter relay but got hunted down by CH Flowers and settled for
It doesn't mean very much at this point, but the Northwest boys are sitting in first place in the 4A competition
after one day with 28 points and the defending champion Clarksburg girls are in ninth place with 9 points.