In terms of volume, Maryland has not gotten very much snow this winter, but the timing of the winter storm systems has interfered
with winter sports perhaps as much as any year in recent memory. MCPS has not canceled school due to a weather event yet this
winter, but extracurricular activities have been delayed or canceled on three different Saturdays.
Despite experiencing a 72 degree day on Thursday earlier this week, weather forecasters predicted a day of prolonged
precipitation on Saturday with DC-area temperatures no higher than 34 degrees. The National Weather Service issued a winter
weather advisory for most of the state of Maryland. School systems reacted accordingly.
"It was challenging and a fair amount of confusion because of changes in all the different school systems," said meet director
"We were trying to keep an eye on the weather starting early yesterday morning and I had talked with Jeff and Duke at lunch
extensively and our position was at that point we were going ahead with the meet and that we'll make a decision by 5:00 tomorrow
morning to let everybody know...then at 3:00 in the afternoon, Baltimore County Schools canceled all their events. Howard County
schools canceled all their events. Arundel County schools canceled all their events. Frederick County schools canceled all their
events. And the COO of Montgomery County Schools says we're going to go to a delay."
"More schools started canceling so all the surrounding school districts in Maryland were canceled except for us."
The meet began at noon with half-empty bleachers. Although it only rained in Landover, most Maryland schools including Prince
Georges County Schools were barred from traveling. An estimated 35 of 96 schools did not show up, and unknown to most in
attendance, the hired timers did not show up. MCPS coaches Tom Martin, Steve Hays, Chris Colbert, and Bryant Adams filled in to
time the meet, for which Rogers was extremely appreciative.
"I'm happy with the meet," said Rogers. "People are just happy they got a chance to race because so many meets have been canceled
and I'm happy we could do that."
Every coach shared in Rogers' relief that they got the meet in. Some athletes, potential county and state champions, had no
recorded performances to their name this season which proves problematic for seeding upcoming championship meets.
Walter Johnson's Abigail Green was one of those athletes with no performances yet this season. Green's cross country season was
extended to December 10 by nature of qualifying for Footlocker Nationals and she might have been in a tough spot if the
Montgomery Invitational was canceled. All she needed was a mark - any mark would do - but she put forth a noteworthy effort, a
10:53.61 3200-meter victory that was just five seconds shy of her performance at indoor nationals last winter.
Said Green, "I was definitely really hoping that this one wouldn't get
canceled because the last meet that I was going to run got canceled. So it kind of made me a little more on my toes. I really did
want to get a good race in before counties."
Although she ran the race out front all alone, lapping nearly every runner in the field, it was more than just going through the
motions. She split about 5:25 at the mile marker and came back in about 5:28 in the second half. 10:53.61 was the second fastest
time by a Maryland runner in the history of the Montgomery Invitational, although a few Virginia girls have gone faster. She
pointed out that it was her fastest time at the Prince Georges Sports and Learning Center.
"Cross country's really different than track," she continued. "My indoor season started a lot later than it normally would have
because of going to San Diego so I just wanted to get out here and see what times I could drop and how I can improve and what
strategies I need in the future."
The meet was reseeded prior to the noon start to help reduce the number of
heats in the program. Darnell Pratt of Good Counsel High School was caught off guard by the accelerated meet schedule.
"I was listening to music and then next thing you know the meet was going by faster than I thought," said Pratt. "I had to hurry
up and warm up and get on the track."
Pratt recorded the fastest 300-meter performance by a Montgomery County athlete in the history of the Montgomery Invitational and
he became the first Montgomery County athlete to win the 300m at the Montgomery Invitational. His time of 34.80 was his best 300
-meter performance on a flat track. The sub-21 200-meter All-American sprinter said the performance was "pretty good" considering
it was his first 300 of the season, but he wants to run in the 33's by the end of the season.
The meet organizers re-seeded the meet to the best of their ability, but not
much could be done about the no-shows in the invitational mile. Just four boys and three girls showed up at the starting line.
"It was kind of surprising because there were only three people that were actually in our race and there were supposed to be ten
or so," said Walter Johnson's Katriane Kirsch.
"I'm pretty sure no one really wanted to be the one leading the pack because everyone was waiting until halfway to make their
move. The race did NOT start out fast and we all started to pick it up after that half mile."
Kirsch thought they opened up the first half mile in about 2:50, which means that she and her Churchill opponent, Julia Reicin,
closed the last half in about 2:30 to finish in 5:20.17 and 5:20.29 respectively. That last half mile was faster than all but
seven girls ran in the open 800m later in the meet. Kirsch barely held off Reicin to win in a photo finish.
"I was like, 'I know this second half is going to hurt and going to be really hard but I just have to get through it.'"
Eldon Phillips of Northwood High School had a big race a few weeks ago to
hold off a strong field in the MCPS Meet #3 500m in 1:08.13, but that was nothing compared to his victory at the Montgomery
Invitational in 1:07.05. He became the first MCPS athlete to ever win the 500-meter dash at the Montgomery Invitational and he
did so by breaking his personal record by a full second.
Phillips credits an aggressive race strategy, hard workouts, and his cross country endurance for his breakthrough performance.
Preparing for the 500-meter race with repetitious 300-meter workouts helps him gauge exactly how fast he starts on race day.
"My problem is getting out," said Phillips. "The last races I've been going out in 40 [at 300m] so I wanted to get out in 38 and
I did what I had to do. I like to pick it up on the last lap because I have more endurance than the sprinters...cross country
really helps...the tempo runs, the long runs, helps me get that endurance so I have enough to keep going on that last lap."
With the county meet just days away, Phillips deemed himself the "MoCo underdog" and said that he is going for 1:05 this season.
There was only one event in meet history that no Montgomery County
athlete, male or female, had ever won: the pole vault. Clarksburg's Paige Evans revised that fact when she won the pole vault
early in the day with a mark of 10-00.00. After all other opponents were eliminated, she made two valiant attempts at 10-06 and
made one run at 11 feet but did not get off the ground.
Evans was specifically pleased with her consistency on this particular day.
"It means a lot for me because I'm not always there mentally. It takes a lot for me to take jump after jump consistent."
The DC Vault training program always sounds so intense but there is no denying the results produced by the kids involved.
"We're working up to being on our full competition runs at this point in the season. So I think I'm ready to adjust my steps,
move back, and get on a bigger pole for regionals," said Evans, who was just 6 inches shy of her best mark from last outdoor
Thierry Siewe Yanga of Blair always knows his competition and he was a
little disappointed in the no-shows yesterday. He said that he did not want to lead and set the pace early on, but nobody else
pushed the pace. He was at the front of the pack with about a 58 second first 400m when he was hoping that somebody might push it
to 56. He closed in about 59 for a final time of 1:57.52. It was the fastest time in meet history by a Montgomery County athlete
and about 1.5 seconds shy of the meet record.
"I can't do anything about that," said Siewe Yanga. "Hopefully at counties I can go out faster. My plan was no matter what pace
the first lap goes out at, the last lap would be like pushing the pace then, just trying to close out with a 58 or 59...I have a
lot more to prove... No matter what at counties, regionals, states, hopefully run 1:56, 1:55."
The indoor county meet record in the boys 800m is 1:57.72, which Siewe Yanga bettered on Saturday.
Northwest's Taylor Wright got in her first mark in the triple jump this season, winning with a mark of 36-04. Wright finished
third in the 55-meter dash in 7.22 and Cori Brown won the 300-meter dash in 41.70.
Melissa Kameka of Damascus High School won the 500-meter in 1:20.19 and contributed to the winning 4x800 relay (9:52.48).
Paint Branch won the DMR, Walter Johnson won the 4x4, and Gwenyth Asbury of Churchill won the open 800m.
Josh Netterville shaved 0.03 off his personal best 55-meter time to
win the 55-meter dash in 6.44. Netterville is now the second fastest MCPS athlete all-time for the automatically-timed 55m. The
indoor county meet record is a hand-timed 6.2, for which the FAT equivalent is 6.44.
Robert Gicheru of Northwest won the 55-meter hurdles in 7.91. Northwest also had big performances in winning the 4x800 relay in
8:10.73 and taking second place in the 4x200 relay in 1:31.69. The 4x2 was a top 5 performance by an MCPS team indoors in the
last ten years.
Springbrook became the first Montgomery County team to ever win the 4x4 at the Montgomery Invitational (3:29.11). Top sprinter
Mayen McClain took second place in 35.76 in the open 300m dash. Springbrook coach Bryan Steele, who once owned the indoor county
meet record in the 300-meter dash, predicts that the 300-meter dash is going to be the race to watch at the upcoming indoor
county championship. I think he is right. The meet record is 35.33 and Mayen McClain, Nathan Phillips of Blake, and Netterville
of Northwest are all capable.
Rohann Asfaw of Richard Montgomery led early in the boys 3200-meter run, but
he did not seem to be pushing the pace. After a 4:49 first 1600m, Ryan Lockett of Poolesville took over the lead and Asfaw was
obliged to tuck into second place. The pace increased in the second half so that Lockett and Asfaw pulled away from the pack and
ultimately closed the second half in about 4:30 for an overall time of 9:29.39. Asfaw fell to the ground face forward in his
effort to out-lean Lockett who set a personal best by about 18 seconds. (Lockett/Asfaw photo by Crais Amoss)
Overall, Montgomery County girls won 10 events and Montgomery County boys won 8 events.