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State Champion Insights Part II
By: Kevin Milsted

Jabari Bennett can sense it.

He sees it. He feels it.

The 60-foot line is within reach. It's his for the taking.

"I know I could have hit sixty-one because I fouled a sixty-plus throw," said Bennett, "But I'm thankful for this opportunity and I can't wait for outdoors."

Sixty feet is going to happen sooner rather than later. There is no doubt about that. He recorded a 59-00.25 throw at the 3A West Regional Meet in Baltimore two weeks ago, and by a remarkable coincidence, he recorded the same exact mark down to the quarter-inch at Tuesday's state championship meet. The James H. Blake High School record-holder is contented to go after it next time.

"It feels amazing," he said. "Words cannot explain. I'm grateful for the opportunity and I'm just blessed with this God-given talent."

Bennett was on his game Tuesday. He essentially won the state title on his first throw with a 56-11 toss, which was more than enough to defeat all other opponents (two other opponents recorded 52-foot marks). His second throw was the big one that was officially marked down as a foul. His next three throws were consistently 57-02.50, 57-04, and 57-06.

On his final attempt, he started the slow clap.

Now, it's hard enough for a boisterous high jumper whose arms reach eight feet into the air to involve the crowd with a slow clap. Bennett does not have nearly the wingspan of a lanky jumper, and just by coincidence, William Henderson of Baltimore Poly was simultaneously commanding the attention of nearly everyone in the fieldhouse for his six-foot-six high jump attempts.

"It seemed like the crowd wasn't into this. I had to turn it up a little bit so I started a clap to get hyped up...I tried."

Most of the 3A shot put competitors joined in Bennett's slow clap. Not many fans in the stands did, but he didn't need it.

His final throw crashed to the ground at an angle that made it appear like he might have hit the white line at sixty feet. Groans were heard from spectators when the official put his marker down just shy of the line.

It was the fourth greatest mark in indoor state meet history. It was the best mark in state meet history since 1979. It was technically the best mark in indoor state meet history since the 1A/2A/3A/4A system was created in 1989, but the MPSSAA credits the 3A state record to Jim Joyce who won the "ABC" state title in 1979.

Jabari Bennett will probably break records this spring and again next year as a senior, but before that, he will face the nation's toughest high school throwers at New Balance Indoor Nationals where sixty feet beckons.

Tyrek Goy is a track & field diehard. Emphasis on: field.

He has competed all four years of high school, and from day one he was triple jumping and high jumping. High school track was not enough. After winning two regional high jump titles last year, he competed with the USAJA club in summer track where he won the PVA age group title in the high jump (6-01.50). This season, he has been soaring over the high jump bar with ease. He swept county, region, and state titles in the high jump, but not without a few trials that put him and his coaches on edge.

Goy described the state competition: "I had two misses at 6-02 before I cleared it. It was nerve racking because I was confused about what's happening, but my coach told me just to stay focused and to just drive my knee up and arch a little bit. That's what I did and I got over it."

His head was clear after that, or maybe he was not thinking at all. To the joyous cheers of many onlookers, he cleared 6-06 on his first attempt. It was a new personal best. One other opponent cleared 6-06, but he took two extra attempts to do it. When both opponents failed to clear 6-08, Goy had won.

"It means a lot. I could never...I don't know...I'm speechless right now. Coming in...I also just got the school record 6-06 so like right now there's just a lot of emotions going on. I'm actually speechless right now."

Eldon Phillips knows a little bit about Northwood High School's history - at least the history of the school after it re-opened in 2004. He knows because Northwood coach, Giovanni Reumante, was part of Northwood's track re-emergence in 2008, and last year's assistant coach, Derrick Powell, set the 500-meter school record (1:06.67) in 2008.

After winning the 500-meter dash at the Montgomery Invitational this year, Phillips said that he was not only going for Powell's record, he said that he was going for 1:05. He broke that school record at the county championship meet with a mark of 1:06.07, but the sub-1:06 still eluded him.

He won the 4A West region title in the absence of Thierry Siewe Yanga and freshman phenom and county champion, Seydi Sall of Richard Montgomery High School. At the state meet, less familiar opponents awaited him. His strategy was simple: run as hard as possible.

"I worked really hard to do this," said Phillips. "There were a lot of sprinters there so I thought they were going to come catch me so I was running for my life out there. They were all coming after me...My goal was to get to the break first. If I didn't, I'm sure I would have lost."

His reward was a new school record of 1:05.81 and the school's first male state title since Powell and Reumante won 2A state titles in 2008. This was Northwood High School's first 4A state title.

On the topic of winning Northwood High School's first male track state title in nine years, Phillips said, "I had to get another one. That's all I'm trying to do for my last year here: try to get Northwood back on the map."

It has been a regular occurrence this season for Springbrook to load up the 4x200-meter relay only to have it spoiled by Northwest's Josh Netterville's astounding closing kick. It happened at the county championship, the regional championship and again at the state championship. Springbrook has no time to feel sorry or regret. The 4x4, the last event of every meet, is their baby.

Mayen McClain of Springbrook does the passing in the 4x4. Springbrook's anchor initially was in no-man's land. He spent 350 meters closing a large gap on first place DuVal HS. In the final moment, with impeccable timing, he surged forward to just out-lean his opponent from DuVal. The DuVal opponent misjudged the finish line and/or fell in front of it, which made the finish look not as close as it actually was. Springbrook officially recorded 3:25.83 and Duvall recorded 3:27.10, but the two teams were essentially tied before DuVal's anchor fell.

"I knew I was going to catch him," McClain exuded confidence. "I just made sure I executed my race really well. I made sure I saved my arms and saved some energy in the middle because I know that helps me in the end."

The fact that the 4x4 is the final event of the day and everybody is exhausted works in Springbrook's favor.

"They're tired but they know that they trained for this," said Coach Bryan Steele.

"They know that they have to run. This is how they train. I push them hard... they know that they train together. They believe in each other. They work HARD and now they can enjoy their hard work."

The performance just missed MPSSAA's all-time top ten list by a fraction of a second. No Montgomery County team has run as fast at the indoor state meet since Paint Branch in 1977.

Springbrook had a state championship team in 1992. Steele and his athletes have heard the stories, but they also know that Springbrook's dominance sputtered out somewhere in the mid-90's. Jacari Ramsey helped to ignite the Blue Devils with the 4A 400m state title last spring, and now the remaining athletes have all the motivation they need with little push from Steele.

"It's just these guys work hard from day one," said Steele. "From when we started training, it was easy from them because they just worked so hard... It's the same guys that have been here since freshman year really. We got a couple guys that came on afterwards and they just joined in and know that we're not satisfied with being mediocre. We don't accept losing."


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