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State Champion Insights Part III
By: Kevin Milsted

Abigail Green had to admit that losing the 1600-meter race was painful. It was not the first time that Annapolis's Maria Coffin had the better kick, but this time especially stung. Green led the entire way. Kicking on the final turn, she really believed that that would finally be the moment. She watched as Coffin moved by her with an unbelievable kick. Both girls went under the old 4A state record time of 5:00.59 with times of 4:58.99 and 4:59.06. Only Hayley Jackson of Patuxent had ever run faster at the Maryland indoor state meet, and she only did that the day before at the 1A-2A state meet.

"That definitely got me a little mentally," said Green, "And the fact that I kind of thought I had it, it was really, really disappointing, but I just kind of tried to bounce back quickly because I knew that I really only had like 50 minutes to bounce back. I just tried to wipe it out of my head, you know, be resilient, and just focus on the 32 because I promised myself if I got what I wanted in the 32 then I would just push the 16 away for now."

The 3200-meter race looked like a re-run of the 1600-meter race except the two star distance runners, Green and Coffin, took even less time to pull away from the field. Green led the entire time, cognizant that her familiar rival would be waiting for an opportunity to strike.

"I knew she was there the whole time. I could definitely feel that. I didn't really mean to lead it but I just kind of got out fast. Then [I was] waiting for her to make a move, but I just kind of ended up staying in first... I was feeling good with 800 to go so that's kind of when I decided just to go for it, finish strong, and just leave it all out there because I was done for the day."

The 3200 did not come down to a fierce kick. Green separated from Coffin by more than four seconds with a time of 10:50.83. It was the #6 time in state meet history according to the MPSSAA winter record book. Julien Webster's time of 10:54.91 from the 2A state championship will be the #8 performance in meet history and Coffin's time of 10:55.24 will be just outside of MPSSAA's top ten list at #11.

Not enough has been said about this golden era of girls distance running in Maryland that rivals the legends of the mid-90's. With four Maryland girls qualifying for Footlocker Nationals and the same four girls re-writing indoor track record books, track fans can't wait to see what this crop of girls does this spring. This writer believes that it will be extraordinary.

Green knows of the history.

"There have just been so many girls to go through the state that have done amazing at the state meet so it's really great to be kind of in that realm of girls who are always really dominant. It's really great to have great competitors within the state and I think they really push you to get the good times."

Poolesville's Ryan Lockett got more out of this season than he ever expected, especially since the beginning was rocky.

"I know I could have ran a faster 1600 earlier in the season just... I was sick and I struggled with my ankle injury just for a week. (It was a minor, minor sprain)."

He bypassed the December MCPS meets, but he did throw down a 4:28.37 1600-meter at the Ed Bowie Invitational in December. It was surprising that he took second place at the Montgomery County Championship in the 1600-meter and more surprising still that he took second place in both the 1600 and 3200-meter races at the 3A West Regional Meet.

The state meet 1600 played right into his hands. One opponent in particular took the race out very hard while Lockett tucked into a pack running at a comfortably hard pace. Lockett said that knowing his competition gave him a leg up. Tactically, he was always in position to move into the lead when he needed to.

"I know some people, they start out really fast," said Lockett. "I know how a lot of people run so I let them lead and I knew that if I was behind them with two laps to go, I was confident enough in my kick that I could pass them."

After his 1600m victory in a new personal best 4:23.16, he was feeling less confident about the 3200-meter race because some of his opponents would be completely fresh.

"I know a couple people didn't double so I was worried about them having a good race, but I just let the race play out. Sweeney had a great race especially for a double, but I knew that with a lap to go, I got the race."

Lockett is not yet sure if he will run at indoor nationals. He is already thinking about outdoors.

"This indoor season was kind of like just a preseason to outdoor track which is where I really want to put up some fast times and I really hope to improve."

B-CC Coach Chad Young nearly had a tough decision to make. He wanted Sebastian Jones and Adam Nakasaka to succeed in the open 1600-meter at states, but he also wanted to field the best possible 4x800. Despite not actually winning the 4x8 all year, Young believed that that team had a legitimate shot to win the 4x800-meter relay state title.

Said young, "Honestly, all year long, we feel like we've had a really good solid core of 800 runners, boys and girls. This goes back too last spring, too. We started coming together and realizing that we had a crew. So really the whole season long honestly we were looking at hopefully pulling through with a state title."

Doubling in the 4x800 and 1600 is difficult because of the short rest in between. Nakasaka's task of running well in the the 4x8, 1600, and 3200 is next to impossible, so he was going to be the odd man off the relay. Then B-CC's strong sophomore Nick Bailey got injured and there was no longer a decision to be made: both Jones and Nakasaka would run the relay.

The race itself was an intense shuffle of teams. The lead changed nearly a half dozen times in the opening minutes between Dulaney, Northwest, and Digital Harbor. B-CC stayed in the hunt through the first two legs thanks to Joe Viqueira and Hermon Tesfatsion. Jones got the baton in second place and moved into first place as he split fifty-five seconds for the first 400-meters.

"I was a little bit worried about that, honestly," said Young. "He went out so aggressively in 55 seconds. I was really worried he was going to hit the wall and Adam was going to have to do a lot more work than he had to. He was just aggressive and he ran with a lot of confidence."

Jones's split was somewhere north of 2:00, but he did not crash as Coach Young feared. He handed off the baton to anchor leg Nakasaka in first place.

Northwest challenged B-CC on the final leg, but Nakasaka surged each time Northwest crept in. On the final lap, the gap widened and B-CC crossed the finish line first in 8:13.05.

Photo Courtesy of Chad Young

It had been a tumultuous indoor season for Richard Montgomery's Rohann Asfaw who said that all he wanted to do this season was improve over last indoor season.

Said Asfaw, "This season I got sick just way too many times, just had the flu. Just random sicknesses here and there. Training wasn't going too well. So just not my best season."

On the President's Day holiday the day before the 4A state championship, he made a mistake that everyone can relate to: he took a nap.

"It's just hard for me to fall asleep after that, and the state championship being the next day, it's all you think about and you can't really relax... I got like three hours of sleep. I just wasn't functioning throughout the day. It was really hard to mentally come over that."

Sometime after winning 1600 and 3200-meter races at the 4A West Regional, he decided to scratch from the 1600 at the state meet so that he could go after a fast time in the 3200. He wanted to qualify for New Balance Indoor Nationals and he thought that running the 3200 fresh was his best chance. He wanted a time "anywhere from 9:15 to 9:24."

He ran hard from the gun, ignoring the fact that none of his opponents attempted to chase after him. He hit the mile split in about 4:43 which he was satisfied with, but his legs let him down over the second half. He clocked about 5:00 for the second 1600 meters.

"I got out well," he recalled. "I was at the 800 on pace and everything. Then I started to feel my legs. Started to tie up. Started slowing down a lot. Toward the end, just mentally I was pretty spent and just trying to just finish...I was more disappointed just with the time."

His time of 9:43.66 secured his fourth Maryland state title including outdoor track and cross country.

"I'm alright. I mean, I'm pretty pumped for outdoors. I'm optimistic about this season."

Gwenyth Asbury of Churchill High School cooled down as if nothing out of the ordinary happened at all.

"She was kind of in shock afterward," said Churchill head coach Scott Silverstein. "She didn't really understand what she just did. She wasn't even smiling. She wasn't excited. It was really weird. She was very low key."

Asbury's state-winning 800-meter performance was out of the ordinary. It was worthy of celebration. Eventually, it hit her.

She recalled: "I think when I was driving home and I called my dad just to let him know, I think that's when it really hit me, like 'wow, I actually won,' but before then I was a little bit in shock and I didn't really realize that I had won the state championship."

The win itself was not overly shocking. She and her coaches knew that she had as good of a chance as anyone. She won the 800-meter at the Montgomery Invitational in January. Then she watched from behind as Blair's Morgan Casey broke out with a 2:19.31 at the county championship meet and Paint Branch's Yasmine Kass threw down a 2:19.43 at the 4A Wet Regional. Asbury still had not gone under 2:22.5 entering the state meet.

She knew that she had a chance, but she also had her doubts.

"The other girls had run a lot faster times than I had run," she said. "And some of the girls had rested all of states to try to win the 800 and I knew that I already had a race under my belt. I was a little bit hesitant."

When the gun went off, two girls from CH Flowers High School rocketed off the starting line, creating separation from the field. Asbury knew not to overreact.

"I knew the girls from PG...I heard that they go out pretty fast anyways so I just let them run their race. And for the Montgomery County girls, I just wanted to stay on their hips as long as possible so I just kind of went with them when they went."

Silverstein described the final stages of the race:

"She started moving with about a hundred left. I don't think they knew she was there, honestly. I really got that sense afterward because she just went outside on that last turn and I think that she surprised them. Her last 200 was about a 34.6. In an 800 - the last 200 - that's pretty dang fast. I think they all kind of slowed up a little bit in that third 200 which allowed her to have the legs to kind of be the sprinter she used to be...she just kind of sling-shotted off the turn."

Asbury was a 400/500-meter type of runner during her freshman year before she tested the waters in the 800-meter as a sophomore. Asbury credited her base as a sprinter with giving her the advantage in a slower 800-meter race. Her winning time was a personal best 2:22.29, and it is worth noting that this came after running the fastest opening leg among all runners in the 4x800-meter relay.


Salty WJ Kid
2017-02-27 13:32:31

If only Abbey Green would run an 800.............

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