Introducing: The Springbrook Relay-Devils
Springbrook High School swept the boys sprint relays (4x1, 4x2, 4x4), took third place in the 4x8, and broke meet records in the 4x2 and 4x4.
Said Springbrook head coach Bryan Steele, "For counties, we just said, 'Let's put pride aside for the individual and just go for relays.'"
The county championship meet is not the Penn Relays where a team can focus on a few relays. Steele did not rest anybody because his eyes are
firmly affixed on the state-qualifying regional meet. He pushed his athletes especially hard in practice the week prior and ran several
runners in four or five races at the Katie Jenkins Invitational on Saturday. Most of his guys ran four races at the county meet, also.
Northwest, on the other hand, was being sneaky. Northwest did not bring a 4x4 to Penn Relays and only had a season best time of 3:28 as
opposed to Springbrook's MCPS-leading 3:20.75.
"Everyone just expected [Springbrook] to walk away with the thing [4x4] and they didn't expect us to be close, but I knew how good they
were," said Northwest head coach Robert Youngblood.
The night air dipped into the 60's when the sun fell behind the trees at Watkins Mill High School. By County Meet standards, the weather was
beautiful and the night was young. Thanks to a fast-paced meet with dry weather, there were more fans than usual wrapped around the stadium
when the boys toed the line for the 4x400-meter race at 8:40 PM. The raucous fans who stuck around until the end were treated to the fastest
4x4 in meet history.
Northwest jumped out to a commanding lead early thanks to the indoor 300-meter county champ, Khaloni Mganga. Springbrook's Emanuel Akins took
over the lead for his team on the second leg, and then Chase Osborne regained the lead for Northwest on the third leg. Springbrook's anchor,
Mayen McClain, hit top speed and regained the lead for Springbrook without hesitation.
Steele described the final leg: "I was yelling for him to relax because I know Yamitshi
from Northwest, I know that guy is pretty tough. I said, 'Mayen, alright you gonna be up front? Just relax.' ...I think he ran
48.7...something like that. I'll take it."
Springbrook crossed the line first in 3:21.44 with Northwest just a fraction of a second behind in 3:21.79. Both teams were under the
previous meet record of 3:22.12 set by Richard Montgomery in 2011.
Said Steele, "Even though [Northwest] hadn't run good yet, our guys know that
Northwest is not to be taken lightly so they know they gonna have to run. I'm glad that Northwest was here to push them."
Springbrook also received motivational assistance when Paint Branch challenged the Blue Devils for every stride of the 4x200. Springbrook
(1:28.23) and Paint Branch (1:28.40) were both under the previous meet record of 1:28.62 set by Blair High School in 2008.
"The fact that we have three seniors on relays, it was like, 'ok let's just try and get the record and then we can go for regionals'...I know
I worked them. Counties is just for bragging rights...we wanted to break the records. That was the main thing," said Steele. "Now we can
start prepping for regionals."
Northwest High School had more than enough to celebrate throughout the day although Northwest, too, designed its entire season around the
state championship meet. Northwest swept boys and girls outdoor county titles in the same year for the first time, a surprising fact
considering Northwest has won the most combined team titles in meet history. The 2005 Gaithersburg team is the only other school to sweep
boys and girls outdoor county titles in the same year.
Youngblood said that the emphasis for both the boys and girls teams was scoring as many points as possible in field events.
"I said, 'If we do that, that will help set the tone for what we are trying to do come regionals and states as long as we are going to have a
shot at going at Flowers.'"
The girls scored 59 points in field events and 137 points overall which broke the record for most points scored at the county meet, male or
Northwest had three girls with two or more individual victories: Taylor Wright won the high jump (5-06), 100-meter (12.02), and 200-meter
(24.78), Eddita Pessima won the 100-meter hurdles (14.54) and 300-meter hurdles (44.39), and Ashley Santini won the long jump (16-09.75) and
triple jump (35-06.50).
Pessima, the indoor state champion who is still very much shocked by her own
growth and success each time she achieves a new milestone, says that the key to success for herself and her Northwest teammates is practice,
"Even though after school sometimes we don't have practice," said Pessima, "me and my hurdle friends were always on the track just
practicing, practicing, practicing, because we know we cannot just be cocky and say, 'Oh, we got this.' No, people will show up and they will
show us out. So we always have to be prepared to always win."
Wright said that she was feeling the energy from the track during the high jump when she
matched her personal best of 5-06. She hopes to jump 5-08 by the end of this season.
After she won her third individual event of the day, this reporter was so bold as to ask her what it would mean if she won the James DeMoss
meet MVP award for the second consecutive year. It seemed like a no-brainer as the meet drew to a close. She did indeed win the DeMoss award
as voted on by coaches, but this quote is in the future tense, nonetheless.
"That would mean so much to me," said Wright. "There are so many great athletes out here and just to be chosen out of all of them would be so
fantastic. I would be really excited."
Walter Johnson's Abigail Green set the bar so high for herself, and likewise everyone
has great expectations for her. She runs so far out in front of the pack that it is easy to look past her and pay more attention to the race
for second place. While she did not approach her PR's at the 2017 county meet, the 5:03.10/10:59.90 performance was probably the best
1600/3200 double in meet history. Remember that last year's record-breaking 3200-meter race by Paint Branch's Bethlehem Taye and Green came
after both girls bypassed the 1600. Green's 10:59.90 3200 in 2017 was #3 in meet history only behind the two from last year.
"The 16 and the 32 were pretty close together so I wasn't expecting a crazy fast 32 but I was still pretty happy with it," said Green.
In addition to the short turnaround, she shared that she is still getting over the flu and missed considerable training during spring break.
She explained, "I had a combination. At first I had a bad cold and then it kind of turned into a sinus infection and then a flu and it was
just a mess. And so honestly I'm still kind of recovering from that. I guess I'm just trying to be patient and slowly getting to work harder
and harder and doing more workouts so that I don't push it so that I eventually get better."
Jabari Bennett's day started with high fives when he landed a 57-07.25 mark on his
first throw. Time after time, the shot landed around the 57 mark, but never further. Despite a performance that moved him up to #3 in meet
history, he shook his head on his final throw - another 57-footer.
"I really wanted to hit 60 and unfortunately it wasn't today," said the Blake High School junior. "I'm consistent with 57. It was a decent
day. I just have to keep practicing my technique and hopefully I'll be at 60."
Bennett's improvement indoors made it seem like sixty feet was right around the corner, but it has not come yet this spring. His indoor
success earned him a ticket to Philly to compete at the Penn Relays where, again, 60 feet was not meant to be.
"[Penn] was exciting. There were a lot of people. A lot of coaches. I was a little nervous but I threw 56. It was decent."
Kennedy's Raynard Bell is 2017's "Fastest Man in MoCo" and makes a case for one of
the fastest in meet history. His performance of 21.68 in the 200m is a new county meet record. His time of 10.80 100m ranks better than you
might think: #4 in meet history when hand-timed performances are adjusted up.
Poolesville's Ryan Lockett is the ninth male to pull off the 1600/3200m double in the meet's 38 year history. His 1600m time of 4:16.65 is #6
in meet history and his 3200m time of 9:28.73 is #8 in meet history. He is the first Poolesville athlete in meet history to win the 1600m.
Northwest High School now has ten outdoor boys and girls team county titles, more than any other school in meet history. Northwest's girls
broke the meet record for most points in meet history, male or female (137).
County Meet Firsts
Ryan Lockett is the first Poolesville boy to win the 1600-meter at the
county championship meet.
Eddita Pessima is the first Northwest girl to win the 100-meter high hurdles at the county championship meet.
Renaldo Smith is the first Sherwood boy to win the triple jump at the county championship meet.
Melissa Kameka is the first Damascus girl to win the 400m at the county championship meet.
Springbrook won the boys 4x100m relay for the first time in meet history.
Northwest won the girls 4x100m relay for the first time in meet history.
Watkins Mill won the girls 4x200m relay for the first time in meet history.
Top 25 in meet history - Girls
100m - Taylor Wright, Northwest, 12.02 (#11)
200m - Taylor Wright, Northwest, 24.78 (#18)
400m - Melissa Kameka, Damascus, 57.13 (#16)
800m - Morgan Casey, Blair, 2:18.08 (#22)
800m - Yasmine Kass, Paint Branch, 2:18.10 (#23)
1600m - Abigail Green, Walter Johnson, 5:03.10 (#12)
3200m - Abigail Green, Walter Johnson, 10:59.90 (#3)
3200m - Nandini Satsangi, Poolesville, 11:19.22 (#25)
100m HH - Eddita Pessima, Northwest, 14.54 (#8)
100m HH - Kaya Rae Dunbar, Paint Branch, 14.65 (#13)
300m IH - Eddita Pessima, Northwest, 44.39 (#2)
High Jump - Taylor Wright, Northwest, 5-06 (Tie-#5)
Shot Put - Janise Bestman, Paint Branch, 36-07 (Tie-#23)
Discus - Xanthi Limber, Clarksburg, 114-00 (#20)
Pole Vault - Paige Evans, Clarksburg, 9-06 (Tie-#2)
Pole Vault - Karalyn Schwartz, Clarksburg, 8-00 (Tie-#14)
Pole Vault - Ananya Bernardo, B-CC, 8-00 (Tie-#14)
Pole Vault - Whitney Snyder, Northwest, 7-06 (Tie-#24)
Pole Vault - Patricia Dirlam, Quince Orchard, 7-06 (Tie-#24)
4x100 - Northwest, 48.39 (#3)
4x100 - Watkins Mill, 48.86 (#7)
4x100 - Quince Orchard, 49.48 (#14)
4x100 - Gaithersburg, 49.49 (#15)
4x100 - Paint Branch, 49.71 (#20)
4x200 - Watkins Mill, 1:42.72 (#7)
4x200 - Quince Orchard, 1:43.49 (#14)
4x200 - Blake, 1:43.65 (Tie-#17)
4x200 - Paint Branch, 1:44.07 (Tie-#21)
4x400 - Paint Branch, 4:02.76 (#21)
Top 25 in meet history - Boys
100m - Raynard Bell, Kennedy, 10.80 (#4)
100m - Khaloni Mganga, Northwest, 10.92 (Tie-#16)
200m - Raynard Bell, Kennedy, 21.68 (#1)
200m - Mayen McClain, Springbrook, 21.93 (#9)
200m - Khaloni Mganga, Northwest, 21.96 (Tie-#13)
200m - Markus Vinson, Damascus, 22.13 (#22)
400m - Seydi Sall, Richard Montgomery, 48.52 (#3)
400m - Eldon Phillips, Northwood, 49.55 (#19)
800m - Thierry Siewe Yanga, Blair, 1:55.25 (#6)
800m - Ngoy Jeriel Yamitshi, Northwest, 1:57.31 (#23)
1600m - Ryan Lockett, Poolesville, 4:16.65 (#6)
1600m - Rohann Asfaw, Richard Montgomery, 4:20.61 (#19)
3200m - Ryan Lockett, Poolesville, 9:28.73 (#8)
3200m - Adam Nakasaka, B-CC, 9:32.17 (#17)
3200m - Rohann Asfaw, Richard Montgomery, 9:32.87 (#19)
300m IH - Juvet Ebai, Paint Branch, 39.55 (#14)
High Jump - Divinus Muteba, Northwest, 6-04 (Tie-#13)
Long Jump - Ty Mason, Blake, 21-11 (Tie-#14)
Triple Jump - Renaldo Smith, Sherwood, 46-07.75 (#2)
Shot Put - Jabari Bennett, Blake, 57-07.25 (#3)
Pole Vault - Adam Levey, Quince Orchard, 12-00 (Tie-#13)
4x100 - Springbrook, 42.94 (Tie-#5)
4x100 - Paint Branch, 43.15 (#11)
4x100 - Blake, 43.71 (#25)
4x200 - Springbrook, 1:28.23 (#1)
4x200 - Paint Branch, 1:28.40 (#2)
4x200 - Northwest, 1:30.00 (#10)
4x200 - Walter Johnson, 1:30.59 (#18)
4x400 - Springbrook, 3:21.44 (#1)
4x400 - Northwest, 3:21.79 (#2)
4x400 - Northwood, 3:24.51 (#11)
4x400 - Whitman, 3:25.24 (Tie-#18)
4x400 - Paint Branch, 3:25.81 (#24)
4x800 - Northwest, 8:04.50 (#25)
To prelim or not to prelim? That is the question.
Praise has been overwhelming for this year's fast pace and early end-time. Major components of a fast-paced meet include organization,
assignment of capable people to important tasks, and truly making an effort to ensure that everyone is lined up for the next event on the
track. Meet director Adrian McDaniel of Gaithersburg High School was a driving force behind all of those things. Good weather and no
technical difficulties definitely contribute, but the most significant reason that the county meet ended early was the elimination of sprint
and hurdle trials.
Mocorunning has no influence or bearing on such decisions, but I was curious what the masses
thought about the change, so I threw up a poll on Twitter. To my surprise, about two-thirds, or 66% of voters were in favor of sprint/hurdle
trials at the county meet. I have to wonder if those people were voting purely based on principal or if any of them have ever stood in the
rain after 10:00 PM on a weeknight waiting for the 4x4 to finish.
The case for removing the trials/prelims boils down to time management. Entry into the meet is already very restrictive for the sake of time
management. The sprint/hurdle trials add over an hour to the meet, conservatively. Even a superbly well-run meet like this year's meet would
have run until 9:45 or 10:00 PM with dash/hurdle trials. If there were any glitches, injuries, or hiccups, the meet would approach the 11:00
PM hour. That is not acceptable for the students nor for the coaches, officials, and parents who all have jobs to go to the next day. I have
spoken to coaches who use leave the day after the county championship because the long meet and late night are too exhausting. Students don't
exactly have that luxury.
The case for keeping the dash/hurdle trials is because it is the right way to do it. It ensures that the people competing their best on that
day get to race against the best. It weeds out bad or outdated seed times and rewards runners with a good lane assignment if they are racing
well on that day.
Did the removal of trials negatively impact this year's competition? Well, the second and third place finishers in the boys 100-meter dash
came out of the "slower" heat and they would have liked to be in the fastest heat. The 110-meter hurdles champion, Robert Gicheru, ran in the
fast heat, but he was in lane one, and we are all accustomed to seeing the 'V' formation materialize in the sprint/hurdle finals. That's not
to say that the outcome would have been any different if there were trials.
Is there a middle ground? Can we keep the dash/hurdle trials and keep the meet short? Can we boot a few heats out of each event? That would
require making the meet entry even more restrictive than it already is. The problem with that is that #1, it excludes too many varsity-
caliber athletes from the meet, and #2, it would make recovery time between events miniscule for athletes who want to run multiple events.
Eliminating the sprint/hurdle trials (all in the first hour of the meet) has little or no impact on recovery time between events as compared
to what is in place now.
Feel free to comment on this new development below.