Montgomery Invitational Recap
By: Kevin Milsted
Sunday, January 14, 2018

The Bullis School track team may travel a lot, but you may notice that it does not go after every record in every meet. A methodical coaching staff targets specific things to work on in each meet so that each Bulldog usually only competes in one or two events.

At the seventeenth Montgomery Invitational, Coach Joe Lee targeted the girls relays, and Bullis brought down the hammer from the opening gun with a 1:37.28 4x200-meter relay. It was a Montgomery County all-time indoor record, a Montgomery Invitational meet record, and a Prince Georges Sports and Learning Center venue record.

"I thought we would run about 1:38," said Coach Joe Lee. "We ran 1:38 last week with a DQ so I figured if we had clean exchanges we could run 1:38 again, but they exceeded expectations."

PG Sports and Learning Center venue records are largely held by high school national champions who went on to NCAA national titles and Olympic careers. Shaniya Hall, Leah Phillips, Ashley Seymour, and Masai Russell smashed the venue 4x200 relay record previously held by the 2006 Francena-McCorory-led national-championship-winning Bethel High School team (1:39.52) by two full seconds.

"They are great kids...great character," said Lee. "We set the bar for them and they will exceed it in most cases."

It was a tall order for Bullis to come back nearly nine hours later and compete at their finest in the 4x400-meter relay, especially for Kasey Ebb and Sierra Leonard who doubled back from the 4x800 relay. Bullis's 3:46.79 4x400-meter relay meet record dazzled all but Coach Lee. For the defending New Balance Indoor National Champions who ran 3:39.70 indoors last year and also ran 3:46.29 just last week, expectations were higher.

"We got a big one coming up this weekend at the Virginia Milesplit meet. Jamaicans are coming to town. That's where the big test will be," said Lee, referring to the Virginia Showcase mega-meet to be hosted at Lynchburg College in seven days.

Montgomery Invitational event winners from Montgomery County schools include:
Abigail Green of Walter Johnson in the mile (5:03.86)
Cierra Pyles of Bullis in the triple jump (38-09.50)
Bullis's girls 4x200 and 4x400 relays (1:37.28/3:46.79)
Khaloni Mganga of Northwest in the 55m dash (6.58)
Peter Antonetti of Gaithersburg in the 800m (1:59.65) and 1600m (4:25.05)
Ryan Lockett of Poolesville in the 3200m (9:22.37)
Andrew Birgin of Walter Johnson High School in the shot put (52-05.50)
Northwood in the boys DMR (10:42.48)

A year ago, Walter Johnson's Abigail Green had seed problems. She ended up in the slow heat of the county championship 1600m because she had no seed (she broke the meet record with a 5:02.00 out of the slow heat). After clocking 10:06.27 in the 3000m at Penn State a week ago, and a 5:03.86/2:20.74 mile/800m double at the Montgomery Invitational, seeding is no longer a concern.

"I was trying to get some speed work and get a seed time for counties because I also didn't want to have what happened last year when I was in the slow heat of the 16. I want to try to make sure to be in the fast heat for all my races," said Green.

Henceforth, her focus will be on hard work and training so we should expect to see more doubles and even triples including more 800's. She declared in a post-race interview that she intended to compete in the 1600, 3200, and 800m at the upcoming county championship in four days.

Poolesville's coach, Prasad Gerard, confirmed that Ryan Lockett, like Abigail Green, will attempt the 1600, 3200, 800m triple at the upcoming county championship meet. As for the Montgomery Invitational, Lockett's workload was a bit lighter with just the 3200m. Lockett outkicked B-CC's Adam Nakasaka on the final lap of the invitational 3200m to win in 9:22.37. It was the fastest 3200m performance by a Montgomery County athlete in meet history, but Gerard said that they were hoping for about ten seconds faster.

Richard Montgomery's Garrett Suhr intended to do the same mile/800 double as Abigail Green at the Montgomery Invitational, but he was pulled from competition after the mile when he said that he felt lightheaded. Suhr was the top seed in the mile after running 4:22.95 at Penn State a week ago, and he raced confidently out front for the majority of the race, but was passed at the last moment to take second place in 4:21.81.

"I was trying to see how fast I could go," said Suhr. "...I thought I had the win and the last step I didn't hear anybody, and then he just passed me, and I was very confused and he got me by 0.02. But you live and you learn."

He admitted that it was reminiscent of last year's county championship when he passed Poolesville's Ryan Lockett at the final moment in the 1600m. He joked that now he knows how Ryan felt.

Gaithersburg's Peter Antonetti was not accepted into the seeded mile or 3200 at the Montgomery Invitational, but he said that he wants to get to that level. He backed up his words by becoming the only male double event winner of the 2018 Montgomery Invitational with wins in the 1600m (4:25.05) and 800m (1:59.65).

"I just feel pumped" said Antonetti, "because I want to be qualifying for the bigger races. I want to be in the mile and the two mile so I'm looking at trying to get to my goals at the end of the season."

He credited a change in mentality and a switch to an aggressive racing style for his marked improvement this season. Coach Aaron Anderson added that Antonetti is also not deterred at all by the sub-freezing weather when it comes to training.

"I want to be in the fast heat...just get a chance to race against Garrett Suhr and Ryan Lockett...just to race them and get that feeling of highest level racing."

Northwood's Coach, Giovanni Reumante, wanted to keep his top boys fresh for the distance medley relay to qualify for indoor nationals and the Penn Relays. He altered his plans on race day when an athlete could not compete in the open 500m due to injury. He substituted star runner Eldon Phillips into the 500-meter race. Phillips's race turned into a solo time trial in which he recorded a time of 1:05.79. It was good for second place overall and the fastest 500m performance by a Montgomery County athlete in meet history.

According to Reumante, Phillips had been sick and had not run for a week. He still returned and mustered a 1:58 split on the relay. Unofficial splits included: Eldad Mulugeta 3:19 in the 1200m, Lamine Fofana 54.6 in the 400m, Eldon Phillips 1:58.2 in the 800m, and Obsaa Feda 4:29.5 on the 1600m anchor leg. The official time was 10:42.48.

The entire race was back-and-forward between Northwood and Tatnall High School, a team from Delaware. Reumante prepped his boys for that exact scenario. On the final lap, the two teams were neck-and-neck when Feda summoned a kick that his opponent could not match.

It was the fastest indoor DMR by an MCPS team since 2010. Reumante was hoping to get under 10:40 to increase chances to get into the Penn Relays, but they will probably need to wait until the spring to try again.

"I'm happy they got the win," said Reumante. "I wanted them to have fun a few days before counties. We didn't want to do too much so just let them have fun. They got they win and Obsaa ran a really good leg. He had a big finish."


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