County Championship Recap
By: Kevin Milsted
Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Northwest High School swept boys and girls team titles for the third consecutive year at the 31st Montgomery County Indoor Championships on Tuesday. Four meet records were rewritten including the boys 800m (Northwood's Eldon Phillips, 1:57.15), girls 1600m (Walter Johnson's Abigail Green, 5:01.37), girls 3200m (Walter Johnson's Abigail Green, 10:45.75), and girls 4x200m relay (Blake High School, 1:42.33).

Walter Johnson's Abigail Green completed the distance triple by winning the 800-meter race in 2:23.59 after breaking meet records in the 1600m (5:01.37) and the 3200m (10:45.75).

"I definitely had the meet records, both of them, on my mind," said Green. "I was not at all expecting to win the 800. It's a really competitive field, and so I knew there were going to be a lot of talented runners."

In both the 1600 and the 3200, Green jumped out to an early lead and ran entirely alone. The 800m was a different story. She tucked in behind the leaders before deciding to take the lead and push the pace on the final lap. Blair High School's Morgan Casey appeared to be closing in on the final stretch, but a final burst of speed put Green over the finish line first.

"It probably wasn't the fastest race in the world. I think we all went out a little bit slow, but I was happy that I was able to still compete and still have a little bit left."

She is considering repeating the triple-attempt at the 4A regional meet on February 8, but she knows it will be a challenge at the Baltimore Armory venue.

"I was pleasantly surprised with how I was able to handle these races so if I did it at regionals and states it would be a big focus on the 16 and 32 and just see how I can do in the 8."

If Northwest High School's Eddita Pessima had an optimistic catch phrase, would that be an optimistic Pessimism?

"It's the first step to two more steps," Pessima repeated multiple times in a brief post-meet interview.

After Northwest High School secured its third consecutive boys and girls indoor county sweep, Pessima explained that winning means a lot, but the county meet is a stepping stone on the way to the state championship meet.

"It means seeing what we have and what we need to switch: what we need to work on and what we need to put together to bring us to the state meet and to make us win the state meet."

Northwest teammate Taylor Wright echoed that sentiment.

"It's always good to help out for the team. It always feels good to know your hard work paid off," said Wright.

Wright claimed her third consecutive 55-meter dash county title in 7.20 and her first indoor county title in the high jump 5-06. It tied for the #4 high jump performance in meet history, but her coach pulled her out of the competition after she had won. She is aiming for six feet later this season, but the busy county championship meet was not the right day for it. She also finished second in the 300m (41.09) and Northwest finished second in the 4x200 relay in 1:44.32 (#3 in meet history).

"I took a jump right before the 300 just to get a mark (5-feet), and then I jumped at 5-06. My coach said I should save my legs for the 4x2," she said.

Pessima also contributed in the high jump, taking second place in 5-04, and contributed to the 4x2 and 4x4 relays, but her main event is the 55-meter hurdles which she won in 8.20, the #2 performance in meet history. She says that she embraces her relatively new role as one of the top hurdlers in the state after her rapid ascent a year ago.

"There's no pressure," said Pessima. "It's my thing and that's what I got to do. I practice for it and now I just got to show it."

Certainly the state meet is the biggest stage for athletes, but the county championship meet offers an additional avenue to break records and showcase talents. Northwest's Khaloni Mganga just wrote his name in the Montgomery County record books about as many times as anybody in history without exactly breaking any records.

Mganga is the first male athlete in meet history to win county titles in the 55m, 300m, and 500m events (spanning multiple years). He is now tied with four other athletes with the most male career individual indoor county titles in meet history (4). He is now ranked #3 in meet history in the 55m (6.47), and #6 in meet history in the 300m (35.61).

What did he think about that? He wanted more:

"To be honest, I wanted to get under 35.5 in the 3 and under 6.5 - 6.4 in the 55," Mganga said. "It gives us a good outlook on states and regionals since Wise is ahead of us right now in the rankings so I need to make good times and make sure I can actually make those times consistent for states."

The above stats do not include the multiple county victories that Mganga contributed to in relays over the years. Unfortunately, if there was a lowlight for the team that normally feeds off relays, it was the sprint relays. Mganga hurt his knee and faded on the anchor leg, which made the 4x2 one of the few events in which Northwest did not score. According to Coach Youngblood, Mganga was okay after the race but was not allowed to run the 4x4, which placed sixth.

...And that brings us to the 4x8.

Northwest High School won the 4x800 relay, but only after Bethesda Chevy Chase was disqualified for taunting. B-CC's unofficial time of 8:09.5 would have gone down as the #5 performance in meet history, but instead Northwest will be eternalized as event champions with a #8 performance in meet history: 8:11.35.

The race itself was thrilling. B-CC fended off numerous challengers and anchor leg, Adam Nakasaka, held off several of Montgomery County's finest half milers, but emotions got the best of him as he crossed the finish line with a 1:58 split. A flash of hollering, gesturing and pointing was interpreted by an official as taunting. Nakasaka later apologized to that official and anyone that he may have offended.

"I agree with the official's decision of disqualifying," said Nakasaka. "My celebrations were kind of obnoxious, so I definitely agree with what they had to say about that. I'm mostly just mad at myself...I just want to apologize and say sorry to all my coaches, teammates, family and anyone from B-CC who might have been embarrassed by that and who I might have shed a negative light on."

Nakasaka finished out the meet with a runner-up finish in the 1600 and his first individual county title in the 3200 in 9:35.02, the #6 performance in meet history. Although B-CC's 8:09 performance has been stricken from the results, MoCo fans know that the defending 4x8 indoor state champs will be serious contenders come February 20.

It is worth noting here that the County Championship on January 30 was originally scheduled for January 16, but it was snowed out. Most athletes and coaches were of the opinion that the date change had little impact on the meet. For Richard Montgomery's Garrett Suhr, it made all the difference.

"A couple weeks ago, I was bit by a spider," said Suhr. "I itched it a lot and it got infected and spread all over my legs..."

Suhr eagerly elaborated on all the gory details. In summary, he needed to take five days off from running.

He explained that the original day of the county championship meet was one of the worst days for the infection. It's not clear if he would have attempted to run through the ailment, but the snow-out gave him a chance to recover.

He did not expect peak fitness on the county championship makeup date, but he discovered that his kick was still there when he summoned it. The 1600-meter race was slow by design according to Suhr, but when the lead pack crossed midway in 2:20, they started to pick it up. He dueled with Nakasaka over the final two laps and broke free with an incredible burst of speed on the final curve.

"I tried to go with 400 to go," Suhr recollected, "I really turned it on, and then I heard Adam and he passed me, and I thought I was going to lose it, but I found an extra gear with a hundred left to go, and I just used it."

After collecting his second career indoor county title in the 1600-meter event, Suhr made a similar move to break open the 800-meter race. At the top of the turn with 300-meters to go, Suhr surprised his opponents with an early kick.

"That caught me off guard," Northwood's Eldon Phillips said of Suhr's move. "I realized I was sleeping so then I kicked...gotta go with him."

Phillips and Poolesville's Ryan Lockett quickly regained ground and passed Suhr. Phillips and Lockett matched strides for the final 200-meter loop and both went under the previous meet record of 1:57.56. Phillips (1:57.15) had a slight edge at the finish line over Lockett (1:57.29).

Phillips, who clocked 1:55.43 earlier this season, explained that he and his coach did not enter the 500-meter race when they learned that he would not have an opportunity to race against Richard Montgomery's Seydi Sall. Though he was slower than his PR, he says that he is gaining confidence with every race.

"It actually means that every day I'm feeling more comfortable running from the front, so soon I will be able to go out faster. After my coach said I went out too slow in the 400, it was no longer about going for time. It was just about winning. For states, I'm trying to go faster."

Gaithersburg's Michelle Kamara took another massive leap forward in her progression on Tuesday when she took down the defending 500-meter county champion, Melissa Kameka of Damascus, and shaved nearly a whole second from her personal best. The time of 1:16.83 was the #5 performance in meet history.

"I really wanted to win that race," said Kamara. "I was seeded first and I knew I had to stay right with her because she was going, and I was like, 'I gotta go!'"

Kamara credited her improvement this season to running with the Firebirds in the summer and running cross country in the fall.

Walter Johnson's Andrew Birgin was feeling confident during warm-ups when he tossed what he felt like was a 56-foot throw. That warmup throw would have been a big improvement over his 54-01 performance at Christopher Newport University earlier this season, but during competition, he could not find his form.

"I kind of feel rusty around the edges in the ring," said Birgin. "As you can see, I fouled four of my throws."

"I didn't throw as well as I wanted to. It wasn't a bad day...There are a few positive takeaways. 52-07 is not horrible, but not what I really want right now."

He explained that he wants to hit sixty feet by the end of indoor track.


Question for the Editor
Wednesday, January 31, 2018
07:42:30 PM
What do you think about the DQ, mocorunning?

Better Question
Wednesday, January 31, 2018
08:31:44 PM
What did everyone think of the cheerleaders?

appalling insect bite
Wednesday, January 31, 2018
08:39:29 PM
Northwest should have been DQ'd for bringing cheerleaders. Taunting.

Nakasaka-Fry 2020
Wednesday, January 31, 2018
10:05:40 PM
Youngblood ruins everything #notmycountychamps

english major
Wednesday, January 31, 2018
10:44:49 PM
Optimistic pessimism...well done, sir.

Thursday, February 01, 2018
09:04:43 AM
shocked that Adam did that. Act like you've been there before. Especially when you have been there before. Winning is the best taunt of all. When I heard BCC was dq'd for taunting the last person I expected to hear was Adam. Very disappointing...

Thursday, February 01, 2018
09:14:23 AM
BCC's boys ended up finishing 6th place as a team. Without the taunt and resulting dq, they'd be runners up...I feel the worst for the other 3 members of the 4x800 relay team. They performed so well that when Adam crossed the line, they were county champions. Only to see that go to waste moments later...

Over it
Thursday, February 01, 2018
01:35:55 PM
I think DQ'ing in track is ridiculous. Unless you blatantly harm some one physically i.e. shoving or tripping, then let it go. You can gloat in football, basketball, and pretty much every other sport with only minimal consequences, if any. That is what makes sports fun to watch. Should Adam do that in the future? Probably not, because people who do it look like jerks. With that being said, it's up to him how he wants to be perceived by coaches and his competition. Don't penalize a good clean run, because, god forbid, a teenager wants to brag and boast.

Not a thought. Just a sermon.
Thursday, February 01, 2018
04:16:28 PM
You know we are talking about track right? The sport that DQs kids if their britches are showing or it has too many logos or until very recently if the runner wanted to wear earrings or a necklace? The matter at hand is not the excessive celebration, but the celebration before the race was over.

Thursday, February 01, 2018
04:38:24 PM
So there should be no taunting rule. Say he turned around and finished the race running backwards while pointing at someone and cupping his hand to his ear. That should be allowed because its fun to watch?

Over it
Thursday, February 01, 2018
06:11:18 PM
Exactly. These are big boys and girls. If they can drive a car, they can handle losing. If someone doesn't want to win with grace, then that is their own agenda. I'm sure Chad spoke to his kid and made him wish he had never done it, DQ or not.

Over It
Thursday, February 01, 2018
09:17:27 PM

Kevin Milsted
Thursday, February 01, 2018
09:46:59 PM
We are talking about national federation rules and nothing will get resolved here in these article comments, but I like the chatter. Removing the taunting rule is extreme but disqualification is also extreme. What other recourse do track officials have to enforce the rules? In football, back them up a few yards. In basketball, give the other team some free throws. In soccer and baseball, issue a formal warning followed by an ejection. Track is the only sport that takes points off the board and erases a performance from existence. Fair and just track officials offer informal warnings all the time. Maybe track officials need the ability to issue formal warnings, a 'yellow card' that gets athletes' and coaches' attention. Is ejection a less extreme alternative? Let B-CC keep their victory and disallow the offending athlete from competing the rest of the day? Just thinking outside the box.

Friday, February 02, 2018
09:34:44 AM
From what I was told the dq was controversial as many did not think that it was that bad. To the person that raised the point that track dq'd minor uniform violations, boxers showing under the shorts, earings, and things like that, I agree with you 100 percent. It was an is ridiculous. Here's the thing though, the rules are the rules and those are all objective. The taunting,sportsmanship rules are very much subjective. Celebration with your teammates is great, especially on a relay. But why even give the official a chance to question the actions, gestures, pointing? It's not football where it seems like that every good play results in athletes gesticulating with you want some of this? sort of things. Adam even said that he agreed with the dq. Someone said that these are big boys. Boys, as in not men. Teenagers. Look, we all make mistakes, I made my share when I was young so I get it. It's just very disappointing to hear that it was Adam. When I heard about the dq I said to a friend that has been around track for years and was at the meet that I'm sure that whomever it was, Adam must have given them a tongue lashing about it. Never thought it would be Adam. Actually, I never thought it would be a Montgomery County athlete. There are some counties in this state where this kind of incident wouldn't surprise me. Montgomery County is the one where I never thought this would happen...we can sit here and talk about rules and what should and shouldn't be changed and what is fair and what is not. But all of that is subjective and after the fact. Let this be a lesson to all the coaches and athletes of Montgomery County that they are better than this and act like the great young athletes that they are...

(Almost) Over It
Friday, February 02, 2018
05:38:02 PM
I respect your point, but I think it is wrong to think that Montgomery County Athletes are all moral upstanding citizens. Great county? Absolutely, but you're saying that they are less likely to commit an infraction like this than another county/area. I think that's trying to make this seem like the BCC runner (who I don't personally know) is this anomaly. To Kevin's point, I like the idea of a soccer like system where say a runner or group of runners get a warning and then the next incident is penalized somehow. Fortunately, rules can be changed every now and again. Maybe this particular rule can't be completely overhauled, but it coaches and officials shake up enough noise, it is possible.

The Real Question
Friday, February 02, 2018
09:09:25 PM
I think the DQ was just as the celebration was a little over the top. But I’m really not sure if I would DQ in case of a regional or state championship. Past pride and a great time, this DQ will not have an effect on BCCs most important meets of the season(in other words, good place to teach a kid about the “taunting” rule). If you agreed with the DQ, would you DQ in a region or state meet? Someone also explain how a yellow card system would be work.

Saturday, February 03, 2018
12:28:56 AM
Adam has shown some of the most sportsmanship gestures I have ever seen, In a 1600 he lapped me sevral times, but still went and found me to comend me for my effort even though I had a terrible race. He just made a mistake but all around he is a great runner and really nice guy. The dq seems ridiculous.

Saturday, February 03, 2018
02:25:58 PM
Emotions definetely just got the best of him. I would be excited if I outkicked some of the best 800 runners in the state.

Not Ryun Anderson
Wednesday, February 07, 2018
12:06:40 AM
Y'all mustve been forgettin about my boiiii Ryan Lockett. This mans has never lost a race that he actually cared about, including in this one. According to my plums, getting second in this race is equivalent to getting first because if you're not second your last.

Over It
Thursday, February 08, 2018
01:24:41 PM

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