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Pulliam pushes QO girls to first indoor title
Junior helps win relay, logs two wins, a runner-up; Walter Johnson takes boys title
[Headline on Page B2] Cougars' Pulliam, Bulldogs' Hayes shine
By VINCENT PULUPA
Journal staff writer
LANDOVER - Karen Pulliam never expected to be so exhausted by night's end Friday. But for the Quince Orchard junior and the rest of the Cougar girls indoor track team, it was worth it.
Pulliam, The Journal's Cross Country Runner of the Year in the fall, won the 3,200- and 1,600-meter races, ran a leg on the Cougars' championship 3,200-meter relay team, and placed runner-up in the 800 meters - an event she did not even expect to run - to help Quince Orchard amass 58 team points and edge Gaithersburg (53) for its first-ever county indoor championship at the new Prince George's Sports and Learning Complex. Walter Johnson's girls took third with 44 points. Poolesville finished fourth (30) and Watkins Mill claimed fifth (26).
Walter Johnson won the boys title Friday. The Wildcats collected 59 points to push aside runner-up Watkins Mill (44) and third place Paint Branch (38). Churchill, led by record-setter Steve Hayes, took fourth (32), and Gaithersburg finished fifth (31).
Because the girls competition was so close, QO coach Patrick O'Connor submitted Pulliam's name to race in the 800-meter. She had not even attempted the race since her freshman year, but O'Connor knew the Cougars needed every last point to keep their advantage over Gaithersburg.
Pulliam, drained from her earlier races, didn't even want to run the 800, but her runner-up finish was ultimately the difference in QO's championship. Pulliam finished in 2:29.95 - sandwiched between Gaithersburg's Megan Kirby (first place, 2:27.90) and Jamie Smith (third place 2:31.70).
"I knew it was going to be a long day but [running the 800-meter] wasn't for ourselves, it was for the team," said Pulliam, who ran alongside Lindsey Schneider (also a late-edition) and Erin Obermeier.
The 800-meter event was run after the mile and two-mile races, the two events Pulliam won.
"It's so hard to recover after a two-mile, because you're just dead," Pulliam said. "Everything adds up - the 3,200-relay, the 1,600, the 3,200 and then the 800. Lindsey and I raced four miles so we knew we had to conserve energy throughout the day."
QO coaches actually told Pulliam during her 3,200 race to slow down in order to save energy for the 800 event that followed. Pulliam, who built a sizable lead, lapped the tail-end of the field three times and pulled out the easy victory, despite holding back.
"It was very strange to run the 800," said Pulliam, who tried the event once as a freshman. "I know it doesn't make sense because it's a shorter race for Lindsey and I, but it's still a race where we have to beat people who are fresh. I didn't even think I was going to take second. I was going to take whatever points I possibly could."
Pulliam's split time of 2:24 in the 3,200-relay was better than Kirby's championship time of 2:27.90. But Pulliam graciously noted that running a relay leg is far different than running an individual race, and credited Kirby for her performance.
Schneider, a junior, and senior Stacy Broadbent also played prominent roles in the Cougars' championship.
Schneider, who ran on the winning 3,200-meter relay team, finished fifth in the 1,600 and third in the 3,200 individual races. Broadbent and Obermeier, a junior, were the second and third legs of the championship 3,200-relay team.
"We're really happy with the team title," said Pulliam. "It's really something for us to be proud of and we're thrilled we were able to put it all together as a team. In the past, we've always lacked depth to support our firsts and seconds, but that's the difference this year. We have more people coming out and more people contributing."
For QO and Pulliam, the next step is the regional championships in two weeks at the Baltimore Armory.
"We know how much potential we have as a team so we were hoping it would come together," said Pulliam. "We have regionals to get ready for, and we're looking forward to it."
WJ's boys did not win any individual titles, but they placed in 10 of 12 events and had 14 place-finishers overall, including five runners-up. The Wildcats leaned on senior Matt Lockard's runner-up finish in the 500-meter run and sixth-place finish in the 300. Junior Fanuel Chageza took home runner-up honors in the 800 and 1,600 runs, and Florent Groberg finished third in the 1,600 and fifth in the 3,200.
While the Wildcats walked away with the boys team title, Churchill's Hayes stole the show. He set new county marks in the 1,600 and 3,200 individual runs Friday and anchored the Bulldogs' 3,200-meter relay team that placed runner-up to Magruder despite beating the previous county record by nearly five seconds.
Hayes blew away the field in the 1,600-meter in 4:27.89, breaking the previous record of 4:28.90 set by Matt Ellis of Bethesda-Chevy Chase in 1991. Chageza (4:35.00) and Groberg (4:41.18) of Walter Johnson finished runner-up and in third place, respectively. Surprisingly, senior Marcus Hershberger of Gaithersburg, a Journal first team selection in cross country and track, finished fourth in 4:42.99.
Hayes followed up that performance by winning the 3,200-meter in 9:54.34, eclipsing the previous county meet record of 9:59.60 set by Matt Seymour of Magruder last year. Mike Gaske of Wootton took runner-up honors by finishing in 9:54.59 (also under Seymour's record). Hershberger took third in 10:12.22, and Brian Flynn of Damascus, who took fifth in the 1,600, finished fourth in 10:17.01.
Hayes later said it was Gaske who made breaking the record possible because of the sizable lead he took on Hayes to start the race.
By the halfway point, Gaske had built a three-step lead on Hayes and it wasn't until the final 400 meter that Hayes made his move.
"We had a couple laps left, and I noticed Mike looked back at me a couple times," said Hayes. "That's when I knew I had a chance. If he beats me, it's usually in the middle of the race. I just felt a little stronger at the end this time around."
Earlier Friday, Hayes almost pulled off another remarkable comeback in the 3,200-relay. The Bulldogs trailed Magruder by twenty meters when the baton was passed to Hayes, who ran anchor for Churchill.
Senior Dan Adams of Magruder, the Colonels' anchor leg, sensed Hayes coming up from behind but could not tell how close he was until he crossed the finish line and glanced back. Adams and Hayes waged one of the most memorable home stretch finishes in a relay event in recent years, but Adams held off the Churchill standout in the stretch.
Magruder's team of leadoff Ed Hayden, junior Jeff Martyn, junior Anand Nagaraj and Adams, finished in 8:21.33, breaking the previous record of 8:26.70 set by Watkins Mill last year. Despite its second-place finish, Churchill's squad also eclipsed the old record with a time of 8:21.80. Walter Johnson took third in 8:32.81.
Because the PG complex's track is in excellent condition, Adams said he couldn't actually hear Hayes' footsteps. This wasn't an issue at the Baltimore Armory where the county championship used to be held. The Armory, notorious for its hardwood floor, has never been a favorite of runners or coaches because of its slippery surfaces.
"I could hear the crowd so I knew he was chasing me down the whole time," said Adams. "It was exhilarating - the greatest feeling in the world. It was all in slow motion - like a dream - but once you cross that finish line, it's like Heaven."
"I'm not surprised at all [that Steve almost caught me]. He's a beast; He's the man. I don't think anyone can take him in the mile or the two-mile and his split is the fastest 800 in the county."
In fact, to almost pull off the miracle comeback. Hayes ran his anchor leg in 1:57. Afterward, he joked with good friend Hubert Koj of Watkins Mill, who won the 800-meter race in 2:01.03, that his split time was faster.
"When I came off the corner, I thought I had a chance," said Hayes. "I needed about 10 more feet at the end, that's all. But I'm sure he would've held me out a little longer if I actually did catch up to him."