High school track teams from across the state will gather at Hughes Stadium on the campus of Morgan State University in Baltimore this weekend, all with one shared goal in mind — a Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association title.
In Class 3A, chances are that the boys team title will come down to a battle between two Frederick County high schools, the defending 3A champion squad from Linganore, or the reigning Class 4A title holders from Gov. Thomas Johnson.
The Lancers claimed the team title at the Frederick County Championships on May 9, as sprinter Payne Hebron won both the 100 and 200 meters. Jeffrey Cook and Hebron took the top two places in the 400, Julian Coiner secured first place in the high jump. Linganore won the 400 and 800 relays and qualified for the state meet in all four relay events.
Linganore narrowly edged Potomac (Prince George's County) at the 3A state meet last year to earn the second state championship in program history.
Thomas Johnson, meanwhile, moved down from the 4A ranks to 3A this year, and the Patriots won the 3A West Region title on May 17. The program has a winning tradition after capturing the 4A state outdoor title the past three years and indoor state championships in three of the past four seasons, including the 3A crown in February.
Despite having competitors in just 10 of 18 events, Thomas Johnson will still be a strong contender for the 3A title.
“I learned never to doubt these guys during the indoor state meet,” said Patriots coach Drew Irving. “Coming in to that meet, I thought we were going to do pretty well, but they went out there and had some great performances and we won it without having anyone compete in six events. I have never been a part of a team that is so well rounded.”
Thomas Johnson's strength lies primarily in the field events, as Avon Davey and Joe Kass routinely finish among the top five in the shot put and discus, including a 1-2 finish in the shot put at the 3A West Region meet. Kass also took second in the discus, while Davey finished fourth. Terrence Stafford contributed a first-place finish in the long jump at the region meet, and second-place finishes in both the high jump and triple jump.
The distance races could ultimately be the difference between a repeat and disappointment for both squads. Linganore's Patrick Duboyce won the 1,600 at both the county and region meets, and finished second at both meets in the 3,200. Meanwhile, Thomas Johnson’s Hassan Omar won county and region titles in the 3,200 and took second in the 1,600.
The two runners have battled all year. Omar outpaced Duboyce last November in the 3A state cross country meet, finishing in second place, 10 seconds ahead of the Linganore junior. Then, at the indoor state meet, Duboyce was second and Omar took third in the 1,600, while Omar took third and Duboyce was fourth in the 3,200.
In the Frederick County outdoor championships two weeks ago, Duboyce was victorious by .04 seconds in the 1,600. In the region meet, Omar held the edge by .13 seconds in the 3,200. Both athletes will attempt to collect as many points as possible for their teams in the state meet, which should mean a thrilling final two races for this rivalry.
“It's just a good thing we are in such a good county,” Irving said. “[Linganore] pushes us, we push them. Frederick County has always had good runners, cross country and track, it hasn't changed and I don't think it ever will change. They beat us in the county meet, and we won at the regions. They could turn right around and beat us at states, anything could happen, but we will be ready.”