Montgomery County track and field will suffer a loss this summer, but it will be a step forward for those departing.
After building the Northwest High School girls team into a state champion and national contender the past few seasons and establishing the equally impressive Titans Track and Field Club, the husband-wife coaching tandem David and Alexia Knight is leaving the area.
David Knight, a bio-tech sales specialist with pharmaceutical company EMD Serono, was promoted to a position that requires him to relocate to the Dallas area. Leaving with her parents will be Northwest High freshman Kennedy Knight. The couple’s elder daughter, India, is graduating from Northwest and will be a freshman on a track scholarship at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, this fall.
Departing is bittersweet for the family.
“I’m going to miss Maryland so much,” Alexia Knight said during Saturday’s Maryland Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Baltimore. “We loved our time here. It’s a blessing that David got promoted but we’re going to have so many memories.”
David and Alexia met while both ran for Iowa State University’s track and field team, where David also played football.
Twelve years ago, the Knights arrived in Maryland from their native Iowa when Alexia received a promotion and transfer through her former employer, Clinique Cosmetics.
They had a plan in mind, and in 2004 the Titans club was established.
“I ran [NCAA] Division I track and ran professionally and my wife ran Division I track, and the opinion we had was that we thought Montgomery County was more distance oriented,” David said. “We just wanted to spread sprints in this area. We believe if you have a [400-meter run base] then you can go into either direction. That was our main objective.”
With a clear direction, the Knights spotted state sprinting legend Olivia Ekpone (now a freshman with two-time NCAA defending national champion Texas A&M) while she was in middle school and persuaded her to join their Titans program.
David started coaching at Thomas S. Wootton High in 2006, and in 2007, Ekpone started her freshman year at the school.
But in 2008 India started at Northwest High and the Knights headed there to guide the program. Ekpone moved into the Northwest zone and spent her last three years of high school there.
The Knight family’s impact was felt throughout the Northwest and Titan track families.
“It was just a great experience [running with the Knights],” said Northwest senior Camry Torian. “To be able run for a good track team and being known for what we do, I guess it was a great experience. They definitely built a really strong team. We already had a young team this year and most of them will be coming back. Things may change a little bit now, but the running is still going to be great.”
Powered by Britt Eckerstrom (now a freshman with the Penn State University women’s soccer team), Ekpone, Torian, India Knight and others, the Jaguars captured the Maryland 4A indoor and outdoor titles last year. They followed that feat by winning the 800- and 1,600-meter relays at the New Balance Nationals last summer.
“Last year winning states was definitely a big thing for me and I will never forget it,” India said. “Then at [New Balance] we won two relays there. Then this year, winning the state [800 relay] and [3,200 relay] were definitely highlights for me. My dad is kind of the more laid back coach and my mom is a little bit harder. They’re kind of more laid back coaches and I kind of like that style, and I think it works for the team more than a military style.”
As for Kennedy, who has made an immediate impact in Montgomery County, with a strong indoor and even better outdoor campaign, the departure will signal a new beginning.
Her parents are excited that she will have the opportunity to train and compete in the ultra competitive state of Texas. Kennedy has equal enthusiasm.
“I have a lot of friends there from meeting them at junior nationals and meets during the summer,” Kennedy said. “I’m really excited. I’m sad to leave my friends but leaving is the best thing for me and my future.”
David and Alexia are pleased with the measures they have taken to ensure that the Titans and Northwest will continue to thrive in their absence.
“I’m still going to be in contact with those kids trying to get them set up for college,” David said. “Times don’t lie, and I have the connections with all these colleges. That’s the only thing I’m trying to ensure the kids is if they’ve been [under our tutelage], I’m a fan and I’m going to work for them.”
“I know they’ve always won at what they do,” India said of her parents. “Starting the Titans and then winning at Northwest, it definitely makes me and my sister have self-pride in my parents. And having that self-pride definitely helps the rest of the team feel the same way.”
Montgomery County State Champions
Athletes from Montgomery County schools who won their events at the Maryland Outdoor Track and Field Championship meet last weekend:
4A girls 3,200 relay: Sula Ndousse-Fetter, Gaby Go, India Knight, Naomi Sheppard, Northwest
4A girls 3,200: Caroline Guiot, Whitman
4A girls 800 relay: Dana Eckerstrom, Kennedy Knight, India Knight, Camry Torian, Northwest
4A girls 400: Gwen Shaw, Wootton
4A girls 800: Brittney Wade, Bethesda-Chevy Chase
4A boys 800: Joshua Trzeciak, Wootton
4A girls 1,600 relay: Casey Dowling, Grace Corbett, Sylvia Deppen, Gwen Shaw, Wootton
4A boys triple jump: Kaifa Boyce, Gaithersburg