It was a perfect start to DeMatha Catholic High School first-year coach Leon Snyder’s career and a fitting finale for the seniors graduating from the Hyattsville school’s track and field program.
On May 19 the Stags won their first Washington Catholic Athletic Conference title since 2008, sneaking past Gonzaga, 143-136.
“It was emotional considering all that the guys had to go through,” Snyder said. “All the seniors especially. Every time they stepped on the track they thought about getting that title. I’m speechless.”
Senior Chris King, who had never run track prior to this season, won the 200 meters and the long jump. His leap of 22 feet, 2 1/4 inches ranks No. 10 in the state this season.
“I started out running [track] to train for football,” said King, a 6-foot-4 wide receiver who will play football at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh this fall. “I just had a natural athletic ability and I saw how successful I was and I started believing in myself.”
The Stags also got a lot of help from their relay teams, all four of which are comprised of a young nucleus with two freshmen on each. The 400 and 1,600 relays both took first, with the pair of rookies on the 1,600 relay team splitting 51 seconds each. The 3,200 relay took second and the 800 relay rounded out the effort in third.
“In my first year as head coach I guess this is really special because a lot of the guys are real young,” Snyder said. “We have lots of freshmen and sophomores and the freshmen are really grasping it.”
Brandon Fitzgerald and Cameron Phillips both cleared 6 feet in the high jump, taking second and third respectively, and Michael Moore’s heave of 45 feet, 6 1/2 inches in the shot put was good for first. DeMatha had top-three finishes in 10 of the meet’s 17 events.
“The whole goal was to maximize our runners for the most part,” Snyder said.
Our Lady of Good Counsel, which came in third with 121 1/2 points, was led by senior hurdler Kyle Martin, who won the 110 and 300 hurdles. His time of 14.23 seconds in the 110 hurdles is among the top five times in the state this season, and he’s No. 8 in the state in the 300 hurdles.
“He had an exceptional day,” said Good Counsel coach Buddy Crutchfield. “He did everything I asked and way beyond that. I asked him to do the high jump and the triple jump, neither of which he had done all year, and he got second [in the triple jump] and fourth [in the high jump.]”
Martin did try the triple jump previously. Once, in the second meet of the season at the Quince Orchard Cougar Relays. But that was just for fun, Crutchfield said.
“He’s an exceptional athlete,” Crutchfield said. “He can do it all: triple jump, high jump, hurdles, sprints. He could have placed in the 200 [meter] if I would have let him run it.”
In the meantime, the 200-meter belongs to King, and the WCAC crown belongs to a DeMatha team with a young nucleus and room to grow.
“They should definitely be winning in the future because the freshmen are beating seniors,” King said. “They should be winning championships.”