It was when Thomas S. Wootton High School's Urgy Eado handed the baton off to the best 800 meter runner in the state, Josh Trzeciak, that Montgomery County officially shut the door on every other area team in Maryland. There would be no schools, aside from the Class 3A girls, that would be able to challenge Montgomery County's distance running fleet on Friday during the state track and field meet at Morgan State University.
First it was the Bethesda-Chevy Chase's girls 3,200 relay in 4A, anchored by sophomore Caroline Beakes, that captured the first Maryland title, closing in 9 minutes, 31.99 seconds, and was followed by Wootton (9:42.03), Northwest (9:43.38) and Walt Whitman (9:43.56).
“I don't know, I think every team builds off each other and I think we always challenge each other in races,” B-CC starting leg Laura Nakasaka said. “Just being around such talented runners — it helps our team grow and their teams grow.”
The boys from Albert Einstein (3A) then took the proverbial baton from the B-CC girls, slugging through a harsh headwind on the backstretch of the track at Hughes Stadium to take a wire-to-wire victory in 8:12.95 over Mount Hebron (8:15.29) and Hereford (8:16.90). The quartet of Titans posed for pictures, hugged and high-fived, and then turned their heads to watch their county rivals, Wootton, pick up where they left off.
“I was a little bit nervous,” Titans anchor Ryan Merrell said. “I got the baton in a closer position than most of the other handoffs, I held it for 400 [meters] alright and then about 650 to 700 meters in we're on the curve, I checked back, and No. 2 was too close for comfort and I was just thinking, '100 meters to the state title' so that kept me going.”
And when Trzeciak so calmly cradled the baton from Eado's outstretched arms, accepting a healthy 10 to 15 meter lead, the state's most powerful distance county asserted itself to the fullest, winning in 8:07.37 to claim three of four state championships in the big school 3,200 relays.
“We're just really deep,” Wootton second leg David Levine said. “Really good competition in all of our meets and I think it really carries over to the state meet.”
Just like that, less than 45 minutes into the big school festivities, Montgomery County had picked up three state titles, one silver, one bronze, one fourth and several other scoring finishes, all in all adding up to 61 points as a county.
“Our girls killed it out there too,” said Trzeciak, who has just about fully healed from taking a spike to the heel a few weeks ago during the county championships. “Our coach is going to be really happy when we get back.”
And the passel of distance specialists wouldn't quit with the relays. Beakes was back at it as an individual in the 3,200, pushing the top seed Isabel Griffith of Delaney to the breaking point and then outkicking her for her second state championship of the day in 10:56.52, the first time all year she's broken 11 minutes, to edge Griffin by less than three seconds.
“I don't have a very good kick at all,” Beakes admitted. “I was just trying to push her to see when she couldn't hang on anymore but it was rough. I've never raced against a runner with that good of a kick so ... I was hoping to create a gap to make it so I didn't have to outkick her.”
Clarksburg's William Bertrand, who anchored the Coyotes' sixth place 3,200 relay, then assembled a fast final lap in the 3,200 to break away from a group of four contenders in 9:29.46 to avenge a second place finish at last year's meet.
Note: The results for the 800 relays will not be official until tomorrow morning. Story will be updated when results are official.
Aside from the 3,200, and the 3,200 and 800 relays, all other events on the track were preliminary heats serving as qualifiers for Saturday's final running.
Wootton's Sylvia Deppen, who just last week admitted that running the 100 was “for fun,” became the first athlete in the state to break 12 seconds in the event, running a blistering 11.97 to become the No. 1 seed by a long shot. It will likely come down to her and Bowie's Lexus Ramsey (12.16) in Saturday's finals. Locals running alongside the two favorites will be Deborah Olawuni of Montgomery Blair (12.31) and Bethany White of Col. Zadok Magruder (12.55).
Not surprisingly, Deppen will be joined by the state's top hurdler, teammate Gwen Shaw, in the finals for Saturday's 100 hurdles. Shaw ran a meet best 14.80 while Deppen crossed in 14.92 to take the fourth seed. Freshmen hurdlers Alexus Pyles of Clarksburg (14.94) and Leondra Correia of Northwest (15.47) will round out the field.
Shaw will also get a shot against Ramsey in the 200 meters, picking up the second seed in 25.26 to Ramsey's 24.81. Joining the Wootton standout in the field are James H. Blake's Martha Sam (25.80) as well as Olawuni (25.88).
For the boys sprinters, Watkins Mill's Patrick Schlosser (11.12), Northwest's Jalen Walker (11.18) and Gaithersburg's Solomon Vault (11.20) will all be representing Montgomery County in the 100. Walker and Vault will also be back in the 200, qualifying in 22.52 seconds and 22.75 respectively, and will be joined by Vault's teammate, Vicco Bedell (22.83).
As Beakes, Bertrand and the distance runners were commanding the oval, Clarksburg's Claudia Ababio was pulling off one of the meet's bigger upsets, supplanting Bowie's Antonella Taylor in the discus with her toss of 125 feet, 5 inches, topping the Bulldog by four feet.
Per the Clarksburg twitter account, the toss was also a new school record.
Richard Montgomery had a golden day in the throws as well, with senior Artavius Simpson claiming the top spot in 49-04 to beat Catonsville's Brandon Dixon (48-10).
In the sand, Blake's Gaston Assoua and John F. Kennedy's Michael Scott went one-two in the long jump, with Assoua claiming gold with a bound of 22-01.75. Scott splashed in at 21-01.75 while Northwest's Joseph Williams (20-02.25), Quince Orchard's Elliott Davis (19-10.50) and Clarksburg's Jared Thompson (19-07.25) all scored, placing fifth, sixth, and seventh, respectively.
As expected, Clarksburg first-year high jumper and heavy favorite Kaos Williams won the 4A title, clearing 6-06, while Quince Orchard's Jack O'Keefe finished runner-up in 6-04.