In defending its Howard County championship at the Ivan Walker Memorial championship meet Friday night at the Prince George's Sports and Learning Complex, the Atholton boys team scored points in 14 of the 15 events. And in the 15th event, the 4x400 relay, the Raiders still scored points, even if they didn't show up in the final tally.
Going into that event, the last of the meet, Atholton held a comfortable lead over the rest of the field. They went on to win with 119 points, well ahead of runner-up Reservoir, which finished with 74.
So coach Elbert Robinson let a few of his less-heralded runners compete in an early victory run. Reserves Michael Burdette, Jamal Thompson, Chris Turner and Raymond Liu finished 10th out of 11 teams in the final relay, but they did get to run.
The other kids who had come down and been here all year ... those kids worked hard, too, Robinson said. They were sitting up there in the stands and (we had) an opportunity to let them run.
And the reason that the Raiders had that opportunity was because of how well they performed in the first 14 events. Atholton won the 4x800 relay, the first event of the meet, and scored at least two points in every event leading up to the 4x400. Brandon Hairston won both the 300 and 500, Andrew King won the 55 dash and Kenny Thomas won the long jump.
King won the 55 dash shortly after taking fifth in the 300.
After the 300, I didn't think I would be able to get first, but I was still able to prevail, he said. You've just got to be able to bring your fastest and hope that you win. The whole team impressed me.
Glenelg's Robbie Creese, who ran the 800 in 1:58 flat earlier this season to tie the county record set by River Hill's Shane Stroup in 2002, set out to break the mark on Friday night. He fell just short but still won easily in 1:58.15. That time was good enough to break Stroup's meet record of 1:58.40 from 2001.
I got close to my seed time. I feel like I went out too fast for right now, but that was the plan today, just to try to go out fast and try to (get the county record), said Creese, who also won the 1,600. It feels pretty good, but I definitely would have liked to get the county record.
Creese did not run the 3,200, which opened up a chance for his cross country rival, Oakland Mills sophomore Sam Andrews, to take a gold medal in that event.
It was a PR (9:54.15), which was great, and it was definitely a fast pace, said Andrews, who won the race by more than 10 seconds. It's always nice to have challenging competition, but it's also nice when you get a chance ... to take the spotlight. I missed running against (Creese), but I'm sure I'll run against him again.
Reservoir's Kyle Mitchell was also a double winner, in the hurdles and the triple jump.
In the girls competition, Hammond wasn't able to celebrate until its second-place finish (Glenelg won the race) in the final event, the 4x400 relay, ensured the team championship with 93 points. River Hill, which placed third in the final relay, finished second with 83 points.
We didn't get a lot of first places, though we did win some events, but we doubled up in everything, everybody stepped up, coach Rob Etheridge said. This is the big one, this is what we work for. It all came together this year. We had a young team with some good leadership.
Golden Bears junior Nicole Dawson used a strong kick to win the 3,200, pulling away from a persistent chase pack led by Mt. Hebron's Rachel Yep and Oakland Mills' Tiffany Lang on the final lap.
I knew (Yep) was behind me. I kept hearing people yelling out splits for her and I just decided that if I'm going to win this I've got to go now, so I just went as hard as I could and it's probably my best finishing lap ever in a race, Dawson said. I felt pretty exhausted, but I had enough to keep going.
Dawson (11:46.94) finished less than a second ahead of Yep (11:47.63) and less than two seconds before Lang (11:48.12).
Lang won the mile in 5:28.70, but Dawson's only race was the 3,200.
We knew our team was going to need points. My strength is more long distance, so they decided they were going to save me so I could get eight or 10 points instead of wasting energy in the mile and maybe not pointing, she said.
Hammond's loaded 4x200 relay team of Patience Williams, Titi Oden, Treasure Tabor and Tamera Okaya was also victorious. The Golden Bears also finished second in six events: the triple jump (Djnab Williams), long jump and hurdles (Amanda Mercer), 55 and 300 dash (Oden) and the 4x400 relay.
Long Reach's Aneesha Scott had the most impressive individual performance among the girls, winning the 55, 300 and 500. Her winning time of 41.01 in the 300 broke a meet record of 41.20 set by Long Reach's Angie Watkins in 2002. Teyarnte Carter, who is now a coach for Mt. Hebron, still holds the county record of 40.30 which she set as a Long Reach runner in 2000.