The state track and field championships last month proved that the Liberty Lions, who won their first outdoor state championship last spring at Morgan State, can now win at any venue; while it also proved that Winters Mill sensation Hannah Oneda remains the class of her field in distance running.
In the meet at Prince George's Sports and Learning Complex in Landover, Oneda added two more state crowns to her brilliant running resume, and a strong and balanced effort enabled Liberty to run off with its first Class 2A girls' indoor title.
Coach Bobby Ward's team piled up nearly 80 points in its runaway victory. Largo, from Prince George's County, finished second with 44 team points.
"It's a special group that's deep from top to bottom," said Ward, a 1998 Liberty graduate who is now in his 10th year as head coach of the Lions. "They were driven by each other and motivated by the team effort. It's a fun bunch, and a dedicated bunch."
The Lions overall depth showed, as Liberty won only one individual state championship — when junior Ashley Ross (40.99 seconds) out sprinted Lackey's Alexis Murray to take the 300-meter title.
"That was the first individual race of the day, and when Ashley won we knew that things were going in the right direction," said Ward, who guided the Lions to a second-place team finish at the 2011 indoor state meet. "She had yet to win a state championship, and it was nice for her to get that one."
The Lions picked up valuable points from several athletes to win in a rout.
Liberty freshman Sarah Rinehart placed second at 800-meter race, with a time of 2:22.59; and Michelle Keller, a senior in her final indoor competition, placed second in the high jump (5 feet, 4 inches) and shot put (35 feet, 10 inches).
Senior Erika Loppatto placed third behind Keller in the high jump with a leap of 5 feet, 2 inches, and classmate Jamie Russell came up with another third-place effort in the pole vault 10 feet).
Liberty's 3,200-meter relay team of Brittany Arndt, Isabelle Pickett, Taylor Stillings, and Rinehart was the runner-up to Largo, while the Lions' 800- and 1,600-meter relay teams placed third.
"I believe that this is the best indoor team that Carroll County has ever had," Ward said.
"I don't know that we'll ever have a Liberty team that is this good again," he said. "It will be hard to match a season like the one we had."
Liberty may be the best-ever team in Carroll, but Winters Mill's Oneda has made her case as perhaps the premier individual runner in county history.
The senior defended her indoor state titles in the 1,600- and 3,200-meter races, winning her fifth and sixth Class 2A track and field championships in state-record times.
Oneda ran the 1,600 in 5:04.66, outpacing runner-up Tiffany Lang of Oakland Mills by more than 20 seconds. Oneda, who won the Class 2A state cross country title last November, blitzed the field in the 3,200. Her record time of 10:45.67 was an amazing 46 seconds ahead of Loch Raven's Emily Ruppel.
She wasn't the only Winters Mill runner to cross the finish line first. The Falcons' foursome of Will Weisgerber, Weston Carvalho, Zach Hopkins, and Alex Warfield edged Walkersville to win the 3,200-meter relay title.
Francis Scott Key and Century didn't win any Class 2A boys' individual titles, but both schools came up strong in the team standings.
The Eagles got four top-three placements on the way to a third-place finish. Justin Daigle leaped six feet to finish second in the high jump, and at 12 feet, 6 inches FSK's Brandon Stearns was the third-best pole vaulter. Key's 800- and 1,600-meter relay teams were also medal winners, placing third.
Century, which finished fourth behind Key, got standout performances from Pat Anske (second in the 1,600-meter) and Julian Woods, who was third in the 55-meter hurdles.
The Class 1A meet featured championship-winning performances from North Carroll and Manchester Valley.
The Panthers, who finished fourth in team competition, were spurred by the gold medal-winning efforts of seniors Kody Wilson and Zach Dell. Wilson won the 800-meter title with a time of 2:01.59, while Dell's 8.18-second time in the 55-meter hurdles enabled him to hold off Smithsburg's Devon Stover. Wilson joined with teammates Matt Smith, Scott Jones and Grant Dell to win the 3,200-meter relay championship. Smith also finished third in the 500 meters.
Senior Justine Ebbert made sure the North Carroll girls were represented at the top of the medal stand, winning the state pole vault title at 9 feet, 6 inches. Haley Cianfarini helped the Panthers' effort with a second-place finish in the 55-meter hurdles.
Manchester Valley was the dominant Carroll team in the Class 1A girls' competition, riding two championship performances to a fifth-place team finish. Senior Erika Hurd dominated the high jump competition, winning her sixth state title in the event by clearing the bar at five feet, four inches.
Stefanie Gereny, goalkeeper for Manchester Valley's Class 1A champion girls' soccer team, defended her state title in the shot put with a throw of 35 feet, 4.25 inches. The Mavericks' Abby Culp finished second in the 3,200-meter, with a time of 11:57.31.
The Manchester Valley boys' team got on the board with a strong effort by high jumper Nathan Gill, who took second place with a leap of six feet.
Westminster was the only county participant in the Class 4A state meet, and one Owl athlete earned a medal. Bryant Young, a junior, finished third in the 55-meter hurdles with a time of 8.03 seconds.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun