Her arms flailing and feet sputtering, Howard's Christine London stared down toward the track at Morgan State University and fought back the scary feeling of déjà vu.
London, stumbling over the third hurdle in the 300 hurdles at this year's 3A state championships Saturday, had been in this spot before. Exactly a year earlier, she had seen her hopes of winning multiple state titles dashed when she fell in the 100 hurdles.
So in that moment, as she tried to maintain her balance this time around, the memories came flooding back.
"I don't know what happened … I usually power through those first three hurdles," London said. "So as I almost fell, I was like 'what am I doing?' I just felt off for some reason, but I wasn't going to let it go. I wasn't going to let a mess up cost me again."
Catching herself just before going down, London not only recovered but went on to win the race in a time of 44.01 seconds. That title, along with a winning time of 14.26 seconds in the 100 hurdles, gave the Lion junior a sweep of the 3A hurdle events at states for the first time in her career.
London ended up as one two county athletes, along with Mt. Hebron's Michaela Wilkins (400 and 800), to win multiple individual events among the boys and girls events in the 2A and 3A classifications. In all, there were eight events won by county athletes or relay teams.
Even with the individual successes, though, no county teams on either side managed a finish in the top two. The Howard boys, which finished third (55 points) in 3A behind champion Potomac, and the Mt. Hebron girls, which finished fourth (47) in 3A behind champion Thomas Johnson, were the closest to titles.
For full results from the meet see Thursday's edition of the Howard County Times.
Howard's London ultimately achieved her goal of walking away from Morgan State with a pair of gold medals, although it took battling through a few tenuous moments.
Even before her near-fall in the 300, she had eked out a victory in the 100 hurdles while going down at the finish line. Tumbling to the track, she posted a time just quick enough to edge Milford Mill's Racquel Moses by .04 of a second.
"I just had to throw myself and sacrifice to get it," London said.
Then in the 300 hurdles, London overcame her scare early on to beat Tuscarora's Mary Mowoe by nearly a full second.
"I feel like I didn't realize how much I wanted it until I almost fell … it kind of gave me my drive back," London said.
In a lot of ways, Wilkins came into this year's state meet in a similar boat to London - a state champion that had never previously won more than one individual event on the outdoor season's biggest stage.
But not only did Wilkins change all that Saturday, she did it in record-breaking fashion. She started things with her fastest time of the postseason in the 400, posting 55.44 seconds to hold off Milford Mill's Moses.
Then she followed it up with arguably her best race of the year, setting a new 3A state record in the 800 with a time of 2:12.02.
"It meant a lot, especially because I've really been trying to work on my 800," said Wilkins, who won last year's state title in the 800 with a time of 2:16.05. "Last year's time here was a PR and I beat it by four seconds today … it feels great."
Wilkins hung on the hip of Thomas Stone's Rachel Halmon for the first half of the 800, before making her move on the back straightaway. And once she pulled ahead, Wilkins never let up.
"I knew she was right there, so I made sure I worked until the end … that definitely helped (my time)," Wilkins said.