Last year, Harford County athletes won only one event in the MPSSAA state track meet. The previous year, they didn't win any.
When the 2017 meet concluded Saturday at Morgan State's Hughes Stadium, the Harford victory total stood at eight, the most since 2005.
This was, it seems, the year of more and better. For the Patterson Mill girls, it was indeed. The Huskies finished third in Class 1A with 67 points - 13 more than their fourth-place finish last year. They won four events and broke six school records, parlaying the talents of their championship basketball team members - Katherine Eckart, Chyna Latimer and Khayla Mitchell - into the best team finish by a Harford team in six years.
Eckart, a senior, had a career performance. She anchored the 4x800 relay team of Jessica Bujak, Marissa Lapinsky and Ashley Betz to victory in 9:48.50. Then she relayed with Latimer, Mitchell and Marissa Lapinsky to place second in the 4x200 in 1:47.73, just 1/2 second behind first place and 2 seconds faster than the Huskies winning time last year.
In the Saturday session, Eckart won the 800 in a career best 2:21.82 then led the 4x400 team to second place in a school record 4:10.71 with Latimer, Lapinsky, and Ashley Betz.
Latimer won the triple jump in the Thursday session, improving her personal best to 35-8 1/4 - 2 feet better than last year's fourth-place finish. Betz added 6 points with third place in the 1600 in a school record 5:23.70. Other scoring came from Mitchell, sixth in the 200 in 27.21; Samantha Wehmer, sixth in the long jump at 15-5 1/4 and sixth in the triple jump at 32-10 1/4; Jessica Bujak, seventh in the 3200 in 12:51.01; Caroline McCarthy, eighth in the 3200 in 13:12.93; and the 4x100 relay team of Erin Lovelace, Briauna Shriner, Kaia Barr and Niani McDonald, eighth in 53.22.
McDermott: record-setting double in 4A
Bel Air junior Kieran McDermott may have been the most improved runner among the four classes of the boys 1600 Saturday. He was easily the fastest. Last year, he placed third in the 1600 in 4:24.54. This time, he raced away from the 4A field to win by 7 seconds in 4:11.94. Later in the meet, he led the 800 from start to finish to win easily in 1:53.51. Both were new Harford County records.
It was coincidentally, a day for remarkable McDermott doubles. In class 2A, Middletown's Riley McDermott (no relation) won the 1600 in 4:23.93 and the 800 in 1:53.80.
Also for Bel Air, Alina Nagornyuk, a senior, finished second in the girls pole vault at 9 feet, and Harley Wilson placed fifth in the 300 hurdles in 46.51.
In Class 3A, Edgewood's Jaquez Torian ran 48.08 seconds in the 400, but finished third. He held a substantial lead coming out of the final turn, but lost by 3 tenths in the final 10 meters. It was the second disappointment of the meet for the senior who has signed a letter of intent with Middle Tennessee State. In Friday's session, Torian anchored the team of Chance Singleton, Christian McDowell and Demetrius Jones to second place in the 4x200 relay in 1:29.58 only to be disqualified for a lane infraction. The call was disputed with video evidence, but officials refused to hear any appeals on judgment calls.
Singleton was the only team member to score. He placed fifth in the 200 in 23.02. McDowell jumped 20-6 in the long jump and 41-1 in the triple but did not place in the top 8.
Elijah Johnson, the reigning 3A state champ in the shot put, finished fourth in the event at 51-2. Johnson, Aberdeen's best thrower since Irvin Pankey (59-9 shot put in 1976), raised his personal best by 12 feet to 150-3 in the discus but finished third, just 7 inches shy of winning the state title.
For the Aberdeen girls, Amaree Yates placed in two dashes - fourth in the 100 in 12.65 and sixth in the 200 in 25.89.
Riggins wins long jump
C. Milton Wright senior Christina Riggins competed only in the long jump and 4x100 relay, due mainly to a conflict with her school's graduation exercises and the Friday session of the 3A meet.
The former gymnast, however, earned her first state title by winning the long jump on Saturday with a personal best of 18-4. Minutes before the long jump began, she anchored the 4x100 relay team to fourth place in 50.16 with Caela Phillips, Alecia Rotunno and Sydney Gray.
The Mustangs got strong performances from several others. Jessica Rogers placed fourth in the 1600 in 5:15.49 and ninth in the 800 in 2:23.53. Alicia Rotunno took seventh in the 400 in 59.0; Sophia Nutarelli, seventh in the 300 hurdles in 48.55; and the 4x800 team of Lindsay Stevenson, Sofia Nutarelli, Jordyn Powers, and Jessica Rogers placed fifth in 9:51.87.
Brooke Wierzbowski took eighth in the girls vault at 7-6, and Ethan Hendricks, seventh in the boys vault at 11-0.
Kelly wins 2A high jump
Harford Tech's Beyonce Kelly won the 2A high jump at 5-4, missing on three attempts at 5-6, the height with which she won the indoor state meet in February. Kelly, who placed second in the high jump last year, also placed fifth in the long jump at 16-8.
The Tech girls placed fifth as a team with 34 points. Savannah Kent took third in the triple jump at 34-10 1/2, and Petronilla Oneybadi, fourth in the long jump at 16-10. Onyebadi ran on two relay teams that scored. In the 4x200, she teamed with Kelly, Kent and Tiahna Mitchell for fourth in 1:45.42. In the 4x100, Ann Luna, Kent, Mitchell and Onyebadi placed fifth in 50.43.
For the Tech boys, Clement Onyebadi placed third in the high jump at 6-2 and sixth in the triple jump at 41-3. A.J. Surgeon was fifth in the high jump at 5-10, and Charles Brown, sixth in the discus at 134-11.
Kaya Simpson place fourth in both hurdle races - running 15.50 in the 110s and 41.42 in the 300s.
Ashman, Day lead Havre de Grace
William Ashman and Jordan Day led the Havre de Grace boys to 11th place. Ashman finished second in the 300 hurdles in 41.15 after falling in the 100s. Day was the runner-up in the 110 hurdles in 15.48. The two teamed with Rashon Bray and Immanuel McFarland for seventh in the 4x100 in 45.24.
McFarland placed fifth in the long jump at 20-2. Simeon Stephens was fifth in the high jump at 5-8 and seventh in the triple jump at 39-9. Drake Puffenbarger placed sixth in the shot put at 41-4.
For the Havre de Grace girls, Selena Lamb placed fifth in the long jump at 15-7 1/2 and seventh in the 100 dash at 13.21.
Natori Blackman and Amya Hill led Joppatowne to ninth place among 1A girls teams. Blackman finished fifth in the 400 in 1:01.66 and Hill was fifth in the 100 dash in 13.01.
Hill and Blackman ran with India Springfield and Troyannshae Moore to place third in the 4x200 in 1:48.42, and the 4x400 team of Springfield, Moore, Blackman and Hill placed third in 4:17.31.
Haley Taylor ran 2:31.53 in the 800 to place eighth, and Emani Washington threw 32-11 in the shot put for fourth place.
Joppatowne's boys scored in three relays. Kenneth Mitchell, Aaron Fullard, Zyshon Butler and David Freeman placed fourth in the 4x100 in 45.17. Mitchell, Butler, Freeman and Tyree Bizzelle took fifth in the 4x200 in 1:33.62 and Butler Bizzelle, Freeman and Antwan Powell were sixth in the 4x400 in 3:36.46.