Long Reach senior Robert Carter felt like he left a little bit out on the track after his 55-meter hurdles race at the 3A state indoor track championship meet.
A small clip of the third hurdle left him feeling uneasy heading into the final stretch.
Fortunately for the Lightning runner, his flawed performance was still good enough for a state championship.
Carter took home first place in the race with a time of 7.55 seconds.
"It's just about mindset at this point," said the speedy Carter, who also ran in Long Reach's state championship 4x200-meter relay team Feb. 18 at the Prince George's Sports and Learning Complex. "I knew my body could get me to where I needed to be. I just came in strong, confident and just did what I trained for."
On the heels of Tosin Oyewole's 300-meter dash victory (34.98), as well as a much-needed third place finish in the 4x400, the Lightning boys team took home the 3A state championship with 42 points.
Long Reach — Howard County's only team state champion among all classifications— edged county rival Centennial's 36 points. Reservoir was fourth with 29, Wilde Lake and Mt. Hebron tied at 27 for fifth, while Atholton (25), River Hill (22) and Glenelg (10) rounded out Howard County's 3A boys teams.
On the girls side, having already taken first place in the 1,600-meter run, Reservoir's Karli Smiraglia said she was unusually tired heading into the 800.
As the gun sounded, the Gator senior burst out to a strong pace behind the top two runners. But, just before the final lap, she made her move to the front.
"My race plan was to just go out and sit on the top runners for the first two laps, and with 300 meters to go, just kick it into a new gear for the rest of the race," she said.
Entering the final turn, Smiraglia had already taken a sizable lead on North Hagerstown's Emily Ward, who had also competed in the mile run earlier in the meet. By the time she crossed the finish line at 2:20.93, six seconds separated her and second place.
"It's definitely a great feeling. It's unbelievable," said Smiraglia, who also ran on Reservoir's 4x400-meter relay team to help the Gators place third with 38 points in the girls competition, highest among county teams. "The hard work I've been putting in has just paid off."
The River Hill and Long Reach girls tied for eighth with 20 points. Glenelg was 11th with 15, Centennial was 14th with 13, Wilde Lake was 17th with 11 and Atholton was 22nd with six points to close out the girls teams.
Overall, Howard County was well represented at the 3A/4A state championship meet. River Hill's Chris Heydrick, another double-winner on the day, put together gold medal performances in the 1,600- and 800-meter runs. After collecting the win in the mile, the junior said he was worried about how his legs would stack up against his fellow runners.
"I'm feeling amazing," he said after winning his second race. "I was hoping to win both, but I was a little skeptical. I just didn't know what to expect from the competition."
With 200 meters to go, Heydrick said he turned on his jets, gobbling up sections of track in front of him until he was running in fresh air towards the finish.
"Coming into this year, I knew it was going to be a big year, in terms of just running my fastest times. I really wanted to put in a lot of solid work," he said. "It means a lot to me. It's always been a dream of mine to win states in any event. So I'm just so excited."
Glenelg junior Calvin Pitney took home a state title in pole vault, Mt. Hebron's boys 4x800 team collected a first place finish with a time of 8:23.99, Centennial's Alec Font placed first in the 3,200-meter run (9:41.18) and Byan SoSoo took the 55-meter dash in 6:45 — to all become state champions in the 3A classification.
Howard, the county's lone 4A team, fielded Justin Marsh, who took first place in the boys 300-meter dash (34.88).
The finish helped propel his Lions team to seventh place overall with 26 points.