Though the Long Reach boys outdoor track and field program finished behind Wilde Lake in both the Howard County championship, and the 3A East regional meet, members of the team knew their time was coming.
Considered a strong threat on the state level, the team took advantage of its two biggest point-getters in Robert Carter and Tosin Oyewole at the state track and field championships to ensure there would not be another second-place finish in postseason competition.
Carter and Oyewole combined for 60 of the 68 Lightning points Saturday at Morgan State University, which was good enough to hold off second-place Wilde Lake (50.5 points) in the team standings and earn the program its second consecutive 3A state championship.
“The two of them, when they walk on the track, it’s 40 points just in individual events,” said coach Pete Hughes, who also commended the work of sprinter D’Ante Colbert as well. “That’s what you need to win a meet like this, to have those solid points.”
Oyewole, who earned Howard County Athlete of the Year honors for the indoor season, continued his impressive senior season with wins in the 100 (10.68) and 200-meter dashes (21.53). Though he said he still wasn’t impressed with his overall performance, the Brown University-commit felt good about aiding his team to a championship.
“I didn’t hit the times I wanted to hit. I expected more out of myself. But, I won,” he said. “I’m so thankful for my coaches. They’ve been with me all year.”
Oyewole, the county’s top sprinter through the winter and spring seasons, said he noticed an improvement in himself since the indoor state championship meet. That extra weight training with Hughes, who teaches the class at Long Reach, made all the difference.
Also a senior participating in his final state meet, Carter mirrored Oyewole’s dominance in both the 110 (14.22) and 300-meter hurdles (37.74).
As a team, the Lightning couldn’t help but feel good about their chances, especially with Carter and Oyewole on the winning 4x200 and 4x100 teams as well.
“We’re always confident, but we know we have to stay humble. We just had to work for it,” Oyewole said. “We don’t have that many people out here running at states. We have a lot of talent, and we’re very sprint-heavy, so we knew we were going to get those points.”
On the girls side, the Atholton Raiders finished fourth overall, and made the biggest splash in the 3A team standings. Jen Bleakney had her hand in 30 of her team’s 50 points.
After running the anchor for the 4x800 win (9:34.15) on Friday, she returned Saturday and knocked down the 1,600 (5:00.45) with ease, before receiving her biggest test of the season in the 800.
As she entered the final 100 meters, Huntingtown’s Kaliyah Gorman was right on her tail. Bleakney said she didn’t know how close she was until she looked up at the scoreboard. She finished with a winning time of 2:18.37, less than a second ahead of Gorman.
“I was terrified, but it’s a good thing. It pushes you more,” she said. “I sprinted as hard as I could at the end.”
Briana Taborn accounted for the Raiders’ remaining 20 points, with her two first-place performances in the discus (117-02) and shot put (38-08.00) to thank.
“It was a little bit of a scare, because there were some very close marks right next to me for discus, but I fended her off,” Taborn said. “The shot put was a complete surprise.”
Though his team as a whole wasn’t a factor in the championship standings, River Hill’s Chris Heydrick ended his junior season with a perfect record in postseason competition.
In addition to anchoring his team’s state championship-winning 4x800 team (7:56.94), Heydrick nabbed top finishes in the 800 (1:55.43) and the 1,600 (4:18.11).
“I was feeling good coming into the state meet, and I usually don’t. Usually I’m a little burnt out at this point in the season,” he said. “Overall, I’m feeling great.”
During Heydrick’s final race — the 800 — his fellow Howard County competitors didn’t make it easy. Worrying most about how much his legs would hold up, Heydrick’s perfect streak was briefly in jeopardy.