At the conclusion of the Howard County indoor track and field championships this winter, the Howard girls team left thinking it had earned a share of the title.
But, days later, it was determined that a scoring change bumped the Lions out of first place — a moment that stayed with the team all the way through the spring season.
"It was definitely a talking point throughout the year," said Howard girls coach Tyler Wade. "But we knew coming into the spring that we had a strong squad."
Using that indoor experience as motivation, the Howard girls team left no doubt at the outdoor county championships at Wilde Lake High School May 5-6. The team took home the title outright with 146 points — nearly double the score of second-place Atholton.
"Everything we've done this season was to get ready for this," Wade said. "The kids came out and dominated."
One of the biggest reasons why the Lions were in such a strong position to claim the meet's top team prize was the individual performance of Sydney Biniak.
The senior — who won team county titles this year in volleyball and basketball — earned first-place honors in the long jump (16-08.75) and high jump (5-06.00) during the first day of competition. She also ran the anchor on the winning 4x200-meter relay team (1:48.77).
Biniak came back for the second day and narrowly beat out teammate Adeola Abdulkadir in the triple jump with a distance of 35-01. Tosin Owoyemi finished fifth, giving the Lions three of the top five finishers in the event.
"Before we started this meet, Wade told us that this would be the last time (this season) we would compete against any Howard County school, and for me it was any Howard County School ever," she said. "I just wanted to go out with a bang, and give it everything I had."
The Lady Lions also claimed victories in the 4x100 and shot put (Taylor Scaife, 36-10.50).
Atholton (84) finished second, followed by Wilde Lake (74), Mt. Hebron (65) and Reservoir (57) to round out the top five girls team finishers.
On the boys side, host Wilde Lake (100) fended off Reservoir (97) and Long Reach (96.33) in a team race that came down to the final event of the day.
"It's hard to keep track of everything when you're trying to run a meet. So when, at the very last minute, they tell you it's going to be close, it was very surprising," Wildecats coach Chris Brewington said. "These guys worked so hard and did everything they could. They earned it."
Brewington pointed to the performances of guys like Khari Jackson, David Eisenhauer, Cameron Lumpkin, Sam Enomanna and Gavin Watson.
Jackson earned first-place honors in the high jump (6-02.00), and long jump (21-11.00), and finished fourth in the triple jump (41-08.75).
Eisenhauer placed in all three distance races, coming in fifth in the 800 (2:02.03), and second in the 1,600 (4:24.88) and 3,200 (9:41.91).
Lumpkin finished fourth in the 100 (10.95) and in the 200 (22.64). He also ran on the Cats' fourth-place 4x400 team along with Enomanna, who finished third in the 110- (15.31) and 300-meter hurdles (40.18). Watson finished fourth on the pole vault, which shot his team into first place.
"We're deep in a lot of field events, sprints and relays. We scored in almost every event. That's the way to do it," Brewington said. "They all stepped up, which was good to see. It was a real team effort."
Mt. Hebron (79) finished fourth in the boys team standings, followed by Howard (68) to round out the top five.
There were many individuals that took home multiple awards during the two-day period as well.
Atholton's Jen Bleakney was an important piece to the Raiders' second overall finish in the girls team standings.
The junior claimed titles in the 800 (2:20.65) and the 1,600 (5:06.13). She was also a part of the winning 4x400 (4:08.75) and 4x800 (9:44.15) teams.
In both individual races, Bleakney continued with her usual style of jumping out to a sizable lead, distancing herself from the rest of the pack. Both wins defended her county titles from the indoor season.
"From last year, I feel like I have improved so much, personally," she said. "This is my best season so far. I've reached goals that I've wanted. I'm just hoping it gets better from here."
River Hill's Chris Heydrick had his hand in 30 of his team's 49 points between the two days.
The junior swept the 800 (1:57.46) and the 1,600 (4:23.78). He also helped the Hawks' 4x800 team to a record-breaking finish as well.
"I tried to ease off on the mile a little bit, to make sure I'd be ready for this race," he said of his performance in the 800. "I knew I would be pushed by (Mt. Hebron's) Alec (Vaughan) and (Marriotts Ridge's) Solomon (Brown). I wanted to sit on it as long as I could."
Wilde Lake's Jamila Brown took top finishes in the 100 (12.04), 200 (25.12) and the 400 (59.45), and joked that she probably should have stretched more like her coaches told her to.
"I kind of got a little tight up there, so I probably could have done a little better," she said. "But, overall, I'm happy."
The dynamic duo of Tosin Oyewole and Rob Carter had the Long Reach boys team in the lead for the majority of the meet.
Carter won the 110-meter hurdles (14.31), and set a new meet record of 38.95 seconds in the 300. Oyewole's record-setting performance came in the 200-meter dash (21.49). He also won the 100 (10.66). Both runners were also a part of the winning 4x100 and 4x200 teams as well.
The Lightning's Taylor Selber swept the 100- (14.55) and 300-meter hurdles (45.52) for the girls.
Howard's Justin Marsh won the boys 400 (47.95), and ran anchor in the team's 4x400 (3:23.20) — both broke meet records.
Reservoir's Bryan Sosoo won the triple jump (43-08.00) on the first day of competition.
Oakland Mills' Brit Lang (11:24.93) and Centennial's Alec Font (9:40.33) each won the 3,200.
Atholton's Briana Taborn (108-06) and Marriotts Ridge's Nicholas Sala (126-00) each won the discus.
River Hill's Sophie Caplan (9-06.00) and Reservoir's Kyle Kroll (13-06.00) each won the pole vault, and Mt. Hebron's Brenden Chavis won shot put (49-06.50).
Teams will next compete in regionals May 14-17.