As River Hill freshman Faith Meininger approached the starting line for her 1,600-meter race on Tuesday night — the first of four events she’s scheduled to run in at the Howard County Indoor track and field championships — she had a different type of focus than in past meets.
A loss of running water at the Prince George’s Sports and Learning Complex put the building in violation of the health code, so the county championships would be suspended shortly after Meininger’s run. She now had no reason to conserve energy.
“Right before this race, my mom was standing on the side, and she said, ‘Give it all you got. This is it,’” Meininger said. “That really boosted me to go hard and to finish it off.”
Meininger’s final lap (37.47) was her best, and it allowed her to pass Hawks senior Jasmine Tiamfook near the end of the race and secure her first individual indoor title.
“To have just one race and to have won first place, it feels really good,” said Meininger, who finished with a time of 5 minutes, 17.64 seconds. “I don’t know if I would have been able to do that in other races.”
The 1,600-meter race was the fifth event scored on the girls side, which has also completed the 4x800-meter relay, 300-yard dash, triple jump and high jump. The boys side has completed the same track events — aside from the 1,600-meter race — to go along with the shot put and the pole vault.
However, because of the lack of water pressure in the facility, the rest of the events will be completed when the championships resume on Jan. 29 at 4 p.m. at the same location.
“The PG Complex informed us of a potential problem with the water pressure, and that they believe there is a water main break somewhere in the area. Maybe not here in the building, but somewhere on the grid,” said Matt Clever, the commissioner of track and field for Howard County Public Schools. “We don’t have the running water for the bathroom facilities or for drinking fountains, and due to health code, they need to have that in order to have us here in the building running the meet.”
Howard starts strong
The Howard boys team will have a target on its back when the track and field county championships resume on Jan. 29. The Lions (46 points) have scored twice as many points as second-place Centennial and Reservoir. Oakland Mills (18 points) and Wilde Lake (12 points) round out the top five.
Coach Zack Dickerson’s group began the meet with a third-place finish behind Oakland Mills and Mt. Hebron in the 4x800-meter relay. Then it saw Kenny Accardi edge Centennial’s Juan Parra with a personal-best time of 35.97 in the 300-meter dash.
However, the bulk of the Lions’ points so far have come in the field events, where they earned first (Raymond Tien), fourth and sixth in the shot put and fifth and sixth in the pole vault behind Wilde Lake senior Kareem Press (11-06).
Tien’s shot put win came in dramatic fashion, as he beat Eagles senior Ryan Paterson with a final throw of 44 feet, 7.75 inches, a personal record by more than a foot.
“We’re off to a really good start,” Dickerson said. “We’ve set ourselves up … in a great position come the 29th now to hopefully follow through and try to get things done.”
The Howard girls team (42.33 points) is also on top after Tuesday’s events, but Dickerson maintained there are several programs still capable of winning a county championship.
River Hill sits in second with 30 points, while Atholton (25.33 points), Mt. Hebron (22 points), Reservoir (21.33 points) and Centennial (21 points) are also off to solid starts.
The Eagles’ foursome of Claudia Pilcher, Kirsten Wikner, Cora Blount and Alison Betler began the event finals with a impressive time of 10:11.43 in the 4x800-meter relay to beat runner-up Howard by more than 10 seconds.
Then came the 300-meter dash, which was a much closer finish.
Reigning girls indoor track and field Athlete of the Year Sydney Robinson entered the meet as the league favorite after winning county and regional titles in the event last season, but Mt. Hebron junior Jaiden Ritter wasn’t far off Robinson’s time. Tuesday’s race reflected that.
Robinson, now at River Hill, and Ritter ran side-by-side the entire final straightaway, but Ritter (41.05) crossed the finish line three-hundreths of a second faster to claim the county title.
“I’ve been waiting for this all season, and I’m just really happy,” Ritter said. “My coach prepared me so well, and this is the first time I really gave her everything. This is honestly the best feeling in the world.”
Mt. Hebron, one of the favorites entering the county meet, sits in fourth after a third-place 4x800-meter relay finish and a combined two points in triple jump and high jump, which were won by Oakland Mills’ Oluwaseun Sule (34-08.50) and Marriotts Ridge’s Riley Murtha (5-01.00).
It’s just about where coach Paul Ulrich expected his group to be after the first portion of the meet.
“We have run like we had planned to run on both the boys and the girls side,” Ulrich said. “The girls 4x800 was a little bit of a surprise, but the girls sprinters came through in the 300 like we knew they would.”