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Boys outdoor track: Howard High's Marsh sprints way into spotlight

Stephen Marsh says he couldn't have drawn it up any better. In second place as he took the baton as the anchor leg of Howard's 4x400 relay squad at this year's Class 3A state championship meet, the Lions' senior found himself in position to put one final exclamation point on his high school career. And, in a moment he says he won't soon forget, Marsh delivered a performance to remember.

Catching and then passing Watkins Mill's Wylliam Youngnia, Marsh put the finishing touches on Howard's second winning relay effort of the meet in a team-record time of 3 minutes, 21.49 seconds.

"It was the perfect ending," said Marsh, who has been named the Columbia Flier/Howard County Times boys outdoor track Athlete of the Year. "If I never run another race, there's no better way to go out than that."

When all was said and done, Marsh walked away from the state championship meet at Morgan State University this year with two gold (4x200 and 4x400 relays) and two silver medals (4x100 relay and 200 dash). No other county athlete, boy or girl, played a part in more of their team's points.

That closing effort, along with similar performances at counties and regionals, showcased a side of Marsh that Howard coach David Glenn had been eagerly waiting to see.

"I always knew Stephen had the potential to be special, all the way back to when he came out his freshman year. But he really didn't come into his own until this year," Glenn said. "It's almost like he found another gear. … Every race he seemed to get better and better."

At 6 feet 4 inches and 195 pounds, Marsh isn't built like your typical sprinter.

His frame is more suited for football — he was starting safety at Howard — or basketball, where he averaged a little over four points a game as a forward.

But, while there were some areas over the years that needed fine-tuning when it came to running track, Marsh learned how to use his size and power to his advantage.

"He doesn't have those quick-twitch muscles that some of the other sprinters have, which means he's really had to work on his starts," Glenn said. "Once he gets those legs pumping, though, he rolls."

Figuring out the best way to utilize his talents took some trial and error. Last year for example, as a junior, he realized the 100 wasn't necessarily the best race for him.

"With my slower starts I never got a chance to fully open up," said Marsh, who didn't make the finals of the 100 at the county championships as a junior. "The 200 gives me a little more time to generate my power."

The 200-meter dash ended up being Marsh's lone individual event this spring and he showcased consistent improvement. At the county meet he was fourth (21.89) and then at regionals (21.87) and states (22.11) he was second.

The relays, though, are where Marsh really made his mark.

When he was a freshman Marsh was a part of Howard's 4x400 relay team. Then, after a year off as a sophomore, Marsh came back as a junior and began meshing with the runners he went on to make team history with this spring.

Marsh, Zack Black, Josh Peoples, Owen Chisley and Jordan Carr were among those that began working together in some or all of the 4x100, 4x200 and 4x400 relays.

The results were mixed during the 2011 postseason, with only the team's 4x100 relay team finishing better than third at counties, regions or states. The groundwork, however, had been laid.

"Relays are all about chemistry and being able to trust the other guys out there with you," Glenn said. "Those guys getting to work together for more than one year really made a difference."

This spring, Etienne Morisseau joined the fold in all three relays and the groups hit the ground running.

"Already having the handoffs down made a big difference, and it also helped that we're all really close," Marsh said. "We were all out there for the same thing, trying to figure out ways to get faster and improve our times. We all had that same motivation."

For the most part, Marsh was slotted into the second leg of the relays. "In my mind the second leg is when you make the race. It's where you can put the pressure on the other teams," he said.

Toward the end of the year, however, Marsh was moved to the anchor spot in the 4x400. "It's a completely different mentality. It's almost like all the pressure is on you," he said.

Regardless of positioning, Marsh and his teammates thrived.

At the county championships, Howard's relay teams swept the titles in the 4x100 (42.83), 4x200 (1:29.35) and 4x400 (3:25.19) races. The following week at the 3A East regional, the Lions again completed a sweep.

The teams saved their best performances for last, though, posting team-record times in all three relay races at states. The 4x100 team placed second in 41.99, the 4x200 team won in 1:27.48 and then the Lions finished things off with the victory in the 4x400.

Those points spearheaded Howard to a third-place team finish in the 3A classification.

"It was a great reward for all the hard work we put in. … Our goal was to put Howard back on the map not only in the region, but in the state and we were able to do that," Marsh said.

Named to the all-county first team are:

Jordan Carr, Howard

Events: high jump and triple jump

Postseason highlights: Won the high jump (6-4) and finished third in the triple jump (42-5) at the county championships. Tied for second in the high jump (6-1) and placed third in the triple jump at the 3A East regional meet. Took fifth in the triple jump (44-0.75) and sixth in the high jump (6-2) at 3A states. Also part of the Howard 4x400 relay squad that earned titles at the county, region and state meets.

Tenard Childs, Oakland Mills

Events: 110- and 300-meter hurdles

Postseason highlights: Second in the 110 hurdles (14.65) and fourth in the 300 hurdles (41.80) at the county championships. Won the 110 hurdles (15.18) and was third in the 300 hurdles (40.98) at the 2A South regional. Placed fifth in the 110 hurdles (15.22) and seventh in the 300 hurdles (41.76) at the 2A state meet.

Devin Davis, Reservoir

Event: discus

Postseason highlights: Won the discus at counties (127-6), finished fourth at the 3A East regional (121-4) and took eighth at states (133-0).

Duncan Enerson, Wilde Lake

Events: 800, 1,600 and 3,200-meter runs

Postseason highlights: Finished second in the 1,600 (4:31.89) and 3,200 (9:45.41), and finished fourth in the 800 (2:02.08), at the county championships. Finished second in the 3,200 (9:41.3) and third in the 1,600 (4:28.24) at the 3A East regional. Placed fifth in the 3,200 (9:40.15) and sixth in the 1,600 (4:27.87) at the 3A state meet.

Purcell Freeman, Long Reach

Events: 110- and 300-meter hurdles

Postseason highlights: Won the 110 hurdles (14.54) and finished sixth in the 300 hurdles at the county championships. Finished fourth in the 110 hurdles at the 2A South regional meet (15.21) and 2A state meet (15.14).

Dante Garner, Wilde Lake

Events: long jump, triple jump and high jump

Postseason highlights: Won the long jump (21-11) and triple jump (45-10) and placed second in the high jump (6-2) at the county championships. Won the long jump (21-8.5) and triple jump (46-0), while finishing tied for second in the high jump (6-1), at the 3A East regional. Placed tied for second in the high jump (6-4), third in the triple jump (45-9.25) and fifth in the long jump (21-10) at the 3A state meet.

David Kaiser, River Hill

Events: long jump and triple jump

Postseason highlights: Second in the triple jump (42-7) and fifth in the long jump (20-0) at the county championships. Fifth in the long jump (20-8.5) and sixth in the triple jump (42-4) at the 3A East regional meet. Won the long jump (23-3.25) at the 3A state championships. Also part of River Hill's 4x100 relay team that finished second at the county and region meets.

Etienne Morisseau, Howard

Events: long jump, 4x100, 4x200 and 4x400 relays

Postseason highlights: Finished second in the long jump (21-2.5) at the county championship meet. A member of the Howard 4x200 and 4x400 relay squads that swept its way to titles in both races at the county, 3A East region and 3A state championships. Also part of the 4x100 relay team that won titles at counties and regionals, while finishing second at states.

D.J. Pickens, Reservoir

Event: shot put

Postseason highlights: Won the shot put at counties (45-4), finished second at the 3A East regional (41-11.5) and took fifth at the 3A state championships (47-1.5).

Jackson Porter, Mt. Hebron

Events: 100- and 200-meter dashes

Postseason highlights: Won the 100 (10.84) and 200 (21.69) at the county championships, then again won the 100 (10.97) and 200 (21.83) at the 3A East regional meet. Placed third in the 200 (22.14) at the 3A state championships.

Evan Rector, Reservoir

Event: pole vault

Postseason highlights: Won the pole vault at counties (11-6) and 3A East regional (11-1), before finishing fifth (12-6) at the 3A state meet.

Tavian Ruffin, Hammond

Events: high jump and long jump

Postseason highlights: Finished fourth in the high jump (6-0) and long jump (20-1.5) at the county championship. Won the high jump (6-3) and finished second in the long jump (21-6) at the 3A East regional. Finished tied for second in the high jump (6-4) and fourth in the long jump (21-10.75) at the 3A state meet.

Erick Soetje, River Hill

Event: 400-meter run

Postseason highlights: Finished third at the county championships (49.96), first at the 3A East regional meet (49.21) and first at the 3A state meet (48.81) in the 400. Also part of River Hill's 4x100 relay team that finished second at the county and region meets.

Timmy Usher, Reservoir

Events: 400- and 800-meter runs

Postseason highlights: Won the 400 (49.89) and 800 (2:00.36) at the county championships. Finished first in the 800 (2:00.78) and second in the 400 (50.14) at the 3A East regional. Took fourth in the 800 (1:56.57) at the 3A state meet. Also part of the Gators' 4x800 relay team that finished first at the county championships, second at the 3A East regional and fourth at the 3A state meet.

Tim Virostek, Wilde Lake

Events: 800-, 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs

Postseason highlights: Captured titles in the 1,600 (4:31.87) and 3,200 (9:44.56) and ran to third place in the 800 (2:01.10) at the county championship meet. Earned second in the 800 (2:01), third in the 1,600 (4:26.78) and third in the 3,200 (9:43) at the 3A East regional. Took home third in the 800 (1:56.40) and 1,600 (4:22.16) and was fourth in the 3,200 (9:37.98), at the 3A state meet. Also part of Wilde Lake 4x400 relay team that finished third at counties and fourth at regionals.

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