After winning the Howard County indoor hurdles county championship each of the past two years, Howard senior Christine London was determined to do something new as a senior.
And in winning her traditional event, the hurdles, along with championships in both the 55- and 300-meter dashes to lead her Lions to their first team title since 1999 at the 2013 Ivan Walker Memorial Howard County Championship meet, London certainly made it an experience to remember.
“I was kind of nervous in the beginning since the weather has been really cold, it’s been really hard to get out and practice. But when I came here I just felt really confident that I could do this,” said London. “I said this is my last county meet. I'm doing the 55, the hurdles, the 300; just get through it, and once you get through it you'll feel good about yourself.”
And London felt even better when the final team standings were announced. The Howard girls finished with 110.5 points, 36 ahead of runner-up Atholton (74.5).
“We kind of knew going in that it was our meet as long as we didn't fall on our face, and we didn't. We had a lot of good girls,” Lions coach Tyler Wade said. “I've been coaching for two years, but I could coach for a long time and not coach another person like Christine (London) ... she's been really talented since her freshman year, and she's got a really bright future ahead of her. I'm just glad that my name can be attached to her a little bit.”
London’s winning time in the 55 (7.41) was a tenth of a second faster than her winning time from a year ago and her winning 300 time (41.69) was almost half-a-second faster than her time from last year. London’s winning hurdles time of 8.31 was one one-hundreth off of the meet record of 8.30, set in 2002 by Mt. Hebron’s Jeanette Curtis, and would have been good enough for a second place finish in the boys race.
“I've really been working on my sprint speed to get better and better, because I knew that needed a little more work in the dash,” said London, who has won four hurdles state championships between indoor and outdoor. “I knew after I worked on (my starts and finishes) I'd be able to run a good time.”
Howard’s Taylor Scaife also won the shot put, and the Lions’ team of Bre Hamilton, Kelsey Wright, Tori Crump and Darcey Raynor won the 4x200 relay. Their winning relay time of 1:47.20 was two tenths of a second off of a decade-old county record set by Hammond.
The second-place Raiders got wins from a pair of talented sophomores — Jen Bleakney in the 1,600 and Rebekah Markovitz in the 500 — as well as a gold medal in the 4x400 relay, which Markovitz led off.
Bleakney trailed River Hill’s Allison Krein and Reservoir’s Cindy Alms on the final lap of the 1,600, but turned on the afterburners for the final 300 meters of the race to take the gold.
Krein came back to win the 3,200, beating a pair of cross country rivals — Centennial’s Shreya Nalubola and Mt. Hebron’s Rachel Yep, the defending county champion in the event — along the way. Krein placed second at the 3A cross country state championship meet in November, just ahead of Nalubola (third) and Yep (sixth).
“I knew going in it was going to be pretty tough competition ... there were a lot of good people in the race,” said Krein, a sophomore. “I wasn't 100 percent happy with my performance in the 1,600, so I used that to motivate me to come back and do better in this race.”
But the only athlete to rival London in terms of individual success was Hammond's Jermika Miller.
Miller, who won the high jump and long jump last year, repeated as champion in those two events, but also added a gold medal in the triple jump this year. To make the triple crown even sweeter, she broke a triple jump meet and county record with her 36-06.5 effort. The previous record was set last year by Long Reach's Kristen Fawole, who placed second this year.
“I think it just took dedication, because I really wanted to win since this was my senior year. So I decided to work really hard, listened to my coaches and just put it all together,” said Miller, who competes on the same summer team as London. “I progressed throughout the season and I'm really happy with how I did.”
Including her third place finish in the 4x200 relay, Miller had a hand in 36 of her team’s 40 points.
Other winners in the girls meet were Reservoir's Amy Oliver (800) and 4x800 relay team, and Wilde Lake's Adrianna Shoemaker (pole vault).
On the boys side, Reservoir watched Howard win titles in the 300 (Josh Peoples), 55 dash (Zack Black), 3,200 (Danny Rau. and the 4x400 relay. But the Gators quietly scored almost 60 points in the field events — with wins by Olumide Akinbinu (high jump), Gibrill Sheriff (long jump. and Evan Rector (pole vault), along with a victory in the 4x800 relay — to outpace the second-place Lions, 131-106.5, in the final team standings.
"I'm one of those math guys, so going into the meet I did the projections," Reservoir coach Phil Rogers said. "Howard crushed us on the track in retrospect, but our field is really what did it for us."
Wilde Lake's Tim Virostek was the only multiple event winner among the boys, taking home titles in the 500 and 800.
Long Reach's Rob Carter (55 hurdles) and 4x200 relay team; River Hill's Chris Heydrick (1600), Atholton's Jordan Palmer (triple jump) and Mt. Hebron's Jeffrey Chavis (shot put) also won titles in the boys meet.
Brandon Hopp contributed to this story.
Ivan Walker Memorial Howard County Championship Meet
Jan. 23 at the Prince George's Sports and Learning Complex
Boys team scores: 1. Reservoir, 131; 2. Howard, 106.50; 3. Mt, Hebron, 70; 4. Atholton, 62; 5. Long Reach, 54; 6. River Hill, 53; 7. Wilde Lake, 41; 8. Centennial, 16; 8. Marriotts Ridge, 16; 10. Oakland Mills, 13; 11. Hammond, 12; 12. Glenelg, 10.50.
Girls team scores: 1. Howard , 110.50; 2. Atholton, 74.50; 3. Reservoir, 67.50; 4. River Hill, 57; 5. Long Reach, 49; 6. Mt. Hebron, 48; 7. Hammond, 40; 8. Oakland Mills, 36; 9. Centennial, 29; 10. Wilde Lake, 26; 11. Marriotts Ridge, 18; 12. Glenelg, 14.50.