It was at the indoor state meet just over four months ago when Mt. Hebron senior Michaela Wilkins started envisioning the end of her high school running career.
She had just won a gold medal in the 800, but it was what happened in the 500 — when she was knocked to the track after colliding with another runner and rallied to place third — that had her looking ahead to a fresh start outdoors.
"I just look forward to better meets," she said at the time.
And better meets were exactly what was ahead for Wilkins.
Four years of hard work culminated this spring for Wilkins with four gold medals at the county championships (400, 800, 4x400 and 4x800 relays), four more at the 3A East regional meet, and two more gold medals in the 400 and 800 at the state meet in late May, including a record-breaking performance in the 800.
"It feels really good, because I accomplished my goals," said Wilkins, who also earned her second consecutive track Athlete of the Year award for her efforts.
This season was especially memorable for Wilkins because not only did she enjoy individual success, but also team success. Alongside fellow senior Karli Buescher, junior Rachel Yep and freshman Taylor Williams, among others, the Viking girls were one of the deepest and most dominant teams in the state. And it showed, as they easily won the county and regional meets, carrying over their success from the indoor season, and placed third at 3A states.
"There were three words that describe her: discipline, dedication and determination," coach Tee Carter said. "She's a good kid and I'm happy for her and the example that she set for the young girls on the team. ... She's left a remarkable (example) for those young ladies, and even throughout Howard County."
The Mt. Hebron girls last swept indoor and outdoor county and regional track titles in 2007.
"It was really exciting because it's been a long time since Mt. Hebron has won counties and regions two (seasons) in a row," Wilkins said. "We all had a really close bond because we ran together in so many (individual) events and relays."
Next up for Wilkins is the outdoor senior nationals this weekend in North Carolina, where she will be running the 400 and the 800. Her goal is to break 55 seconds in the 400 and 2:09 in the 800. To reach those marks, she would have to shave almost a half-second off of her best time in the 400 this spring, and more than three seconds off of her best 800 time. That personal best, 2:12.02, was set at the outdoor state meet. It gave Wilkins' the 3A state record in the event, breaking an 18-year-old mark by .45 of a second.
Hitting times like that would put Wilkins among the nation's elite track athletes.
So while those goals are lofty, one would be wise not to put anything past Wilkins.
"I feel like I've put the hard work in to achieve those goals. I feel like I'm prepared," she said.
Later this summer, Wilkins will get a little time off for some much deserved R&R during a vacation to Myrtle Beach, S.C. And then in the fall it's off to Villanova, where Wilkins has earned a full athletic scholarship. She plans to specialize in the 400 and 800, and says that the only difference from high school will be that she hopes to train a little more seriously and be a little more competitive with the fastest runners in the nation.
"I would not be surprised if in the next couple of years she is among those top athletes competing at the Olympic trials," Carter said. "I would say that the sky is the limit for her as far as the 800."
She also has academic goals. She plans to major in journalism, with designs on one day becoming a fashion journalist. And the fact that she gets to attend a school such as Villanova because of her athletic abilities is a privilege that she does not take for granted.
"It was a lot of hard work at the beginning, but it feels really good to be able to look back and see how it has all paid off," she said.
Named to the first team:
Natalie Alper, Atholton
Events: High jump, 800, 4x400, 4x800
Postseason highlights: Second in high jump at county meet. Helped 4x800 team place second at county meet and third at regions. Won regional high jump gold with a leap of 5 feet, 2 inches. Second in state high jump with a postseason-best 5-4 effort.
Kathleen Amstad, Centennial
Events: 100, 200, 4x200, 4x400
Postseason highlights: Won both 100 (12.33) and 200 (25.23) at county meet. Followed that up by repeating with two more gold medals in those events at the 3A East regional meet.
Karli Buescher, Mt. Hebron
Events: 800, 1600, 4x800
Postseason highlights: Second in 800 at county and regional meets. Also took third in the regional 1600. Fifth in state 800 with a postseason-best time of 2:21.52. Also helped 4x800 relay team win county and regional titles and place third at states.
Caitlin Davis, River Hill
Events: High jump, long jump, triple jump, pole vault
Postseason highlights: Won county and regional pole vault titles with a 9-6 mark each time. Third in regional long jump (16-9) and fourth in triple jump (35-1). Did not record a height in state pole vault but placed fourth in long jump (17-1).
Kristen Fawole, Long Reach
Events: Long jump, triple jump, 200, 4x100
Postseason highlights: County and regional champ in the long jump (17-8) and triple jump and also placed third in the 200 (26.08). Placed third in the state triple jump with a postseason best mark of 36-11.25. Also helped 4x100 relay team to county gold.
Allison Krein, River Hill
Events: 800, 1600, 4x800
Postseason highlights: Placed second in county 1600 and fourth in 800 (2:26.1). Anchored fourth-place 4x800 relay team at countys and regions. Won regional 1600 in 5:11.52. Took third in the state mile, higher than any other county runner.
Christine London, Howard
Events: 100 hurdles, 300 hurdles, 4x400
Postseason highlights: Disqualified in 100 hurdles at county meet but won the 300 and dominated both events at regions. At states, won the 100 (14.26) and 300 (44.01) in postseason best times. Also anchored 4x400 relay that placed second in county.
Jermika Miller, Hammond
Events: High jump, long jump, triple jump, 4x100
Postseason highlights: County high jump champ (4-10) who also was second in long and triple jumps and anchored the runner-up 4x100. Won regional triple jump (36-4.25) and was second in long jump (16-10). Sixth in state long and triple jumps.
Julia Nardone, Glenelg
Events: 1600, 3200
Postseason highlights: County and region 1600 and 3200 champ. Ran postseason-best times in the 2A state mile (5:14.01, third) and 3200 (11:17.20, second), losing to Winters Mill's Hannah Oneda in both races.
Briana Taborn, Atholton
Events: Shot put, discus
Postseason highlights: Swept the throwing events at countys and regionals, setting postseason-best marks of 34-9.5 (shot put) and 105-0 (discus). Struggled at states, finishing 12th in the shot put but placed a strong seventh in the discus.
Taylor Williams, Mt. Hebron
Events: 100, 200, 400, 4x400
Postseason highlights: County runner-up in the 100 (12.51), 200 (25.67) and 400 (59.56) won a gold medal as part of the 4x400 relay. Collected three more silvers and a gold at regions. Anchored the 4x400 relay that finished third at states.
Rachel Yep, Mt. Hebron
Events: 1600, 3200
Postseason highlights: Third in 1600 and second in 3200 (11:31.53) at county meet. Won the 3200 regional championship and finished second in 1600 (5:18.36). Placed third in the 3200 at the state meet.