Performer of the Year: Tony Cole, Oakland Mills
Few athletes can miss their county or conference championships and still walk away from the region and state meets with arms full of gold medals. Then again, Cole has proven to be anything but ordinary.
The Sun's All-Metro Performer of the Year in indoor track this winter, Cole opened this season by trimming a pair of meet records at the Warrior Invitational. The senior's winning time of 10.87 seconds in the 100-meter dash edged the previous record of 10.89 seconds set by Bullis' Robert Woodward last year. Cole nipped another Woodward mark when he crossed the finish line of the 200 in 22.07 seconds. Woodward's previous record was 22.12 seconds.
After winning the 200 at the Knights Invite in 21.7 seconds - a time that broke the previous meet record of 21.9 seconds shared by Cole and two other athletes - he strained his left hamstring during a Howard County dual meet with Wilde Lake. Rather than risk further injury, Cole and Scorpions coach Bryan Winfield elected to keep Cole out of the county championships and prepare him for the Class 1A South region and state meets.
The strategy worked. At the region championships, Cole claimed the 100 (10.6 seconds) and the 200 (21.7 seconds) and ran legs of the victorious 400- (43.7 seconds) and 800-relay (1 minute, 31.9 seconds) squads. A week later, his wins in the 100 (10.83 seconds), the 200 (21.97 seconds), the 400 relay (44.40 seconds) and the 1,600 relay (3:27.72) at the Class 1A state meet propelled No. 4 Oakland Mills to its 11th state crown in the last 16 years.
The state championship in the 100 was Cole's third straight in that event. The Howard County's Performer of the Year has accepted to full scholarship to run for Ohio State next season.
Coach of the Year: Janet Liimatta, Old Mill
Fourteen years ago, Liimatta was a member of a Patriots girls squad that fell in its quest to grab a Class 4A state title, in part, because a teammate elected to go to the school prom instead of the state meet. Liimatta used that experience to remind the Old Mill boys team of its mission and to keep the athletes focused.
The Patriots listened. Some, like Kevin Barnes, went to the prom the night before the second day of the Class 4A state championships, but retired early rather than stay out late. Others, like Anthony Littlejohn, skipped the entire event.
That kind of commitment did not go unrewarded. Refreshed and eager, top-ranked Old Mill needed a scintillating victory from its 1,600-relay squad and some help from Eleanor Roosevelt to knock off heavily-favored Suitland by 1 1/2 points for the school's first state crown since 1991. Along the way, Liimatta - the Anne Arundel County Coach of the Year - guided the Patriots to their fourth consecutive county title and 20th in the last 28 years and their third Class 4A East region championship in the past four seasons and 19th in the last 24 years.
Kevin Barnes, Old Mill
The senior collected his second straight Class 4A state title in the high jump when he cleared 6 feet, 6 inches - a height that was matched by only one other athlete at the state level. The victory completed an undefeated season in the high jump, which included wins at the Anne Arundel County (6 feet, 2 inches) and the East region (6 feet, 2 inches) levels.
First in the long jump (20 feet, 8 inches) and 400 relay (43.0 seconds) at the region meet, Barnes was a runner-up in the 110 high hurdles and long jump at the state championships, and the 400-relay squad placed third. He will play football at Maryland next year.
Ronald Bias, Woodlawn
The senior put an exclamation mark on his four-year career by claiming a Class 4A state crown in the long jump, leaping 23 feet, 1 inch. But Bias, a runner-up in the high jump at the state meet, is better known as a triple jumper.
He leaped an area-best 47 feet, 1 inch at the North region championships, 46 feet for fourth place at the Penn Relays and a record-setting 43 feet, 7 1/4 inches at the Warrior Invitational. Victories in the high (6 feet, 2 inches), long (22 feet, 1 inch) and triple (45 feet, 10 inches) and a runner-up finish in the 110 high hurdles at the Baltimore County championships lifted No. 9 Woodlawn to its ninth straight crown.
Will Eden, Annapolis
The junior grabbed his first state title when he took the 3,200 at the Class 3A state championships in an area-best time of 9:35.01. The time was the second-fastest recorded by an athlete at this year's state meet.
Winner of the last two state crowns in the 3,200 during the indoor track seasons, Eden's victory helped him absorb what had been somewhat of a rocky spring for him. Third in the 3,200 at both the Anne Arundel County and South region championships, Eden did cross the finish line first in the 5,000-meter run at the Knight Invite (15:41).
Drew Graybeal, Glenelg
The senior chased away any hint of an outdoor track jinx by collecting three state titles at the Class 2A state meet this spring. Graybeal, a three-time state champion in indoor track, was first in the 400 (49.71 seconds) and the 800 (1:56.99) at the outdoor state meet.
He also ran a leg of the 3,200-relay squad that won in 8:09.3. The victories in the 800 and 3,200 relay capped a sweep of both events at the Howard County (2:01.29 in the 800 and 8:13.90 in the 3,200 relay) and South region (2:01.79, 8:24.22) levels. Graybeal, who placed second in the 400 at the county championships, rebounded at the region meet, where he won in 49.43 seconds.
Eric Herndon, Annapolis
The senior swept the triple jump this spring, claiming the event at the Anne Arundel County (44 feet, 4 inches), the Class 3A South region (43 feet, 7 inches) and the state (43 feet, 7 inches) levels. Herndon's best mark, however, was registered at the Bulldog Invitational, where he leaped 44 feet, 8 1/2 inches.
At the county championships, Herndon ran a leg of the winning 800-relay team (1:32.2) and finished third in the long jump. He was a runner-up in the long jump and ran legs of the third-place 400- and 800-relay squads at the region meet. Herndon, whose 400-relay team was second at the state championships, will continue to jump at Bowie State.
Darrius Heyward-Bey, McDonogh
The junior asserted himself as the fastest athlete in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association and perhaps the entire state. Heyward-Bey won the 100 in 10.68 seconds and the 200 in 21.65 seconds at the MIAA championships. The time in the 200 eclipsed the previous meet record of 21.90 seconds set by Loyola's Brandon Larkins in 1994.
Heyward-Bey's most eye-opening performance came at the Draper Invitational, where he was hand-timed in 10.2 seconds in a semifinal of the 100. Although he strained his hamstring completing that effort and was held out of the final, the time - translated to 10.44 seconds as an automatic time - set a meet and school record.
David Howard, Oakland Mills
Long known as a sprint powerhouse, the Scorpions produced a state champion discus thrower in Howard. The junior's heave of 158 feet, 3 inches not only earned him a Class 1A state crown, but it also stands as the farthest throw recorded by an area athlete this spring.
Howard, who lost to Southern-B's Gerome Jones in the discus throw at the South region meet, finished second in the shot put, accounting for 18 of Oakland Mills' 99 points at the state championships. A runner-up in the shot put at the South region meet, Howard secured a Howard County title in the shot put in which he recorded a mark of 50 feet, 6 1/4 inches.
Bryan Jones, Arundel
Undefeated in the 55 hurdles during the indoor track season, Jones extended his season of perfection to the 110 high hurdles and the 300 intermediate hurdles this spring. The senior's victory in the 110 high hurdles (14.31 seconds) at the Class 4A state championships capped a sweep of the event, which included top honors at the Anne Arundel County (13.7 seconds) and the East region (14.1 seconds) levels.
Jones' time at the county championships nipped the previous meet record of 13.8 seconds set by South River's Jason Fullmer in 1993. Seventh in the 400 intermediate hurdles (54.86 seconds) at the Penn Relays, Jones was also first in the 300 intermediate hurdles at the county (38.4 seconds) and the region (39.0 seconds) levels.
Gerome Jones, Southern-B
The All-Metro selection in indoor track opened the year by finishing second in the shot put at the Capitol Beltway Classic. But from that point on, Jones was unstoppable. The junior won at the Glenelg (47 feet, 11 1/2 inches) and Gator (49 feet, 3 3/4 inches) invitationals before missing the Baltimore City championships due to an illness.
At the Class 1A South region meet, Jones took top honors in both the shot put (51 feet, 10 inches) and the discus throw (137 feet, 2 1/2 inches. Despite placing third in the discus throw at the state championships, Jones earned his first gold medal, winning the shot put with an area-best throw of 53 feet, 4 inches.
A.J. Lee, Southern-AA
The Anne Arundel County Performer of the Year nearly carried the No. 5 Bulldogs to their second Class 2A state crown in three seasons. Lee took the 200 (22.03 seconds) and the long jump (an area-best 23 feet, 7 1/2 inches) and was second in the 100 and high jump.
The senior contributed 36 of Southern-AA's 49 points, which positioned the Bulldogs for second place. Lee won all four events at the South region meet and all but the high jump at the county championships.
Anthony Littlejohn, Old Mill
Although he finished second in the 1,600 at the Class 4A state championships, Littlejohn recorded the area's fastest time in the event when he was clocked in 4:23.66.
The senior's contributions at the state meet were significant. Not only was he a runner-up in the 800, but Littlejohn also ran legs of the winning 1,600- (3:22.03) and 3,200-relay (7:54.19) squads.
His efforts provided the Patriots with 36 of their 94 1/2 points. Up until the state championships, Littlejohn was golden in the 800 and 1,600. He took top honors in both events at the East region meet (1:57.2 in the 800 and 4:30.6 in the 1,600) and the Anne Arundel County championships (1:56.3, 4:25.0).
Brandon Lynch, Mervo
The senior earned All-Baltimore City/County Performer of the Year honors with his kick. Lynch's penchant for exploding past rivals over the final 30 meters helped him collect Class 3A state titles in the 800 (1:58.42) and the 1,600 relay (3:21.98). The state crown in the 800 is his second in as many years.
A runner-up in the 400 and a member of the fifth-place 3,200-relay team, Lynch accounted for 30 of the No. 7 Mustangs' 42 points, which put them in third place at the state meet. He did not lose at the North region meet as he claimed the 400 (49.9 seconds), the 800 (1:57.6), the 1,600 relay (3:27.7) and the 3,200 relay (8:22.4). Lynch also won the 400 (49.87 seconds) at the Baltimore City championships.
Karlton McCullough, Oakland Mills
The senior blossomed at the right time. With Tony Cole sitting out the Howard County championships, McCullough stepped in and took the lead. He upended Glenelg's Drew Graybeal in the 400 (an area-best time of 48.93 seconds) and ran legs of the winning 400-, 800- and 1,600-relay teams.
At the Class 1A South region meet, McCullough took the 400 (50.0 seconds), the 800 (2:07.6) and the 400 and 800 relays. He collected four gold medals at the state championships - the 400 (49.80 seconds), the 800 (1:59.59), the 800 relay (1:30.9) and the 1,600 relay (3:27.72). His victory in the 800 was only his third time running the event.
George Panniell, Calvert Hall
The senior paced the No. 3 Cardinals' runner-up finish at the MIAA championships. Panniell, who won the 110 high hurdles as a junior, successfully defended the title this spring when he crossed the finish line in 14.62 seconds.
Panniell picked up victories in the 300 intermediate hurdles (38.55 seconds) and the 800 relay, where the squad's time of 1:30.01 shattered the previous meet record of 1:31.52 set by Mount St. Joseph last year. Winner of both hurdles events at the McDonogh Private School Invitational, Panniell's time of 38.9 seconds in the 300 intermediate hurdles broke the previous meet record of 39.3 seconds set by Calvert Hall's Uzoma Nwadike in 1998.
Kyle Rauser, Old Mill
The junior stepped out of the shadows and into the limelight at the Class 4A state championships. Rauser not only ran legs of the winning 1,600 (3:22.03) and 3,200 (7:54.19) relays, but he also captured his first state crown with an area-best time of 1:56.22 in the 800. Throw in his effort on the third-place 800-relay squad, and Rauser contributed 36 points to the Patriots.
Rauser scored victories in the 800 at the Evans/Luce (2:00.7) and Knights (2:01.3) invitationals.
Tim Wunderlich, North Carroll
The Carroll County Performer of the Year corralled his first state title when he cleared 13 feet at the Class 3A state championships. Not only was the height a personal record for the junior, but Wunderlich's mark also stood as the best registered by an area athlete this spring.
At the West region meet, Wunderlich was first in the shot put (49 feet, 7 inches) and the pole vault (10 feet), second in the discus throw and third in the high jump. He won the high jump (6 feet, 2 inches) at the county championships.
Name School Class
Ryan Audy Mount St. Joseph Senior
Matthew Baile Francis Scott Key Senior
Larry Beavers Annapolis Senior
Tyler Blatchley Mount St. Joseph Senior
Barshied Bowman C. Milton Wright Junior
Lamar Clayton Havre de Grace Junior
Jarell Clinton Calvert Hall Senior
Julius Coleman Mervo Junior
Eric Graves Catonsville Senior
Samuel Henry Woodlawn Senior
Jasper Ihezie Calvert Hall Senior
John O'Connell Mount St. Joseph Senior
Chris Prior Westminster Senior
Michael Wade River Hill Senior
Kevin Walsh Havre de Grace Senior
Marcus Worthy Edgewood Senior
Cedric Zellner Arch. Spalding Junior
Note: Teams selected by Edwards Lee after consultation with The Sun staff.