Howard senior Rupam Mondal distinctly remembered crossing last in the 4x800 relay at the indoor track and field state championships a year ago. But at the Prince George’s Sports and Learning Complex Tuesday, the Lions not only redeemed themselves, but also took home a gold medal in the same event and set a new school record in the process.
“Last year at this meet we came in dead last,” said Mondal, who was apart of the championship winning team that included Matthew Eastman, Erik Jenks and Joesph Lapointe. “Now we’re first and are champions. It feels absolutely amazing to come from that.”
Eastman was a new edition to the Lions. It was the senior’s first time running indoor track and first experience at the state championship meet.
“We smashed it,” Eastman said, after his team clocked in at 8 minutes and 17.84 seconds. “Obviously beating the school record that feels amazing. This is my first year running indoor track and first year running states as a team, so breaking the school record at my first state championship, I mean I am ecstatic right now. I can barely stand, I’m so happy.”
Jenks anchored Howard’s gold medal finish, crossing .54 seconds before second-place finishers, Oxon Hill.
“I wanted to win really bad,” Jenks said. “That’s all I thought about for that mental push in the end. I couldn’t believe when we crossed the finish line that we won. These three guys just put us in a great position and I knew all we needed as that final push to bring it home."
Interesting enough, the Lions bested a school record despite abnormal practice conditions leading up to the race. With the state meet being pushed back a week due to snow and school being canceled on numerous occasions, Eastman, Jenks, Mondal and Lapointe made sure to stay ready, working on their own to prepare for a historic run.
“Every day our coach was like, ‘Go out and run, go out and run,’ no matter what the weather was like,” Lapointe said. “He just kept pushing us and we just kept pushing ourselves hard through that break and be ready for whenever states was.”
The Lions first place finish in the boys 4x8 was the highlight of the day, but overall finished well on both sides, as the boy’s accumulated 13.50 points – good for a 13th place standing, while the girl’s totaled 14 points for 14th best overall.
“It definitely was an exciting race,” said Howard coach Zack Dickerson. “We knew we had a shot going into it, depending on how other team’s loaded up their 4x8’s but they were really smart during the race, not getting too far ahead [and] running some smart even splits. Erik had a great last leg there to really pull it out.”
The Lions girl’s 4x8 relay team also set a new school record Tuesday, coming in at 10 minutes and 3.74 seconds, good for a fifth place finish. While Bayli Smith was the only other top finisher for Howard, throwing 36-9.75 in the girl’s shot put, placing fourth overall.
“The goal is to ride this momentum out into counties, regionals and states for outdoor as well,” Dickerson said during the meet. “Everyone is running great so far. The girl’s 4x8 broke the school record by a tenth of a second, so they placed 5th overall I believe. Courtney Mann came back to run 5:20 in the mile for 7th, which is only like a 30 minute recovery which is impressive, so very happy with the 4x8 and Courtney right now too.”
On the 3A side, the Wilde Lake girl’s team saw two athletes collect gold, in junior Deanna Yancey [high jump] and senior Jamila Brown [300-meter dash].
Brown bested her personal best with a time of 39.92, 1.09 seconds faster than the second-place finisher.
“I didn’t PR, but I felt good,” Brown said immediately after crossing second in the 55-meter dash later in the night. “I’m just still on the 300… I cried because I was really happy. I didn’t think I was going to run 39 at all. I thought I was going to run 40-low. Now that I’ve run it [sub-40] it’s not that hard – it’s just shocking.”
It didn’t take long for Yancey to collect her state title, as the high jump started out at 4 feet, 8 inches, which Yancey said is usually what she come’s in with. She outlasted the competition, clearing 5 feet – just edging out Mt. Hebron’s Julia Shanley who placed second.
“At first I didn’t realize, it didn’t fully click in my head,” Yancey recalled. “And then after awhile I was like, ‘wait I just won.’ So I was really happy. My mental state has gotten better. When I jump and miss I don’t get as flustered. I know my goal was to win states in indoor this year, due to the fact that I came in second in outdoor states last year –I missed by like an inch.”
Christian Saulsbury was the Wildecats second-highest placing athlete, as he took home silver in the boy’s 55-meter dash, crossing in 6.42 seconds, just .02 seconds slower than Baltimore Poly’s William Henderson.
River Hill’s Sophie Caplan was the only other Howard County representative that collected gold Tuesday, as she outlasted the competition in the girls 3A pole vault, clearing 10-feet.
Teammate Sydney Robinson also had an illustrious day, as the freshman earned second in the 500-meters and fourth in the 300-meters, setting the bar high in her first state competition.
“I felt great, I’m getting faster every time I run the 500, it was a little fast-paced for me, but I adjusted to it and I came back and got second,” she said after crossing with a time of 1:17.81. “I didn’t really think about it, because I’ve been running track for so long and everyone knows who I am. I think it feels great. I’m just trying to represent the freshman class because we have the best freshman class coming in this year so, I want to represent myself, my school and all the other freshman that are here today too.”
Trent Rose was the only other Hawk to medal, as he finished third overall in the boys 3,200-meter run, barely getting edged out by second-place finisher, Northern-Cal’s Matt Bennett.
“Earlier in the race I tried to make it past Bennett and I think he out-tucked me on that last lap,” Rose said, after he finished in 9 minutes and 50.38 seconds – only .22 seconds slower than Bennett. “I wanted to get second. I’m sure anybody would have, but [Bennett is] definitely tough, mental runner. He looks like a monster when he’s on that final sprint; it’s scary.”
River Hill collected a Howard County best 35 points on the girl’s side, which tied for third overall. Wilde Lake [32 points, 6th overall], Atholton [28 points, 7th overall], Reservoir [13 points, 16th overall] and Mt. Hebron [9 points, 21st overall] followed.
“Every girl has placed so far. We’ve medaled in everything. I can’t be happier,” said Raiders coach Ivan Alvarado during the meet. “Two school records were made – Holly-Ann [Huff-Edsall] in the 500 and the girls 4x200 lowered the school record again. The goal was 30 [points], so I think we’ll be right under.”
Atholton’s girl’s 4x800 and 4x400 relay team’s finished strong, taking second and fourth overall, respectively. While individually, Asha Washington churned out the best standing for her team, crossing third in the 55-meter dash with a time of 7.33. Huff-Edsall clocked in with a school-record time of 1 minute and 18.65 seconds in the 500-meter, placing fourth overall.
Reservoir [21 points] edged Mt. Hebron [20 points] for 6th place, with Wilde Lake [18 points, 10th overall], Glenelg [10 points, 20th overall] and Atholton [2 points, 31st overall] following in the boy’s overall team scores.
“For the most part the kids that showed up today that we qualified on all ran great,” said Gators coach Phil Rogers. “We had a young team led by a few seniors. The girl’s 4x2 they came and did a good job. The boys 4x2 bounced back, they did well – season best. Boy’s 4x8, placed third – season best. I really can’t complain. Kelvyn Sosoo PR’d in the 55 [meter dash]. Toni Jennings tied her PR in the 55 hurdles, my sophomore Kai [Muniz] in the mile – he’s a little disappointed, but overall he learned a lot in his first experience in the state meet. Mason Baker, first time in the state meet finished fifth, my sophomore thrower, Lola [Alli] finished eighth – so again, a lot of youth gained a lot of experience.”
Reservoir crossed third in the boy’s 4x8, beating the Vikings by 2.07 seconds, while its boy’s 4x2 crossed fourth, with the girl’s coming in 5th in the 4x2 relay.
“It feels good,” said the Gators Bethany Golatt, who anchored the girl’s 4x2 team, which included Madi Pepe, Kayla Pindell and Toni Jennings. “I feel like we worked hard to get to this point.”
Golatt narrowly edged out Atholton at the end of the race, giving Reservoir the .01-second advantage.
“We finished strong,” Pindell said. “We didn’t let up in the end. I knew Bethany was going to catch her.”
For the Vikings, senior Justin Johnson was the best individual performer of the day, as he earned a bronze in the 500-meters with a time of 1:07.26, while coming in 4th in the 800-meters.
“I didn’t want to be where I am, I wanted to move up and just get better, so I decided to go,” said Johnson after clocking in at 2:02.89 in the 800. “I could do better. I wanted at least second, [but] I did well [overall]. The 500 I PR’d and got third. I was kind of disappointed actually, because I knew I could have done better than what I did, but I took it.”
After crossing 4th in the 4x8 relay, Mt. Hebron took an 8th place standing in the 4x4, 2.44 seconds slower than bronze medalist’s Glenelg.
Including a third place finish in the 4x4, the Gladiators also had notable performances in the 4x2 relay, coming in 6th overall with a time of 1:35.97 and 8th overall in the boy’s 300-meter dash by junior Jared Allen.
As for Centennial, it saw a 10th place standing in the girl's 4x8 relay, coming in at 10 minutes and 56.3 seconds. Ashley Mazer was the only individual qualifer on the day for the Eagles, as she crossed 11th overall in the 3,200.