HAGERSTOWN —Jan Price has had her hands full at South Hagerstown High School this weekend.
Roughly 750 youth track and field athletes from four states are there to compete in the AAU Area 4 Junior Olympic National Qualifier. And not only is Price the director of the four-day meet — which began Thursday and concludes Sunday — she also is the head coach of the host Mountain Express club team.
“It’s busy, as you can see,” Price said Saturday. “But our kids have been doing really great. They’ve all stepped up their game. I couldn’t ask for more.”
The top five finishers in each event — and top four in each multi-event — this weekend qualify for the national championships later this summer in New Orleans.
Mountain Express, comprised mostly of Washington County kids, has had several qualifiers, including more than a half-dozen champions.
“We’re going to New Orleans,” Price said. “We just have to knock them over there.”
The Mountain Express’ boys champs this weekend have included: Isiaha Smith in the Intermediate (born in 1995-96) shot put; Emmanuel Morris in the Youth (born in 1997) shot put; Jaelin Farrell in the Sub Youth (born in 1998) shot put; Darius Bowie in the Sub Youth long jump; Jalyx Hunt in the Bantam (born in 2001) triathlon (shot put, high jump, 200-meter dash); and Eric Bowens in the Bantam turbo javelin.
The Mountain Express’ girls champs have included: Maggie Sullivan in the Intermediate heptathlon (100 hurdles, 200 dash, 800 run, high jump, long jump, shot put and javelin); and Jayla Cross in the Sub Youth long jump.
Sullivan, who capped her first varsity season at Boonsboro last month by winning Maryland Class 1A state titles in the 100 hurdles and 300 hurdles, ran a personal-best time of 15.39 seconds in the 100 hurdles en route to winning the heptathlon.
“It was a lot of fun,” she said of the multi-event. “I didn’t like the 800, but everything else was fun. I practiced shot put and javelin for the first time just two days before, so if I go to New Orleans, I’ll practice a lot more.”
Sullivan’s two younger brothers, Charlie, 11, and Henry, 7, also are competing this weekend for Mountain Express in sprints and jumps.
“They like it,” she said. “It’s a hard sport. It takes a lot of pain to do well. But I think they’ll be good at it when they get to high school.”
Last year, James Searcy became Mountain Express’ first national champion, winning the Sub Bantam boys high jump with a leap of 4 feet, 2 inches.
While Searcy’s goal is to win another national title, first he must qualify. He’ll compete in the Bantam high jump Sunday, and the 10-year-old Searcy should be the favorite, having already cleared 4-9 this year.
“I feel a little pressure, but I’m having fun too,” he said.
Also Saturday, J.R. Lowery, who will be a senior at Boonsboro in the fall, won the Young (born in 1993-94) boys shot put with a throw of 54 feet, 4 inches, competing unattached. Lowery won Maryland 1A state titles in the shot put, indoors and outdoors, as a junior.