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Western Tech track athletes overcome obstacles at state championship meet

Western Tech track athletes overcome obstacles at state championship meet
Western Tech's senior Crystal Johnson sprints to the finish to win the Class 1A girls 100-meter dash final during the final day of the MPSSAA Track and Field State Championship meet at Morgan State University. Johnson also won the 200 meters. (Brian Krista / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Western Tech track and field athletes already have one obstacle to overcome each season, because the school does not have a track on campus.

But, senior Crystal Johnson and juniors Angel Young and Nick Richardson added another setback to their training — they all suffered leg injuries that forced them to miss significant time.

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Finally healthy, at the Maryland State Class 1A track and field championship meet at Morgan State University, all three produced superb efforts.

Johnson, who missed the 2017-18 indoor season and missed the outdoor state championships last year, came back with a vengeance on Memorial Day weekend.

She won the 100-meter dash with a personal record and school-record time of 11.99.

That time would have won the Class 2A and Class 4A 100-meter races.

She also captured the 200 meters in a personal best time of 24.86. That would have also won the Class 2A and 4A races.

Johnson anchored the third-place 4x200 relay behind freshman Ceanna Brown, senior Tobiloba Owejuyigbe and Young. They captured bronze in 1:44.27.

Junior Young, who didn’t run until the last two Baltimore County meets this season, because of a leg injury, was sixth in the 200 (12.53).

It was only the third time Richardson ran during the outdoor season because of injury and he produced all 18 points for the 16th-place Wolverine boys.

Richardson was second in the 400 meters (50.51) and fourth in the 100 (11.05) and 200 (22.75).

Johnson’s 20 individual points helped the girls finish fifth in the team standings with 35 points.

That came one year after they were 32nd with one team point scored during her absence.

“You hope that it works out for their senior year and that all their hard work comes to fruition and it did,” Western Tech coach Jennie Roe said, noting Johnson had senior prom the night before and was up pretty late. “We’ve had prom before for the last couple years and sometimes it’s affected my senior athletes, but she definitely stepped up and did a great job.”

Not running during the indoor season was tough, but may have benefited her the most.

“She was supposed to run indoors, but took it easy when she could have possibly returned, but she got stronger first and it paid off,” Roe said.

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Johnson will attend Towson University in the fall.

“One of the things I’m most proud about, being the teacher before coach, is that she is going for academic reasons to Towson and, to be honest, hasn’t even decided if she is going to run, because she puts her academics first and I’m extremely proud of her for that,” Roe said.

That may change after Towson coaches notice her times fro mthe state meet.

“She is an athletic young lady,” Roe said.

The 4x200 relay team impressed the coach mightily, considering they don’t have a track with zone markers to practice handoffs.

They practice once a week at the Community College of Baltimore County, Catonsville on a concrete surface.

“When you consider the accommodations my kids have to practice on and the fact that we can still go in and do what we do, we got third in the 4x200 relay and I’m really proud of that, we don’t have a track to do handoffs.”

They do have a sand pit at CCBC, so senior Imari Cooper could practice the triple jump, but the runway doesn’t have marks so she had a lot of learning to do in her first season of outdoor track.

That didn’t stop her from placing third in triple jump by going 35 feet, 4 inches.

“She is a senior and this is her first season and I could not be more proud of her,” Roe said. “We recruited her, she’s a volleyball player and had never jumped before and she got third.”

On the volleyball team, the 5-foot-4 Cooper helped the Wolverines to the Class 1A state semifinals, where they lost to Smithsburg and finished with a 15-4 record.

The volleyball team was coached by Eric Jett, who completed his 17th season.

Jett joined the outdoor track coaching staff this spring for the first time.

“He came on as one of my assistant coaches and he took over triple and long [jumps] with no experience and worked really hard personally with her and Hatsah Ebrahim,” Roe said.

Ebrahim placed seventh in the triple jump (35-feet).

In addition to making her mark in triple jump, Cooper also had a strong influence on the younger athletes.

“She was a great asset leadership-wise to our team,” Roe said. “She has never done it before, but she was fully in and she really helped our freshmen feel like they were part of the team and she likes everyone and she is just a fabulous young lady.”

Cooper will attend Penn State next year for academic reasons.

While the team’s prep season is over, the four members of the 4x200 relay team may have one more performance at the New Balance Nationals outdoor meet, which will be held at North Carolina A & T University, in Greensboro, NC, June 15-17.

“My 4x200 team qualified and that was the first time the four of them had ever run together,” Roe said. “They are definitely considering it, but they haven’t decided for sure.”

Richardson is not expected to run at the New Balance nationals, but can rest on the quality finish to his season.

“He’s a hard-working kid and he’s a great leader and he’s one of those kids you truly enjoy coaching and I think that is most of what we have here at Western and that is a great thing to have,” Roe said.

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