LANDOVER — You wouldn’t know it from seeing the results all season, but Manchester Valley’s Aiden Neal has ran this outdoor track season with a little extra weight on his shoulders.
He’s been carrying around an eight-hundredths of a second loss to Milford Mill’s Korede Otusajo in the indoor 800-meter state championship race.
Neal went after redemption Saturday at the MPSSAA state track and field championships at Prince George’s Sports and Learning Complex. Otusajo started fast and built a lead, much like did in the winter, but Neal charged back. In the final lap, he overtook Otusajo and no photo finish was needed this time.
Neal crossed the line in 1 minute 52.44 seconds of the Class 3A race, more than a second ahead of Otusajo.
“I know I had what it takes. I knew I had what it takes in doors, too, But it feels very good,” Neal said. “I’m very happy, I go into every race knowing I have what it takes. You just got to execute and I feel I executed very well.”
Neal said there wasn’t a specific plan in mind about how to run the race or make his move.
“I’m not gonna lie, I really didn’t know what my strategy was,” he said. “He definitely went out fast, I know I had the closing speed and it worked out this time.”
Neal was a three-time winner Saturday. Individually, he also won the 1,600 (4:12.33).
“You just want to keep the pace honest,” he said. “There’s a lot of talent in Maryland now, a lot of people that have strong kicks, a lot of people that can keep it fast the whole race. If you don’t keep it honest, they have so much left in their kicks. Get out early and make it so they don’t have the time or the real estate to make it up.”
Neal closed the day by teaming with Christian Childs, Logan Haines and Carter Knox to win the 4x400 relay (3:22.83). It’s the second straight year the Mavericks won the 4x400, and Neal and Knox were on both teams.
“We went into this race as underdogs, it’s the same thing we did last year. We made it happen one more time,” Knox the anchor runner said. “I kept a positive attitude, I knew that I was faster. I knew I could catch him so I made it happen.”
Several Carroll County athletes won championships Saturday. Some ran with a little luck on their side. South Carroll’s girls 4x400 realy team of Lauren Chesney, Brooke Pribulick, Morgan Guynn and Madelyn Boyce found a special gift before their 1A final.
“Right before the race we found four four-leaf clovers that we ran with,” Boyce said. “We kept them in our shirts during the race. We made sure had them, we thought that was really special.”
Chesney started the race, fighting through the late-evening sun to keep the Cavaliers in striking distance.
“That backstretch, I couldn’t see a single thing, the sun was in our faces,” she said. “I was dying at the end but I knew I had to stay as close as I can.”
Pribulick’s goal in the second spot was simply to keep the pace saying, “I was a little nervous at first. I was just trying to keep myself within 10 meters of that girl.”
Guynn took over, got South Carroll within inches of first place, and Boyce took over from there, with the Cavaliers beating out Western Tech in 4:07.9.
“Brooke did a really good job catching up to her,” Guynn said. “I was right behind her when we started and I caught her on the straightaway, which is the easiest to pass people on. Around the bend I started feeling it and kept trying to go as fast as I can.”
South Carroll also earned a second-place finish from Peyton Thomas in the pole vault.
Century picked up a state title from Isabella Mastria in the 2A long jump with a final leap of 17-11 1/2 that she’s not even sure how she reached.
“I was shocked. The best I’ve done before was 16-9, I was like, ‘How did I get 17-11?’ I don’t know what happened,” Mastria said. “I just thought, this was it, worse comes to worst I scratch. I just need to jump as far as I can. And it worked.”
Francis Scott Key’s Ashleigh Porter repeated her high jump gold from the indoor season, claiming the 1A outdoor title clearing 5-2.
“It feels great, I didn’t expect it considering a lot more people do outdoor,” Porter said. “It definitely raised my expectations for the season. I wanted the same success to carry through.”
On the boys side, Westminster’s Zach Gaegler won the 3A high jump with teammate Justin Condon finishing third. The top three finishers each cleared 6-2, but Gaegler cleared it on his first attempt.
“Hasn’t really kicked in it, I haven’t walked over to claim my medal yet,” Gaegler said. “But it feels good, beat some good competition today. Obviously, this being my senior year, it feels really good.”
Westminster had a strong showing. For the girls, Sarah Gassman took second in the pole vault and Hannah Toth was second in the 1,600.
“I wanted 12 [feet], Gassman said. “I didn’t know what placing that would get me, I just wanted that height. ... but I got a PR and ended up getting second.
“A big improvement from what we had last year and the year before I think,” Toth said of the team’s performance. “We’ve put in a lot of work to get where we are. I’m proud of everyone today for coming out here and showing out.”
Century’s Emily Mitroka led a strong showing for the Knights in the 2A 1,600. She finished third with her sister, Elizabeth, finishing eighth and teammate Abrianna Nelson finishing 14th.
“It’s really fun, cause while I’m thinking about my race, I’m also thinking, ‘I’m wondering what Elizabeth is doing. What’s Abrianna doing? I bet they’re killing it right now,” Emily said. “Whenever I finish I turn around, ‘Come on guys.” it’s awesome to do this with my friends.”
“The Mitrokas have been our heroes this season,” Nelson said. “They win literally everything and we got so many points for them. I’m glad they’re here.”
For Liberty, a day after finishing second on the 4x800 relay, Tyler Edson closed the year with a silver in the 800.
“States is really bringing it out of me. I didn’t really expect much but I went into it, I thought about the medal and it kept driving me,” Edson said. “After the 100, I felt everyone else kicked way too fast. I caught most of them to the end, I played it to my advantage. The last 100 I kept driving, I wanted it more.”