Francis Scott Key track and field coach Juan Cortez said quality outweighs quantity when it comes to his athletes.
The Eagles’ outdoor squad was small in numbers this spring, but that never deterred its athletes from reveling in their individual, and team, successes.
FSK sent a variety of athletes to the state championship meet on Thursday and Saturday at Morgan State University — Jacksun Layne, Lorenzo Palumbo, Jackson Conaway, Haley Sawyers, Emma Taggart, Jacob Watson, Tanner Miller, Chris Brooks, Devin Hurst, Hayden Ritz, Elizabeth Mahoney, and Crystal Samoya.
The Eagles boys also qualified their 4x200 and 4x400-meter relays that took 14th and eighth during championship weekend.
“Coming into the season, we lost some good veterans from last year and the guys returning really got an experience and a taste of being champions and working along with these veterans and seniors to do so,” Cortez said. “There was a lot of preparation, a lot of talking, of course practices every day with being committed, being on time. So much goes into them succeeding, especially in the classroom.
“Every year I’ve been fortunate to coach here, we’ve had some awesome athletes and because of their hard work have accomplished great things. Truly every year has just gotten better.”
FSK’s boys team won the 1A West regional title in 2018 and crowned three individual champions in five events, including a relay. The Eagles were second to Boonsboro in the region this spring, but the Warriors edged the Eagles by a mere 3.5 points.
Layne, a senior, got his first try at pole vault right before the start of indoor season. He played football last fall and said he used a lot of the strength and conditioning workouts to prepare for track.
Layne was a regular hurdler in previous seasons, but took a shot at pole vault on a whim.
He cleared 9 feet at the Western Maryland Winter Classic and gradually moved up in height. He reached 9-7 at the 1A West meet to qualify for indoor states, and hit a personal record of 10 feet with his fourth-place finish.
Layne followed that successful first indoor season with even higher heights this spring. He cleared a PR of 12-7 to win the 1A West title and qualify for states. Last Saturday, at Morgan State University, he cleared 12 feet to take second in the state behind Brunswick’s Jackson Tuomey.
“There’s something about being in the air, it’s a freeing feeling,” Layne said. “I snowboard so when I hit a jump and I’m up in the air and I get that hang time of five or six seconds, I can see everything and my mind clears, everything goes away and everything is still, clear, and focused and that’s what I need in my life right now.”
FSK senior Lorenzo Palumbo captured the 1A West regional title in the 200 with a PR of 22.56 seconds. Palumbo was placed in sprinting events when he joined the Eagles track team as a freshman, and said the 200 is his favorite event.
“One thing that track runners do is we look at times and statistics so we’re always looking at placements, we’re always looking at who we’re racing against, we’re always looking at what our PRs are and how fast we are,” Palumbo said. “Everyone’s goal is to obviously better themselves so one of my goals going in was to get some PRs. I was racing against kids who were my speed and when you're racing against kids your speed, you run faster because you have to be at that point in time.”
Palumbo qualified for states in the 200 and finished seventh. He also ran a leg on the Eagles’ 4x400 relay at states.
Eagles senior Emma Taggart competed in 12 meets this season. Of those 12, she has won the high jump 10 times; including victories at the county and 1A West meets. She jumped 5-2 to place third at the state meet Saturday.
“I like that it’s technical, it’s one of the more technical events and sometimes it’s not how physical you have to be, it’s very much mental,” Taggart said. “You have to be in the right mindset because if you’re not, there are so many things you can mess up, your plant, your arch and your feet.”
Taggart also competes in shot put and discus — she threw 103-2, a PR, to take third at the 1A West meet, and qualified for states where she finished ninth.
“When you have the coaches that can kind of fill high jump, throws and hurdles, it helps,” Cortez said. “With them being open to trying new things and not being afraid to fail, because you will in the beginning. As long as they have the drive and want to try and not give up, we as coaches help them to not give up and learn to enjoy it.
“For us, it’s so important to have kids do multiple events because we would not be as successful and it would be harder to compete in the county and region if we didn't try to cover as many bases as we could, safely.”