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Indoor Track Preview: Century showing promise while dealing with new coaches at the top

Century's Kyle Bryant hits the pole while competing in the pole vault during the MPSSAA Indoor Track State Championships in Landover Monday, Feb. 22, 2016. Bryant won the pole vault with 13 feet, 6 inches.
Century's Kyle Bryant hits the pole while competing in the pole vault during the MPSSAA Indoor Track State Championships in Landover Monday, Feb. 22, 2016. Bryant won the pole vault with 13 feet, 6 inches. (DYLAN SLAGLE/STAFF PHOTO / Carroll County Times)

Century knows expectations are high for indoor track, but the Knights refuse to let that outweigh their motivation.

The Knights boys have been the Class 2A state meet runners-up for three consecutive seasons and new head coach Chris Mead doesn't want his runners to get ahead of themselves.

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"We're consistently competing at the top of the state and some kids tend to get used to that and the expectation overrides some of the motivation to really work hard," Mead said. "I'm not saying they don't work hard but just because we did it in the past doesn't mean we'll do it again.

2016-17 Girls Indoor Track Preview Capsules.

"It is nice to have that to ride on to add the motivation and to look at what we do and let that be an expectation. This is what we expect them to strive to be and to that regard, kids use that as motivation."

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Former Knights head coach Tony Griner won six state championships at the helm — now, Mead and Dyron Johnson will split coaching duties this winter.

"For me it's not too bad, the hardest part is not being able to focus solely on distance," Mead said. "I was primarily a distance coach and am used to head coaching from cross country but it's a different discipline. You have to really know all the ins and outs of it and keeping track of everybody and learning the names of everybody we have.

"It's kind of challenging but other than that it's fairly similar to cross country. We aren't really changing anything; most of the operations are the same."

Griner will continue to help at Century as a strength and conditioning coach.

2016-17 Boys Indoor Track Preview Capsules.

Six athletes from last year's Times all-county first team are back this winter, and four are from Century — Kyle Bryant (pole vault), Andrew Haberman (shot put), Sean Renehan (mid-distance) and Henry Seabrook (sprints). Also returning are South Carroll's Remy Mezebish (sprints) and Liberty's Braeden Balch (pole vault).

Bryant won a state title last winter after clearing 13 feet, 6 inches.

On the girls side, South Carroll placed third at the 2A state meet last winter and the Cavaliers bring back Allison Zolkiewicz, the reigning Times Athlete of the Year who won a state title in the 500 dash.

Also back from the all-county first team are Liberty junior distance runners Maeve Lyons and Heidi Rinehart, and Francis Scott Key juniors Summer Burton (shot) and Sarah Pernell (hurdles).

Century indoor track
(DYLAN SLAGLE / Carroll County Times)

Inclement weather terminated the chance for last year's county meet to occur, and without it teams were forced to find alternative training means for regional and state meets. It didn't pose a problem for Century, but the Knights will be without the reigning Times Athlete of the Year in Alex Stefanick.

Stefanick won a high jump state title while totaling seven top-two finishes and five gold medals last season.

Jacob Spera (distance) returns after a successful cross country season — the Knights junior finished sixth at the county meet, fourth in the 2A West meet, and eighth at states. The transition for athletes coming away from cross country is pretty simple, Mead said, but getting a break is still necessary.

"There's not a huge difference between what we do at the beginning with cross country and what we do at the beginning with track," Mead said. "The biggest change is we do more work on the track and they love it because I give them a break going in so a lot of them that are coming right off of states, we don't let them do too much of anything right away.

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"Most don't really have too much trouble transitioning or regrouping into running more than one race that's a little bit shorter or more intense so it feels a bit different than cross country."

Century's Sean Renehan takes the baton in the boys 4x800 meter relay during the Class 2A West Region Meet in Hagerstown Saturday, Feb. 6.
Century's Sean Renehan takes the baton in the boys 4x800 meter relay during the Class 2A West Region Meet in Hagerstown Saturday, Feb. 6. (DAVE MUNCH/STAFF PHOTO / Carroll County Times)

The Knights open the indoor season today in the Terry Baker Invitational at Hagerstown Community College, along with four other county teams. Mead said the team's depth will play a determining factor in its success, as it has in years past.

"It's still early to tell but we have new kids that are definitely already showing promise and will really be an important part to the team," Mead said. "We lost big seniors from both sides, we lost some people that really led the way for us and took control. Now we're looking at who will step up. You don't really see that change in everybody but they're all focused and motivated as the new kids find their spots, it's exciting."

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