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Some top Harford track and field athletes dealing with lost opportunities

Harford Tech's Caitlyn Bobb lead other runners in the 2A girls 500 meter run during the MPSSAA Indoor Track State Championship Meet at Prince George's Sports Complex on Monday, Feb. 17.
Harford Tech's Caitlyn Bobb lead other runners in the 2A girls 500 meter run during the MPSSAA Indoor Track State Championship Meet at Prince George's Sports Complex on Monday, Feb. 17. (Brian Krista/Baltimore Sun Media Group)

March has been a month of historic uncertainty for virtually everyone on the planet. There has been plenty of uncertainty too for Harford County athletes, like Harford Tech’s Caitlyn Bobb.

The record-setting junior was invited to run in the New Balance Indoor Nationals in New York City March 13-15. The meet was canceled on March 11. She was also presented an opportunity to compete in the World Athletics Indoor Games in China. It was postponed to 2021. She was scheduled to compete in the Caribbean Games, Carifta, in Bermuda April 11. Also postponed. Then, of course, there is the local high school season. Delayed, likely to be canceled.

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In March, the Bermuda Olympic Association formally selected Bobb for its Olympic team (she has dual citizenship) for the 2020 Games in Tokyo. The Games were then postponed, even before she could be fitted for the team’s traditional Bermuda shorts ensemble. Everything is pushed back a year.

What does a level-headed 16-year-old track phenom think about all this? Quoted in the March 24 Bermuda Royal Gazette, she said: “I’m actually excited that it’s been postponed. It means I’ll have more time to fine-tune race techniques and strategies that I need to perfect. Now that I have qualified, it has taken the stress off my shoulders.”

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For now, she is just one of many Harford athletes in waiting, doing light workouts on her own in Joppatowne and looking ahead to next year.

Eight-hundred other Harford track and field athletes await a decision on spring sports as the season teeters on the brink of cancellation. Many of them brought hopes for championships and records into the spring but found disappointment instead. Here’s what six outstanding student athletes in track and field are doing in the face of uncertainty.

Malachi Stewart-Lesesne, Aberdeen

Malachi Stewart-Lesesne has been eagerly awaiting this, his second season of track and field. In his first season last year, the Aberdeen High School senior discovered that he has a talent for jumping.

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His mother, Rebecca Lesesne Turner, who was an outstanding sprinter at Edgewood 1992-94, encouraged him to try track. Gifted with lots of speed and spring, he found immediate success.

He concluded the 2019 season with a third-place finish in the triple jump – once known as the hop, step, and jump -- in the Class 3A state meet. He sailed 44-10 1/4 in the event, just 17 inches short of the Harford County record that has stood for 43 years. His mark is the third best-ever in the event in Harford County. He has been hoping to challenge the record this spring. He also ranked second in the long jump in the UCBAC, and he was Aberdeen’s top sprinter in the 100-meter dash.

Football remains his no. 1 sport. He earned All-County honors as a defensive back last fall. With his success in the triple jump, he wants to attend a college at which he can compete in track and field as well as football. He is leaning toward Kutztown University, where he would be able to do so. He has been working out on his own this spring with renewed enthusiasm, remaining positive about his future in sports.

Darian Hauf, North Harford

Darian Hoff’s career as a pole-vaulter began badly. She broke a bone in her foot on her first day of practice. Once the injury healed, however, her vaulting took off in a rapid ascent. In her sophomore season, she improved from a best of 7 feet, 4 inches to 10 feet, 3 inches between indoors and outdoors. This year as a junior, she narrowly missed winning the state indoor meet -- placing second at 10-2, the same height as the winner, who had one fewer missed attempts.

She has all the attributes needed for vaulting success. She was a gymnast for several years, and she has exceptional speed, having broken the school record in the 55-meter dash indoors this winter. “Good speed, good body-control, very coachable,” said North Harford coach Jimmy Cachola.

He believes she will clear 11 feet this spring, and that she can win in the state meet – if there is a state meet. Her performance ranks her third among returning vaulters in Class 2A.

If the spring season is canceled, she has next year, and she is already working toward it, doing core work and running on her own during this period of isolation. Once the ban on working out at county athletic facilities is lifted, it will be back to vaulting practice, training to go even higher.

Caleb Zylka, Bel Air

If there is a record for the most second-place finishes in Maryland State Championship meets, it is probably owned by Caleb Zylka. The Bel Air High School senior has been the runner-up three times in state meets -- twice in the 3,200-meter run in track and once in the state cross-country meet.

This season, he had been hoping to break out of this runner-up syndrome with a victory. He has the ability to do so, having run 9:37.72, a time that ranks him fifth all-time among Harford County high-schoolers in the 3,200. “He is very disappointed in not being able to compete this season,” said his coach, Sharon Pickett.

He is training on his own, planning his own workouts and maintaining a good level of fitness this spring. He plans to run in college at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he will study Kinesiology.

Chris Kalambihis, Joppatowne

Big, strong, fast, and versatile describes Chris Kalambihis, an All-County athlete in three sports -- football, wrestling, and track and field. He is a fierce competitor in all three,

A two-time UCBAC wrestling champion at 220 pounds, he was disappointed to finish third in the state wrestling meet this winter. And he says he will be disappointed to finish his high school career without another chance to win the discus in the UCBAC and state meet. Last year he placed sixth in the 1A discus throw in the state meet.

A 6-foot-2, 240-pound defensive tackle, he has signed with Frostburg State University to play football, the sport he loves best. With spring sports on hold, he has been maintaining his conditioning on his own, focusing on improving his 40-yard dash time of 4.8 seconds, looking forward to his first collegiate football season.

Lindsay Perry, C. Milton Wright

Lindsay Perry decided earlier this year that she wouldn’t seek to win another state championship in track. A state indoor champ in the 800 in 2019, she planned to skip track this spring in favor of lacrosse, which of course, may not have a season either. A finalist for the Al Cesky Scholarship, she will attend Kutztown University, where she plans to play lacrosse in the spring and run cross-country in the fall.

Peter Capozzoli, C. Milton Wright

The 2020 indoor season was Peter Capozzoli’s best season of track at CMW. In his best event, the 800-meter run, he won the 3A North region meet and placed fifth in the state meet, bettering the school indoor record in the latter with a 1:59.60. An accomplished trumpet player and outstanding scholar, he will attend the University of Maryland and run track. Buoyed by a positive reception by the Maryland track coaches, he is eager race again, to continue the high school season, if there is one, with a goal of breaking the CMW school outdoor record in the 800. He too is a 2020 Al Cesky Scholarship finalist.

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