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Mt. Hebron's Darnell Pratt sprints way to boys outdoor track Athlete of the Year

Mt. Hebron sophomore Darnell Pratt won 10 postseason races - including two at the 3A state meet - to be named the Columbia Flier/Howard County Times boys outdoor track Athlete of the Year.
Mt. Hebron sophomore Darnell Pratt won 10 postseason races - including two at the 3A state meet - to be named the Columbia Flier/Howard County Times boys outdoor track Athlete of the Year.(Photo by Jen Rynda, Baltimore Sun)

When Mt. Hebron track coach Teyarnte Carter spoke to the incoming freshmen at the class of 2017 orientation, all the young faces turned and looked at one tall kid as she talked about the recent boys state championship team.

Everyone knew Darnell Pratt was the fastest eighth grader and that he would be a cornerstone athlete for the program for years to come. But as the crowd grew louder chanting his name, Pratt stood up and announced, "I'm not even going here!"

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Pratt would be attending DeMatha Catholic, a private school renowned for its athletics. But that didn't steer Carter away from keeping a close eye on his success, knowing one day that the football and track athlete could still find his way through Mt. Hebron's doors.

"It was kind of funny, and I said, 'you never know.' I watched him — he didn't even know who I was. I knew his coaches at DeMatha very well, and they would call and ask questions," Carter said. "I was kind of like behind him before he was even at Mt. Hebron. It wasn't that I was trying to get him or upset that he wasn't there, it was just one of those things that I watched his progress his freshman year. You never know when a kid might fall in your program."

After a successful freshman year playing football and running outdoor track, Carter's hopes came true as Pratt left DeMatha to become a Viking for his sophomore campaign.

"I ended up here at Mt. Hebron, and it was a pretty good fit," said Pratt, the Columbia Flier/Howard County Times boys outdoor track Athlete of the Year. "I grew up here (in Ellicott City) and went to middle school here, so I knew everybody. ... The first week I was comfortable."

After finishing the football season as a second-team all-county wide receiver, he showed flashes of his track potential through the indoor track season by winning the 3A state title in the 300-meter dash. But coming into the outdoor season, Pratt and Carter had high expectations — to win the 100-, 200- and 400-meter state titles, and compete for the 4x400-meter relay title.

Carter knew to accomplish those goals she would need to push Pratt to be more than just a dominant 400-meter runner.

"I know he did extremely well growing up and he did well at DeMatha, but it became more of, I need to teach this kid that he can do well in more than just one event," Carter said. "I've got to get this kid to run fast in three events, not just one or two but really three events I want him to do well. Also, I knew he played football and I know speed is a factor. ... I wanted to make sure he got faster for football."

In his first major test at the county meet, Pratt swept his races and was the only boy in the county to win four events. Pratt said even though that was the goal, he "was amazed by it. I was very happy that I was able to do that."

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He won all four events again at the 3A East regional.

Though he fell short in the 100-meter dash at states, finishing third in 11.15, and ended up second in the 4x400-meter relay with a time of 3:23.12, he earned victories in the 200- (21.86) and 400-meter dash (48.53).

The bar was set high, but Pratt accomplished his goal and ran the times he set in his mind — in the 21s in the 200, and in the 10s in the 100 — in at least one of the postseason meets.

"That was pretty cool," he said.

"I think he had a really, really good outdoor season. ... At the end of the day, I think he finished out really well and I think he had potential to win three open events at states, and I thought the (4x400-meter) relay had a good shot, so I was proud he accomplished that at counties and regionals and went after it in states," Carter said. "Sometimes people believe you can't run the 100, 200 and the 400 and be able to withstand the rounds, but our plan from indoor was that we go ahead and try to make sure he trained so he could compete well in all three events."

Carter said the transition from DeMatha and his overall postseason success was aided by his drive and motivation, which Carter says is "like no other."

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"To me, he was really not a hard person to coach. I have probably never heard him complain about a workout," she said. "His work-ethic was like no other. He came to practice and did what I asked him to do, and has the season went along and he won some races, he trusted the workout and trusted me."

In addition to accomplishing his times and his goal of winning at least two events at states, Pratt said winning athlete of the year was the last thing on his bucket list for the outdoor season.

"One of my goals was to win runner of the year. I really wanted it for indoor, but I knew if I won at least two events (at states), I would solidify it," Pratt said. "It feels good."

Also named to the all-county team:

Joesph Benson, Reservoir

Event: high jump

Postseason highlights: Finished second at the county championships (6-2), first at the 3A East regionals (6-4) and second at 3A states (6-2) in the high jump.

Dillon Carrington, Atholton

Events: 200-meter dash, 400-meter dash, 4x200-meter relay, 4x400-meter relay

Postseason highlights: Finished third at the county championships (22.78), third at the 3A East regionals (22.22) and fourth at 3A states (22.63) in the 200-meter dash. Finished fourth at the county championships (51.06), second at the 3A East regionals (50.13) and third at 3A states (49.70) in the 400-meter dash. Was part of the 4x200-meter relay team that finished first at the county championships (1:29.61), second at the 3A East regionals (1:29.38) and fourth at 3A states (1:30.51). Was part of the 4x400-meter relay team that finished seventh at the county championships (3:35.34), third at the 3A East regionals (3:28.59) and fifth at 3A states (3:28.31).

Nicholas Coburn, Centennial

Events: shot put, discus

Postseason highlights: Finished first at the county championships (50-6), first at the 3A East regionals (47-1) and first at 3A states (49-3.5) in the shot put. Finished third at the county championships (125-1) in the discus.

David Eisenhauer, Wilde Lake

Events: 1,600 meters, 3,200 meters, 4x800-meter relay

Postseason highlights: Finished second at the county championships (4:19.80), second at the 3A East regionals (4:18.61) and third at 3A states (4:19.92) in the 1,600 meters. Finished first at the county championships (9:28.51), first at the 3A East regionals (9:55.68) and fourth at 3A states (9:42.25) in the 3,200 meters. Was part of the 4x800-meter relay team that finished third at the 3A East regionals (8:15.65) and fourth at 3A states (8:21.05).

Chris Heydrick, River Hill

Events: 800 meters, 1,600 meters, 4x800-meter relay

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Postseason highlights: Finished first at the county championships (1:54.88), first at the 3A East regionals (1:54.56) and second at 3A states (1:54.00) in the 800 meters. Finished first at the county championships (4:15.98), first at the 3A East regionals (4:15.94) and second at 3A states (4:19.92). Was part of the 4x800-meter relay team that finished first at the county championships (7:52.01), first at the 3A East regionals (7:54.42) and first at 3A states (7:58.59).

Tre Hopkins, Oakland Mills

Events: high jump, long jump, 4x100-meter relay

Postseason highlights: Finished first at the county championships (6-4), first at the 2A South regionals (6-0) and third at 3A states (5-10) in the high jump. Finished third at the county championships (21-0), third at the 2A South regionals (20-8) and 10th at 2A states (19-4.25) in the long jump. Was part of the 4x100-meter relay team that finished second at 2A states (43.91).

Dillon Mitchell, Reservoir

Events: long jump, 4x200-meter relay, 4x400-meter relay

Postseason highlights: Finished second at the county championships (21-4), second at the 3A East regionals (20-11) and third at 3A states (21-8.5) in the long jump. Was part of the 4x200-meter relay team that finished second at the county championships (1:29.97), third at the 3A East regionals (1:31.02) and fifth at 3A states (1:30.59). Was part of the 4x400-meter relay team that finished second at the county championships (3:28.67).

Donte Mitchell, Reservoir

Events: 110-meter hurdles, 300-meter hurdles, 4x200-meter relay, 4x400-meter relay

Postseason highlights: Finished first at the county championships (15.66), second at the 3A East regionals (15.31) and fourth at 3A states (15.22) in the 110-meter hurdles. Finished first at the county championships (40.15), second at the 3A East regionals (40.06) and 15th at 3A states (41.48). Was part of the 4x200-meter relay team that finished second at the county championships (1:29.97), third at the 3A East regionals (1:31.02) and fifth at 3A states (1:30.59). Was part of the 4x400-meter relay team that finished second at the county championships (3:28.67).

Mark Moody, River Hill

Events: 800 meters, 1,600 meters, 4x800-meter relay

Postseason highlights: Finished second at the county championships (1:56.66), fifth at the 3A East regionals (1:58.85) and eighth at 3A states (1:59.69) in the 800 meters. Finished third at the county championships (4:21.42), third at the 3A East regionals (4:26.32) and fifth at 3A states (4:22.29) in the 1,600 meters. Was part of the 4x800-meter relay team that finished first at the county championships (7:52.01), first at the 3A East regionals (7:54.42) and first at 3A states (7:58.59).

Calvin Pitney, Glenelg

Events: pole vault, 4x400-meter relay

Postseason highlights: Finished first at the county championships (15-6), first at the 3A East regionals (13-0) and first at 3A states (14-6) in the pole vault. Was part of the 4x400-meter relay team that finished second (3:27.54) at the 3A East regionals.

Thomas Rice, Mt. Hebron

Event: discus

Postseason highlights: Finished first at the county championships (145-11), third at the 3A East regionals (140-10) and third at 3A states (146-10) in the discus.

Miles Walker, Atholton

Events: 100-meter dash, 200-meter dash, 4x200-meter relay, 4x400-meter relay

Postseason highlights: Finished third at the county championships (10.98) in the 100-meter dash. Finished second at the county championships (22.42), second at the 3A East regionals (22.10) and third at 3A states (22.34) in the 200-meter dash. Was part of the 4x200-meter relay team that finished first at the county championships (1:29.61), second at the 3A East regionals (1:29.38) and fourth at 3A states (1:30.51). Was part of the 4x400-meter relay team that finished seventh at the county championships (3:35.34), third at the 3A East regionals (3:28.59) and fifth at 3A states (3:28.31).

Elijah White, Centennial

Events: triple jump, high jump, long jump

Postseason highlights: Finished first at the county championships (45-0), first at the 3A East regionals (43-0.5) and first at 3A states (45-7.75) in the triple jump. Finished third at the county championships (6-2), fourth at the 3A East regionals (5-10) and eighth at 3A states (5-10) in the high jump. Finished first at the county championships (21-7) and seventh at the 3A East regionals (20-3) in the long jump.

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