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Atholton’s Madison Garrigus vaults her way to Howard County girls indoor track and field Athlete of the Year

Atholton senior pole vaulter Madison Garrigus highlights the 2019-20 Howard County girls indoor track and field All-County list as the Athlete of the Year. Garrigus won county and region titles in the pole vault to becoming the first girls indoor field athlete to win the county's top award since at least 1991, and possibly the first ever
Atholton senior pole vaulter Madison Garrigus highlights the 2019-20 Howard County girls indoor track and field All-County list as the Athlete of the Year. Garrigus won county and region titles in the pole vault to becoming the first girls indoor field athlete to win the county's top award since at least 1991, and possibly the first ever (Brian Krista / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Madison Garrigus has two brains.

Her first brain — her “regular brain” — is the one that logically informs her that vaulting into the air and flipping upside down isn’t safe.

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Her second brain — her “pole vault brain” — doesn’t care what her actual brain thinks. She loves the thrill.

“There have been very few times when I’ve been afraid when vaulting,” said the Atholton senior. “Pole vaulters like to say there’s a different mentality to pole vaulting. You have to turn off your regular brain and turn on your pole vault brain, because everything in pole vaulting kind of goes against human nature. It definitely goes against what your mind wants you to do, but you have to learn how to switch off that fear inside your head and let your pole vault brain take over.”

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This past indoor season, Garrigus’ “pole vault brain” was better than ever, as the senior won four total postseason medals — three in pole vault and one in high jump — and broke the county pole vault record. For her efforts, Garrigus has been selected as the 2019-20 Howard County indoor track and field Athlete of the Year.

“She definitely deserves this,” said Atholton coach Christopher Clark. “She’s the type of athlete you want to see do these things. She leaves no stones unturned and she does everything the way you’re supposed to.”

Atholton senior Madison Garrigus, Howard County girls indoor track Athlete of the Year.
Atholton senior Madison Garrigus, Howard County girls indoor track Athlete of the Year. (Brian Krista/Baltimore Sun Media Group)

This is the third straight track season Garrigus has received All-County honors. She was a first-team selection in both track seasons as a junior.

Winning the top accolade is rare for a field athlete. Garrigus is the first Howard County girls indoor field athlete to win the Athlete of the Year award since at least 1991, and possibly the first ever.

“I was kind of surprised when I was chosen partly because a lot of track athletes have relays and different events," Garrigus said. “For that reason, field can sometimes get overlooked. I don’t feel that way, because my team is super supportive, but I am definitely happy to be chosen for this.”

Runners are better positioned to win the top honor because they can compete in more events directly related to their top skill — sprinters can compete in four sprinting events or relays and distance runners also have multiple events they can run in. Garrigus and many other field athletes, though, have one or two events to compete in, which makes it more difficult to garner high awards and attention.

“It’s awesome for a field athlete to win this award,” said Clark. “The field events tend to be the hardest events to fill. We have plenty of kids who want to come out and get faster and run for other sports, but not as much interest in the field events. Her winning this will encourage our younger pole vaulters, too. Seeing Madison get recognized will validate all the work they’re putting in.”

The award doesn’t just represent Garrigus’ hard work, though. She said she’s thankful for some of her teammates in the past and for the entire Howard County pole vault community. One of the first people to help her once she started vaulting as a freshman was Grant Bunyard, who graduated from Atholton in 2018.

“Grant was the one who drove me to pole vault practices and he was the one who helped me out when I didn’t know what I was supposed to be doing,” Garrigus said. “I definitely looked up to him.”

Atholton's Madison Garrigus clears the bar on the way to winning the pole vault with a height of 10 feet.
Atholton's Madison Garrigus clears the bar on the way to winning the pole vault with a height of 10 feet. (photo courtesy of Israel Carunungan)

Unlike other track and field athletes, the county’s pole vaulters practice together at the same location, which was at Reservoir High School this season. Garrigus said the group of vaulters embody the word “community.”

“The lines are pretty long, but we have to work together,” Garrigus said. “As pole vaulters, you get to know your competition. I am practicing with the same people that I’m competing with at the county level, but we understand for any of us to get better we have to work together. The pole vaulters are really a community. We’re a tight-knit group of people.”

Garrigus started vaulting when she was a freshman. An athlete growing up, she doesn’t remember exactly what drew her to pole vaulting. She does recall, though, that she saw the event as an opportunity to go on a “different path” than everyone else who was a freshman on the track team.

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“Pole vaulting looked really fun and a little bit dangerous,” she said. “That drew me to it, I think.”

Garrigus vaulted 5 feet, 6 inches in her first event as a freshman. A little more than three years later, Garrigus doubled that height, vaulting a personal-best 11 feet at the MPSSAA 3A East Region championships to break the Howard County record.

Atholton's Madison Garrigus attempts a vault as she competes in the 3A girls pole vault event during the second day of the MPSSAA Track and Field State Championship meet at Morgan State University on Friday, May 25.
Atholton's Madison Garrigus attempts a vault as she competes in the 3A girls pole vault event during the second day of the MPSSAA Track and Field State Championship meet at Morgan State University on Friday, May 25. (Brian Krista / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

"It was really cool because I didn’t know it was the county record until I was attempting it,” Garrigus said. “When everything clicks like it did on that vault, it feels great to know that hard work is paying off.”

A few weeks earlier at the county championships, Garrigus didn’t just win a gold medal in her bread and butter event. She kept the tradition of an Atholton athlete winning the high jump, clearing 4-11 to win the gold medal.

“Cassidy Bunyard, she graduated last year, was always at the top of the county at Atholton in the high jump,” Garrigus said. “I always looked up to her. She’s been an amazing friend and mentor to me, and to uphold that legacy for Atholton and for her was really cool. She texted me right after I won it, so it felt really cool to win that one.”

In total, Garrigus has won 13 postseason medals, four region golds, four county titles and two state medals, including a bronze at states this past season.

Clark said her improvement over her four years is evidence of her “work ethic,” which he said only compares to a handful of Atholton athletes in his seven seasons with the program.

“From the beginning, she came in super focused,” Clark said. “She never halfway does anything. When she does something, she’s all in. She works so hard that most of my job is pulling her back. I want to help her manage the workload of being a team captain at our practices but also going to the county pole vault practices and the private pole vault sessions she does.”

After the spring season, which is currently postponed due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus, Garrigus will attend and compete at the United States Coast Guard Academy in Connecticut. She’s always been interested in pursuing a life in military or law enforcement, and Garrigus said the Coast Guard gives her the opportunity to achieve her goals of becoming an officer and competing in the pole vault at the collegiate level.

“I want to help people and enjoy what I do every day, and I can also compete in track there," Garrigus said. “I’m really excited to go there.”

Also named to first-team All-County:

Janasia Buckner, River Hill, sophomore

River Hill's Janasia Buckner is a first-team All-County selection.
River Hill's Janasia Buckner is a first-team All-County selection. (Brian Krista/Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Events: 55, 4x200, 4x400

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Highlights: Buckner swept the 55-meter dash at the three postseason meets, winning gold medals at counties, regionals and states. The sophomore improved her time from the county meet to the state meet. She won the county championship in 7.32 seconds and then won gold at the 3A East Region meet in 7.26 seconds. At states, Buckner won her first state championship with a personal-record time of 7.21 seconds to win by two-hundredths of a second. She also won medals as a member of River Hill’s 4x200-meter relay, as the Hawks’ relay placed third at counties, second at regionals and fifth at states.

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Amanda Eliker, Howard, senior

Howard's Amanda Eliker is a first-team All-County selection.
Howard's Amanda Eliker is a first-team All-County selection. (Brian Krista / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Events: 1,600, 3,200, 4x800

Highlights: Eliker followed up her outstanding cross country season with multiple gold medals during her final indoor campaign. She opened up her postseason with a gold medal in the 3,200-meter run and a silver in the 1,600. At the 4A Central Region meet, Eliker won the mile, two-mile and ran a leg on the Lions’ bronze-medal winning 4x800-meter relay. She also netted a bronze medal at the 4A state meet in the 1,600-meter run with a personal-record time of 5:11, which is now Howard’s school record. She also set her PR in the 3,200 at the county championship with a time of 11:36. This is Eliker’s fourth appearance on an All-County team. She was a first-team selection on the 2019 outdoor track and field All-County team, while she was the cross country Runner of the Year in 2018 and 2019.

Kimayah Faye, Reservoir, senior

Reservoir's Kimayah Faye is a first-team All-County selection.
Reservoir's Kimayah Faye is a first-team All-County selection. (Brian Krista, Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Events: 55 hurdles, long jump, triple jump

Highlights: Faye was one of Reservoir’s trio of hurdlers that swept the top three spots at counties and regionals. The senior wasn’t just one of the county’s top hurdlers, though, as Faye also medaled in two jumping events. In addition to finishing second in the 55-meter hurdles behind teammate Adaobi Tabugo, Faye won the triple jump (35 feet, 3 inches) and finished third in the long jump (15-4.5). She then won bronze at the 3A East Region meet in the 55 hurdlers before placing fourth at states. She set her PR in the 55 hurdles in her preliminary race at regionals, crossing the line in 8.69 seconds.

Emma Marthins, Howard, senior

Events: Shot put, high jump

Highlights: Marthins was the top girls shot putter in the county, placing first at the Howard County championships with a personal-best 33-11. She also scored for the Lions in the high jump with a fifth-place finish. Marthins then placed seventh at the 4A Central Region meet in the shot put.

Sierrah Matthews, Mt. Hebron, junior

Mt. Hebron's Sierrah Matthews is a first-team All-County selection.
Mt. Hebron's Sierrah Matthews is a first-team All-County selection. (Brian Krista/Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Events: 300, 500, 4x200, 4x400

Highlights: Matthews was the top sprinter in the county during the indoor season, winning 10 medals across the three postseason meets. The junior started with two golds and two silvers at the county championship, placing first in the 500 and second in the 300. She also ran legs on the Vikings’ 4x200- and 4x400-meter relay teams that finished second and first, respectively. Matthews then won four more medals at regionals, winning gold in the 300 and 500 and placing third in the 4x200 and second in the 4x400. At states, Matthews won the 300-meter dash and finished second in the 500, while the Vikings’ 4x200 and 4x400 relays finished fourth and fifth. Matthews’ most impressive race of the season, though, was her second-place time of 1:13.85 in the 500-meter dash at the VA Showcase. Her PR in the 300 was 40.20 seconds at regionals. This is Matthews’ third All-County selection. She was a first-team pick in 2019 and the Athlete of the Year in the 2018-19 indoor season.

Morgan Nasir, Atholton, junior

Events: 55, 300, long jump

Highlights: Nasir was one of a few athletes to win medals in a track event and a field event at the county championship. The junior won the 300-meter dash in a personal-best 40.99 seconds at counties, edging out Mt. Hebron’s Sierrah Matthews. Nasir then took home a silver medal in the long jump with a distance of 16-10.5 and finished fifth in the 55-meter dash with a personal-best time of 7.50 seconds. She then finished third in the 300 at regionals and fifth at the state championship. Nasir was also a first-team selection last indoor season.

Kaila Spence, Glenelg, sophomore

Glenelg's Kaila Spence is a first-team All-County selection.
Glenelg's Kaila Spence is a first-team All-County selection. (Brian Krista/Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Events: 500, 800, 4x400, 4x800

Highlights: Spence was one of the top mid-distance runners in the county, winning two medals at each of the three postseason meets. At counties, the sophomore finished third in the 500 with a personal-best time of 1:22.75 and won the 800. She then finished first in both the 800 and 4x800-meter relay at the 2A West Region meet. At states, Spence won silver in the 800 with a personal-best time of 2:23 and ran the third leg of the Gladiators’ 4x800 relay that won gold.

Adaobi Tabugbo, Reservoir, senior

Reservoir's Adaobi Tabugbo is a first-team All-County selection.
Reservoir's Adaobi Tabugbo is a first-team All-County selection. (Brian Krista/Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Events: 55, 55 hurdles, 4x200

Highlights: Tabugbo was the only athlete to win two gold medals at all three postseason meets. The senior finished first in the 55-meter hurdles and ran the final leg of the Gators’ first-place finishing 4x200-meter relay at counties, regions and states. While the 55 hurdles is Tabugbo’s bread and butter, possibly her most impressive performance was her leg in Reservoir’s 4x200 relay at the state meet when she grabbed the baton from Sophie Davidson in third place and came back to defeated Franklin’s relay by three-hundredths of a second. She didn’t need to hit her PR in any of the postseason meets to win the 55 hurdles, as she won all three races by at least three-tenths of a second. Her PR was 8.13 seconds at the Hispanic Games. Tabugbo also won medals in the 55-meter dash, placing second at counties and third at regionals. This is Tabugbo’s fifth selection to an All-County team. She was a first-team pick in the 2018 and 2019 outdoor seasons as well as the 2017-18 and 2018-19 indoor seasons.

Asha Taitt, Reservoir, senior

Reservoir's Asha Taitt is a first-team All-County selection.
Reservoir's Asha Taitt is a first-team All-County selection. (Brian Krista / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Events: 55, long jump

Highlights: While the long jump isn’t an MPSSAA event during the indoor season, Howard County athletes still compete in the event throughout the regular season and at the county championships. Taitt won the long jump by more than a foot with a distance of 17-11.5. Her PR during the season was 18-6.25 at the Howard County Winterfest Invitational. She also scored in the 55-meter dash at counties and regionals, finishing sixth and seventh, respectively. Taitt was also a first-team pick in the 2018 outdoor season.

Katerina Talanova, Centennial, junior

Centennial's Katerina Talanova is a first-team All-County selection.
Centennial's Katerina Talanova is a first-team All-County selection. (Brian Krista/Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Events: 800, 1,600

Highlights: Talanova pulled off an upset in the 1,600 at the county championships by edging out Howard’s Amanda Eliker by one-tenth of a second in 5:18.71. She then placed second at regionals and finished fourth at states with a personal-best time of 5:12. Talanova also competed in the 800-meter run, placing fourth at counties and third at regionals with a PR time of 2:25. Talanova was also a second-team selection on the 2018 cross country All-County team.

Second-team All-County:

Lara Abedin, Mt. Hebron, senior, sprints/mid-distance

Jamie Adams, Reservoir, sophomore, sprints

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Nimrit Ahuja, Howard, sophomore, mid-distance/distance

Sophie Davidson, Reservoir, sophomore, sprints

Abigail Dua, Howard, junior, pole vault

Aanchal Kasargod, Atholton, junior, mid-distance/distance

Faith Meininger, River Hill, junior, mid-distance/distance

Annaliese Mmari, Howard, sophomore, jumps

Araoluwa Omitowoju, River Hill, sophomore, sprints

Liv Ragonese, Centennial, sophomore, shot put

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