For the Howard girls track and field team, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
Despite not having an individual winner at the MPSSAA championships on Friday, Howard claimed the Class 4A title thanks to its depth. The Lions scored in 13 of 18 events for a team total 85 points — 12 ahead of second-place Urbana.
“We’re deep. We have great field athletes, sprinters and distance runners. We had all our bases covered today,” said Howard coach Mack McLain. “They really worked hard this year. They trained together during the pandemic, and that really showed up this year.”
“It’s amazing to be part of such a great team,” said Nimrit Ahuja, who won a silver and two bronze medals. “This is crazy. When I first ran track two years ago, we didn’t even win the county championships. This year, we smashed that, won regionals and now this. It just shows how much people can improve and what a great coaching staff we have.”
Ahuja was one of the top performers for the Lions, placing in two individual events and a relay. The junior started her day with a personal-best time of 4:58 in the 1,600 — her first time breaking 5:00 — to finish second behind Richard Montgomery freshman Grace Finnegan, who won both the mile and two-mile on Friday. She then ran a 2:16 in the 800, another PR, to finish third and then ran the final leg of the Lions’ bronze-medal winning 4x400-meter relay.
“I’m super happy with that time. I knew it was in reach,” said Ahuja, whose previous PR in the mile was 5:07. “Now at states, I knew there was no need to play it safe. I just took it out fast and stayed with Grace.”
While the Lions didn’t have any champions in any individual event, they did win a gold medal in the 4x200-meter relay. Michaela Greene, Olivia Hammond, Dakota West and Kiara Murray combined to run a 1:44 — their best time of the season.
The relays proved crucial to Howard’s victory, as the Lions scored 25 of their 85 points (30%) from the four relays. Howard placed sixth in the 4x100 and third in both the 4x400 and 4x800. West, Hayley Long, Greene and Ahuja teamed up in the 4x400, while Long, Jasmine Wilson, Sara Kindbom and Hannah Schwab carried the baton in the 4x800.
In addition to Schwab’s bronze as a member of the Lions’ 4x800 team, she also had a gutsy third-place finish in the 3,200-meter run. She was in last after a few laps, but she kept her pace to pass three runners to win a bronze medal.
Leading the Lions in the field were sisters Kiara and Tahlea Murray — the only two Lions to compete in the maximum four events at the state meet.
Kiara Murray, a junior, won a silver medal in the long jump with a distance of 17 feet-0.25 inches. She also placed fifth in the 100 on top of the jumping event and the two relays. Tahlea Murray, a senior, won a bronze medal in the long jump and finished fourth in the triple jump along with her sixth-place finishes in the 100-meter hurdles and as a member of the Lions’ 4x100 relay.
“They’re great. They really got a lot of points for us today,” McLain said about the Murray sisters. “It’s incredible to get a second and third finish in one field event. That was a phenomenal performance by them today.”
While the Howard girls team was the highlight of the afternoon at the Prince George’s Sports & Learning Complex in Landover, the Lions’ boys performed well, too. Howard’s boys team, which finished second at counties and first at regionals, had one gold medalist and scored in eight of 18 events to finish tied for second with Severna Park with 58 points — 20 points behind winner Walter Johnson.
Senior jumper Ibrahim Khairat said the atmosphere on the team — both the boys and girls — is contagious.
“Seeing the girls run the 4x200 and do so well, and seeing Nimrit breaking 5:00 in the mile, everything gets you hype,” Khairat said. “This was a great last meet for all of us.”
Khairat was the lone individual champion for Howard, finishing first in the triple jump. Before his hop, skip and jump of 46-7, Khairat didn’t perform to his own expectations in the long jump, finishing third with a distance of 20-10.5. He said he was able to mentally reset after the long jump to prepare for the triple jump.
“I don’t know what it was — the conditions, my mindset, I don’t know — but I was feeling sluggish. But I didn’t let that bother me,” Khairat said. “Triple is my main event. I sat myself down after [the long jump] and told myself it was the last meet in my high school career. I can’t credit myself too much. My coach and my friends were here to push me today, too.”
“We really needed that performance from him in the triple jump,” said McLain. “He found his rhythm there in the triple jump. He refocused and went and dominated. That was awesome to see.”
Also in the field events, CJ Marthins continued Howard’s recent trend of throwing success. The junior earned a silver medal in the shot put with a throw of 47-8.5.
Middle-distance runner Joseph Raudabaugh also had a great day for the Lions, securing three silver medals. He opened his day as the final leg of the Lions’ 4x800 relay, which finished in a school-record 7:56. He then crossed the finish line in 1:58 in the 800 — 54-hundredths of a second behind Northwest’s Tinoda Matsatsa.
To close the meet, the junior was the final leg of Howard’s 4x400 relay that brought home silver in a season-best 3:27. Kendall Phillips and Eian Butler also ran in both relays, while Christian Randolph was the third leg of the 4x400 relay and Jakob Werdell was third to carry the baton in the 4x800.
Boys: 1. Walter Johnson 78; T-2. Howard 58; T-2. Severna Park 58; 4. Old Mill; 5. Northwest.
Girls: 1. Howard 85; 2. Urbana 73; 3. C.H. Flowers 49; 4. Richard Montgomery 46; 5. Northwest 38.
110-meter hurdles: 5. Christian Do, :16.64.
300 hurdles: 6. Do, :44.15.
800-meter run: 2. Joseph Raudabaugh, 1:58.
4x400-meter relay: 2. Howard (Kendall Phillips, Eian Butler, Christian Randolph, Raudabaugh), 3:27.
4x800: 2. Howard (Phillips, Butler, Jakob Werdell, Raudabaugh), 7:56.
High jump: 6. Emmanuel Omole, 5 feet-8 inches.
Long jump: 3. Ibrahim Khairat, 20-10.5.
Triple jump: 1. Khairat, 46-7.
Shot put: 2. CJ Marthins, 47-8.5.
100-meter dash: 5. Kiara Murray, :12.61.
200: 4. Michaela Greene, :25.83.
100 hurdles: 6. Tahlea Murray, :17.04.
800: 3. Nimrit Ahuja, 2:16.
1,600: 2. Ahuja, 4:58; 5. Sara Kindbom, 5:23.
3,200: 3. Hannah Schwab, 11:26.
4x100: 6. Howard (Sheena Haroon, Olivia Hammond, T. Murray, K. Murray), :50.96.
4x200: 1. Howard (Greene, O. Hammond, Dakota West, K. Murray), 1:44.
4x400: 3. Howard (West, Hayley Long, Greene, Ahuja), 4:06.
4x800: 3. Howard (Long, Jasmine Wilson, Kindbom, Schwab), 9:42.
High jump: 4. Ruth Smith, 4-10.
Long jump: 2. Kiara Murray, 17-0.25; 3. T. Murray, 16-2.
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Triple jump: 4. T. Murray, 35-5.5.