After a successful afternoon of six top-four finishes, Oakland Mills coach Phil Lang was left scratching his head.
The Scorpions put both of their teams in the top eight, highlighted by two first place and two second place finishes at the 2A state meet Monday at the Prince George's Sports and Learning Complex to exceed expectations set by their coach.
"The weather obviously has been everyone's topic for the last month. This is our second meet in six weeks, it's been hard as a coach and an athlete to stay in your game and for the kids to run as well as they did today, I'm honestly shocked," he said. "We can't believe how well everything went for the kids, several PR's and I don't really understand that. You're not getting the training that you normally do. Kelsey White getting a gold medal in the 500. Winning is hard and that comes after he anchored the 4x8 to a victory with three of his buddies earlier in the meet. Brit with the two great back-to-back races in the 1,600 and 500, getting second in both of those, certainly both of them are her best times of the year in both events. We're a little bit scratching our head wondering how this actually happened. Cameron Vereen, a sophomore boy in the dash, going 6.55 and getting third place, getting a medal as a sophomore in the 55, that's not seen a whole lot. Quite impressive, we're very thrilled with that. I don't know, I think I'm a little shocked of how many points we put up today. I was hopeful of putting up this many points back in December and early January, but after the first six weeks we weren't sure of where we were going. Today ended up very well."
The Oakland Mills boys placed sixth with 34 points — 44 behind champion Westlake — and the girls took home eighth with 24 points — 35 behind champion Hereford. Marriotts Ridge also competed, but saw both its teams finish outside the top 10, with Micah Meekins' victory in the 300-meter dash serving as the highlight of the meet.
It was a special day for Oakland Mills senior White, as he not only started the day by anchoring the Scorpions 4x800 meter 2A state championship team, but also took home a 2A state title in the 500-meter race, narrowly beating second place finisher, Westlake's Thomas Alcorn, by .07 seconds.
"I mean I looked up, I really didn't even know. I leaned forward and I was just hoping that I got it and I did and I am so happy right now," White said after embracing his father, teammates and coaches in the winning finish. "I feel so great. I had to catch him, and I knew I could do it and I've been training, working on my core, working on my form – and I said I really needed to get two, and I got it."
Ironically, the 500-meter isn't White's best event, which is the 800-meter race. But after a stellar finish in the 500, White may have ran out of juice in his following race, crossing 10th in the 800 later in the day.
"It's funny, the 800 is his best event and he broke two (minutes) in the 800 this year, but the 500 he is really good," Phil Lang explained. "I couldn't not put him in the 5 – he then wins the 5, is the good news, the bad news is I think he used all his gas in the 5 and the 800 didn't go well for him. But he's fine. He's got two gold medals around his neck… Again, winning is just so hard. In a state championship in a relay or individual, man – they're going to remember that for a long time."
In the 4x8 relay, the Scorpions were amongst the top-three the entire race. They fluctuated from first to third, but ultimately crossed ahead of everyone else with a time of 8 minutes and 24.02 seconds.
"We were talking about a big second half," said Oakland Mills Sean Smith, who was apart of the Scorpions championship relay team, which included White, Jared Nguyen and Joey Navarro. "No matter what it looks like at the start of the race, all that matters in the end to come out on top."
Smith, White, Nguyen and Navarro went into the race expecting a first place finish.
"Oh yeah," Nguyen said. "We've trained since cross country season leading up to this point and we knew we weren't going to lose tonight."
Oakland Mills finished strong, as they bested the second-place finisher, Largo, by 4.44 seconds.
"It felt great," White said. "I've been thinking about it all season. We've had some good 4x8 in the last two years and I thought this year we could really do something. We didn't get a regional and I thought we can win and we believed about it and did it."
"Feeling great," Navarro added. "Absolutely amazing."
Their championship performances motivated fellow Scorpion Brit Lang, as she had a productive day as well, finishing the night with two second-place finishes in the girls 1,600 and 500-meter races and a fourth place standing in the 800-meters.
"I did a lot better than I thought I was going to honestly," said Brit Lang after crossing with a time of 5:04.52 in the 1,600. "I was kind of worried coming in with all the snow and stuff; training has just been really difficult. I'm pumped for a 5:04, it's the best I've ran all season… definitely our boys winning that 4x8, that gave me that extra adrenaline that definitely helped me through that race. They're my training partners. That's who I ran with everyday, so pumped for them. I'm really happy with how the race went. But you know, second place, can't argue with that either."
Brit Lang was 2.48 seconds slower than first place finisher, Patuxent's Haley Jackson – who also bested Brit Lang in the 2A state cross country championships this fall.
"I was really, really excited. Haley being there in reach, you know some of the times she's quite a bit in front of me, but her kind of having her being in reach definitely motivated me a little bit more," Brit Lang said. "My mentality was to just run a step behind her, going in front of her in my mind doesn't really make much sense. I know she can obviously run a fantastic time, so I figured to just kind of staying near where she is will definitely get me to where I wanted to go."
Brit Lang crossed with a time of 2:22.52 in the 800, while Vereen earned a bronze in the 55-meter dash with a time of 6.56 seconds.
"I've been coaching for a long time and we've won several state titles over those years," added Phil Lang. "Certainly the last several years though we've went down and the last couple years we have been coming back up, so we kind of thought this year would be a lot better year for us… and that is how it turned out, so we're feeling pretty good about that."
As for Marriotts Ridge, the only other Howard County school represented on Monday, it had just one first place finish – senior Micah Meekins – who not only took home a state championship title in the girls 2A 300 meters, but broke a 2A state record in the process.
"It feels great. I really wanted the 300 because I got second last year. I just wanted to redeem myself and I really wanted the state record," she said after crossing at 39.83 seconds, .25 seconds faster than the previous record held by Calvert's Aunye Boche, set back in 2008. "I was hoping around 40or 39-high and PR on this track. I'm hoping the momentum will help me win a second state championship and do better in the 500."
Meekins ended up finishing the 500 meter with a time of 1 minute and 24.74 seconds, good for a seventh place finish.
Other top scorers for the Mustangs include Ibrahim Jirdeh, who finished fourth overall in the boys 3,200 meters, crossing with a time of 10:16.94. The girls 4x800 meter relay team crossed sixth with a time of 10:38.53, while the 4x400 boys relay finished fourth with a time of 3 minutes and 38.46 seconds.