The Howard girls track and field team is in a good position to reclaim the Howard County title after Day One of the county championships on Monday.
The Lions were led by Amanda Eliker, Sara Kindbom and Emily Gorny, who placed in the top-three spots, respectively, in the two-mile run (3,200 meters). The three runners earned 24 of Howard’s 70.5 points at Long Reach High School, which puts the Lions in a 31.5-point lead over Atholton, which won the county title last season.
“That was the goal,” said Howard coach Zack Dickerson. “We knew if we had the patience the first few laps and stuck together for the first mile or so that we could do that. That last 400-600 meters they all picked it up, which was really nice.”
Dickerson said Eliker, who crossed the finish line in 11 minutes, 37 seconds, executed her strategy for the eight-lap race.
“She was pacing the first few laps and gradually picked it up from there,” he said. “It’s tough running alone in the heat like this today. … To have that mental toughness to push through laps four, five six, seven in the two-mile is an accomplishment.”
Eliker, a junior, said it helped to have Kindbom, who finished in 11:50, running next to her for the first mile.
“Sara was on my shoulder, and she really helped push through those first four laps,” Eliker said. “Afterwards, I kept focusing on my teams and forget about the heat. I just kept pushing those last couple of laps.”
Gorny, a junior, rounded out the top three in 11:57.
The Lions, which last won the county championship in 2017, placed in the top four of all six girls events, with Doyinsola Olayinka finishing first in the discus with a 95-foot throw.
The Howard boys are also in first after Day One. The defending champs have 57 points through six events and leads Oakland Mills by 28 points.
Colin Greene led the Lions with a first-place finish in the shot put with a 49 foot, 8 inch throw.
Eric Okoye placed second in the long jump behind Oakland Mills’ Deon Breland. Okoye jumped 21 feet, 3.5 inches, which was just short of Breland’s winning jump of 21-3.75.
Similar to the girls team, the Howard boys finished in the top four of all six events.
To start the day’s competition, the Atholton girls won the 4x800-meter relay by five seconds over Mt. Hebron. Emily Brefo, Katherine Morris, Camryn Streib and Isha Santhosh took home gold for the Raiders in 9:38.
“I have to give credit to the girls,” said Atholton coach Ivan Alvarado. “I’m tough on them, but they’re very resilient. Today is the byproduct of their hard work.”
Mt. Hebron won the 4x200 relay by more than two seconds over River Hill. Sierrah Matthews, Garcelle Pierce, Blaire Ridgely and Jaiden Ritter teamed up to run the relay in 1:41.14.
“I think they did a very good job,” said Vikings coach Teyarnte Carter. “All year I’ve been preaching to them that we all have to show up on the same day, and that’s what they did today.”
Oakland Mills’ Oluwaseun Sule won the triple jump with a hop, skip and jump of 35 feet. In the pole vault, Madison Garrigus of Atholton cleared 10 feet for first place.
In other boys competition, the River Hill 4x800 relay team of Darren McGowan, Anish Nanjappa, Evan Ying and Chase McGeehan took first with a time of 8:09.
Nanjappa also won the two-mile race later in the day with a time of 9:41. He was the only double winner of the afternoon.
“Coming in, I thought I should win, because on paper I was considerably faster than everyone,” Nanjappa said. “After a mile, I was in the pack, but I felt pretty good. I knew I could win it, so I tried to take it from there.”
The closest race of the day came in the boys 4x200, with Long Reach’s Kimball Tyler chasing down Atholton’s Neal Tyler to give the Lightning the win by six-tenths of a second. The other members of the Long Reach relay were Jaylen Myers, Isaiah Powell-Major and Djavan White.
Oakland Mills’ Alex Kohn won the high jump at 6-2. He defeated Wilde Lake’s Jim Nwalal, who also cleared 6-2, in a jump off.
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The final day of the championships is Tuesday at Long Reach. The meet starts at 4:30 p.m.