Howard track and field runner Max Myers spent much of his time last winter trying to catch his middle distance teammates, both during workouts and in competition.
Sure, Myers took third in the 500-meter dash at the county championships, but he did not compete in an individual event at the 4A state meet like seniors Kenny Accardi and Glenn Maroya. Accardi, an All-County selection and the league champion in the 300, placed fifth at states, while Maroya capped his season by finishing sixth in the 500.
Myers’ lone appearance at states came in the 4x400, an event he, Accardi, Maroya and Jayo Adegboyo dominated throughout the season. The quartet won the event at four meets, including at counties. At the state championships, their efforts resulted in a third-place finish.
“It was really like the brotherhood for the four of us just all pushing each other,” Myers says now. “We were all really competitive, striving to make each other better, so they played a major role in me getting better.”
A lot has changed since this the group’s splendid state showing a year ago. Accardi and Maroya graduated, while Myers, thanks to vigorous training through the spring and summer and leading up to this indoor season, has morphed into a supreme middle distance threat and a deserving choice for another honor — Howard County Times/Columbia Flier indoor track and field boys Athlete of the Year.
For much of this winter, runners from around the league, region and state spent their time either trying to chase Myers down or watching him pass them before the finish line.
In his five 500 races this season, Myers never lost his heat. His only defeat came at the HoCo Winterfest Invitational on Dec. 15, when a competitor bested his time from the slower heat. Myers subsequently won his next regular season meet and then secured a county title and a 4A Central region championship in the event.
All of these victories led up to the state championships, which by Myers’ estimation was by far his most difficult test. One so daunting, in fact, that he abandoned his usual race strategy.
The result was a personal-best time of 1 minute, 6.53 seconds in the biggest race of his high school career.
“He’s on a short list at the top,” coach Zachary Dickerson said of Myers when asked how he compares with the middle distance runners Dickerson has coached at Howard. “He actually beat Erik Jenks’ 800-meter record from two years ago. And then when I started coaching five years ago, we had a runner, Justin Marsh, who has our  school record at 1:05 right now. Max ran 1:06 at states.
“... So between Justin, Erik and Max, those three in those middle distance events have been above the rest.”
Winning a state championship in the 500 was priority No. 1 for Myers coming into his senior indoor campaign. For one, Myers ran 1:08.45 at the 2018 county championships. Second, eight of the top 11 finishers at the 4A state meet were seniors. And, to top it all off, none of the three juniors in that race ran a time as fast as Myers did at the league meet.
“We wanted to run some fast 300s, we wanted to run some fast 800s,” Dickerson said. “But the focus of training and the focus on the season was to try and win a state championship in the 500.”
Myers racked up plenty of wins ahead of the state meet, and on the surface it appeared his preseason objective was well within reach. But internally, Myers felt like there was a “huge problem” with how he had been executing his race plan. He admitted to being “scared to completely attack the race,” something he never had to do at previous meets. In those races, he could fall behind and still catch the competition by the finish.
But at the state championships, Myers decided that was a flawed approach against top-notch competition. He feared he would fall too far behind and not be able to make up the ground.
At states, Myers spent the first 150 meters sprinting to the front of the pack, and from there he focused on increasing the gap between his competition. Doing so allowed Myers to hold on to the lead during the final stretch.
And while Myers and Dickerson believe he could have ran the race even faster, they settled for a new personal record and the Lions’ latest state championship.
“I was really, really excited when I won,” Myers said. “I didn’t think that would have been possible. Say if we went back two years ago and you told me that I won a state championship, I would have never believed you.”
The 500 was Myers’ best event but far from the only race he excelled in. He secured a fourth-place finish in the 300 at regionals, ran a personal-best 50.57 to take sixth in the 25th Hispanic Games on Jan. 5 and represented Howard in the 4x400 relay at the state championship.
As for the 800, well, if you told Myers two years ago about what he accomplished in the 800 this winter, he’d probably tell you to take a hike.
Myers ran the 800 for the Lions twice before last spring and finished in about 2:17 each time, about 17 seconds slower than this year’s indoor county champion. But in the final regular season meet of the outdoor season, Myers volunteered to run the event for the Lions. And not only did he win, but he finished in 2:04:00, giving him the fastest time in the school.
Running in that meet made Myers eligible to run the 4x800 in the postseason, so he gained even more experience running the event at counties, regions and states.
By that point, Myers was hooked. His fastest split before the school year ended was 2:02, and then he hit 2:01 and two minutes flat running for Team Accelerate in the summer. In his last club meet in July, his time sunk to 1:58.
“There were literally no days off,” Dickerson said of his training during the season. “There’s a hashtag the kids say: #nodaysoff. He embodies that and lives that.”
A year after not competing in the 800, Myers won the indoor county championships with a time of 2:00.37 and snagged third at the 4A Central meet with a time of 2:01.03. At states, he secured seventh (2:00.84) but finished just 46 hundredths of a second behind the runner-up.
And thanks to Myers’ rapid improvement in the 800, Dickerson has incorporated that event into his senior’s expectations for the outdoor campaign.
“With a two-day meet at the outdoor, we’re able to give him more recovery time and more overnight recovery time,” Dickerson said. “The goal is to try and win the 400 meter state championship and to place a little higher in the 800.”
As for postgraduate plans, Myers has verbally committed to run for the University of Maryland, and there’s a chance he abandons the 400 and the 500 to set his mind on his newest project.
“If I get to low 1:50s in the 800, I think I’m really going to focus on the  in college and really get my time down,” Myers said. “I’m still kind of new to it because I’ve only been running it for like one-and-a-half seasons; I only ran it during summer track and I really only ran it during indoor this year. So I think if I get a lot of experience under my belt running that then I’ll get way better at it, so I think that’s what I’m going to focus on.”
Also named to the All-County team are:
Loick Amouzou, Hammond, junior
Events: 55 hurdles
Highlights: Amouzou proved to be the county’s best hurdler for the second straight winter. First, he won a league championship in the 55 in 8:53 and then took fourth (personal-best 8.23) at the 2A East meet and capped his junior campaign with an eighth-place finish (8.39) at states.
Talon Campbell, Reservoir, senior
Events: 55 dash, 300, 500, 4x200, 4x400
Highlights: Campbell was one of three county athletes on the boys side to win an individual state championship. Campbell won the 300 in 35.85 at the 3A state meet on Feb. 19, giving him his sixth win in seven meets this season. Campbell also won a 3A East region title in the 500 in 1:10.47 and helped the Gators win the 4x200 county championship in 1:31.84.
Dorian Coates, Atholton, senior
Highlights: Coates made substantial progress in the high jump after finishing eighth at the county championships last winter. At this year’s league meet, Coates won the event by clearing six feet, matching a personal-best mark he set earlier in the season. He followed that up by placing third at regionals and eighth at the 3A state meet.
Collin Greene, Howard, junior
Events: Shot put
Highlights: Greene was at the forefront of a Howard shot put unit that helped the Lions secure their second straight county championship, winning the event with a throw of 45 feet, 4.5 inches. He then set a personal-best of 46-2.25 at the 4A Central meet to place third and finally tossed 45-11.75 at states to capture sixth.
Cameron Hindle, Long Reach, sophomore
Events: 800, 1,600
Highlights: Hindle ran the race of his high school career in the 1,600 at the league championships. He crossed the finish line in a personal-best 4:28.03 to beat out cross country Runner of the Year Anish Nanjappa from River Hill.
Jalen Jasmin, Reservoir, junior
Events: 55 dash, 4x200, long jump
Highlights: Jasmin emerged as one of the state’s top sprinters in the 3A classification, first winning the 55 dash at the 3A East region meet in 6.66 and then posting a personal-best 6.62 to place fourth at states. At the county meet, he placed second behind teammate Ayomide Agbayewa.
Ibra Khariat, Howard, sophomore
Events: Triple jump
Highlights: Khariat was the best triple jumper in the county this season and it was not particularly close. At the league meet, he put the finishing touches on Howard’s team championship by winning the event with a personal-best jump of 43-1.5 — the ninth-best in the state and tops among underclassmen.
Chase McGeehan, River Hill, senior
Events: 500, 800
Highlights: McGeehan could not have asked for a better finish to his indoor track and field high school career. After dealing with an injury for almost the entire regular season and burning out in the 500 at the 2A East region meet — he ended up finishing third — McGeehan ran a race to remember in the slow heat at states, finishing in a personal-best time of 1:06.63. Evan Schaefer of Oakdale went on to win the fast heat, but even he could not prevent McGeehan from coming home with a state championship.
Anish Nanjappa, River Hill, junior
Events: 800, 1,600, 3,200
Highlights: Nanjappa, the reigning cross country boys Runner of the Year, consistently produced top postseason finishes in all three distance events. He was at his best in the 3,200, winning counties in a season-best 9:39.13 before placing second at regions and states. Furthermore, he finished second at counties and regions in the 1,600 and seventh at states in the 800.
Eric Okoye, Howard, senior
Events: 55 dash, long jump, triple jump
Highlights: Okoye excelled in the long and triple jump, winning the former event with a personal-best mark of 21 feet and placing second in the latter by clearing 5-10. Then came a fourth-place regional finish and a third-place state finish in the long jump. Okoye’s other noteworthy result occurred in the 55 dash at the 4A Central meet when he secured fourth in a personal-best time of 6.66.
Jackson Pittman, Wilde Lake, senior
Events: Pole vault
Highlights: Pittman showed continual improvement en route to winning county and region championships in the pole vault this winter. He began the year by clearing nine feet before clearing 10-6 in three consecutive meets, which translated into a league title. Pittman increased that mark by a foot to win the event at regionals, but even more impressive was his personal-best 12-0 at states, which resulted in a ninth-place finish.