Senior Kai Muniz talks about winning the 800- and 1,600-meter races at the 3A indoor track and field championships on Feb. 20 (Kyle Stackpole / BSMG)
HOWARD COUNTY, MD — The Reservoir boys indoor track and field team waited anxiously as Oxon Hill and Linganore battled in the 4x400-meter relay on Tuesday night.
The Gators held a seven-point lead over Linganore entering the meet’s final event at the Prince George’s Sports and Learning Complex, but they did not qualify a foursome to compete in it. So, they hoped for their competitor to finish worse than second. That would secure the program’s first-ever 3A indoor track and field state title.
The feat became more likely during the third leg of the relay, when Oxon Hill passed Linganore for the lead. Had the relay ended there, and Linganore finished slower than James H. Blake’s time of 3 minutes, 31.74 seconds from the previous heat, Reservoir would win the championship by one point.
Oxon Hill did hold on for first place, but Linganore also did its part to secure the team title. It finished two seconds faster (3:29.88) than James H. Blake to lock up second in the event and earn eight team points to go ahead for good. In the end, it was the Gators who fell just short of the Lancers (54 points).
But instead of dwelling on being the runner-up, they embraced it. After all, it marked their first second-place finish at a state meet since 2010.
“I’m elated,” coach Phil Rogers said. “We’ve overcome so much this season. We’d had a bunch of bumps and hurdles along the way. And then we had a rough region meet. It did not go as planned in a couple of different scenarios. But they came back, and they did almost everything perfectly today. For us, it went almost as perfect as things could have gone.”
Reservoir contended for the state title thanks to seven athletes who won three events (800, 1,600, 4x200) and scored in six events overall. No other county team could match this type of production. Mt. Hebron (16 points) finished in a tie for eighth place, while Atholton and Centennial tied for 11th with 14 points a piece.
Gators senior Kai Muniz, who only competed in the 800 and 1,600, totaled more points than all of those teams.
Muniz, a first-team All-County cross country runner in the fall, did not face much stiff competition en route to winning the one-mile race in 4:31.49. The next fastest runner, Ablel Gebreselase (Digital Harbor), crossed the finish line about two-and-a-half seconds behind him.
Despite qualifying for the 3,200, Muniz and Rogers agreed to keep Muniz out of the race so that he could shift all of his focus to the 800. This proved to be a beneficial decision, as Muniz was deadlocked with two other athletes as they approached the finish line.
That runner was Michael Gonzales, a soccer and lacrosse player who is in his first season of indoor track and field. He was able to snag two points for the Gators with a seventh-place finish (2:05.26).
Other athletes to score points for the Gators were senior Sundiata Kamau and sophomore Ayomide Agbayewa, who took third and sixth, respectively, in the 55 dash. Junior Talon Campbell placed fourth in the 300 (36.40), while senior Josh Krutz comfortably earned second place in the pole vault (11 feet, 6 inches).
Among the other county teams, there were three top-five finishes in individual events. Those came from Centennial senior Greg Costello, who after winning the 3,200 at counties and regions placed second at states (10:02.83), senior Juan Parra (fourth, 500) and Mt. Hebron senior Jacob Ververs (fifth, 800).
As for the relays, the Vikings snagged the second spot in the 4x800 and seventh in the 4x400.
However, no quartet could match the success of Agbayewa, Campbell, Kamau and junior Tyler Levons for the Gators in the 4x200. They set the school record with a first-place finish of 1:31.19.
“We came together as brothers,” Levons said. “We had one mission: win the state championship, even though we were in the slow heat. We had a mission, and we executed it.”
Adaobi Tabugbo, Centennial 4x800 relay win 3A state titles
Reservoir sophomore Adaobi Tabugbo smoked the 3A state meet competition in the 55 hurdles (8.43), but her ascension to the top of the event has been unconventional.
After the first few meets of the indoor season, Tabugbo left on a month-long trip to visit her family in Nigeria. She returned just before the county championships on Jan. 17 but could not compete.
Her first meet back was the preliminary heat at the 3A East championships, which she won with a personal-best time of 8.71. In the final, she again took first and again set a personal record (8.65).
The 3A state meet unfolded the same way. She cruised in the prelims with a 8.46, then dropped that time by three hundredths of a second in her event final victory.
“I thought [going to Nigeria] would hold me back a bit, but it actually didn’t,” Tabugbo said. “It actually helped me because Nigeria, going there, everything is organic. All the food is organic. Everything is just natural. The heat is just coming in. And at first I thought it would ruin my success, but it actually made me do better.”
The other event winner in the 3A girls classification was Centennial’s 4x800 relay squad. The Eagles foursome of seniors Claudia Pilcher and Kirsten Wikner and juniors Cora Blount and Alison Betler began the event finals by holding off Tuscarora and crossing the finish line in just under 10 minutes.
“It’s crazy because [Wikner’s] specialty is the two-mile, [Blount] and [Betler] are the one-mile and I’m the 500,” Pilcher said. “We took a combination of all the different types of races and mixed it together to make this 800 team, and it worked out pretty well, apparently.”
The top scorer in the county for this meet was Mt. Hebron junior Jaiden Ritter, who finished fifth in the 300, second in the 55 and helped the Vikings take second in the 4x200 relay and third in the 4x400 relay. She accounted for 26 of the team’s 38 points.
“Honestly I was just trying to come into the meet and get PRs,” Ritter said. “I did that in everything, so I’m very happy about that.”
Mt. Hebron also received eight points from senior Emily Beyer, who finished second in the 3,200 (11:44.37).
Chinenye Iloanya wins second straight 4A state title
The reigning 4A girls shot up champion renewed her state dominance Tuesday night.
After a second-place finish at the 4A Central meet, Iloanya threw a personal-best of 39-08.50 in her first throw of the state final. None of her competitors could match that distance.
“Coming in here, I had a clear mind and I was like ‘Let me just do what I need to do and then go,’” Iloanya said. “Thanks to God, honestly, because what I did today, I was not expecting it.”
Iloanya is the latest girls shot put star for Howard, which has not lost the event at the county level the past seven years. She joins Bayli Smith (Maryland) and Taylor Scaife (Houston) as shot put state champions.
“Those are the girls that kind of showed Chinenye the way and stuff like that,” coach Tyler Wade said. “So yeah, we’ve done really well at the state level, just as good as we’ve done at the county and region level.”
On the boys side, the major result for the Lions came in the 4x400 relay. The group of seniors Kenny Accardi and Glen Maroya, junior Maxwell Myers and sophomore Jayo Adegboyo broke the all-time county record by finishing in 3:27.47.