As the foursome of Anthony Reid, Kenny Accardi, Jayo Adegboyo and Glen Mayora approached the Howard indoor track and field meeting area — fresh off a 4x200-meter relay win at the county championships on Monday night — their teammates met them with historic news.
Lions coach Zachary Dickerson said that dating back to around 2000, the most team points at a county championship came when Reservoir totaled 131 points in 2013, according to Athletic.net. They aimed to shatter that record.
So, with about a group of 10 athletes gathered around the phone of sophomore Connor Maloney, they checked the current results. Not only were they dominating the competition, but they had earned 152 points. Plus, they hadn't even run the 4x400-meter relay yet.
Senior Justin Dunklin described the team's reaction as "extreme happiness."
"It feels amazing actually to be known as one of the best indoor boys teams in Howard County history," said Dunklin, who secured a first-place finish in the high jump (6 feet, 2 inches).
Howard, which finished runner-up to Reservoir at last year's county championships — took first in six events — high jump, triple jump, shot put, 300-meter dash, 4x200-meter relay and 4x400-meter relay — en route to scoring an unheard-of 162 points. The Lions more than doubled the total of the second-place Gators, who finished with 78.5 points. Centennial (69.5 points) came in third.
"We're a senior-heavy team, so this was a goal this season, but it's really been a goal for the last four years for a lot of these kids," Dickerson said. "For the seniors, I feel really special about today. They came, they worked so hard. It's a special moment for them to be able to do a victory lap."
The Lions entered the meet aspiring to score at least one point in all 15 events, and they likely would have accomplished that objective if Dickerson kept seniors Nick Deamer and Eric Accardi in the 800-meter run. However, with the team title already locked up, Dickerson decided against running two of his better options in the second-to-last event on the boys side.
Both athletes helped Howard built its lead thanks to performances earlier in the meet. Deamer took second in the one-mile race (4:26.71) and third in the two-mile run (10:01.39), so Dickerson gave him the rest of the night off after those grueling events. Accardi, meanwhile, felt sore after the two-mile race in which he set a personal record (10:13.42) to finish fourth.
Other Lions standouts included Raymond Tien, who won the shot put (44-07.75), and triple-jump winner Nate Gilmore (41-10.00). The duo played an integral role in the team earning 66 points in field events, which alone would have put Howard in third place.
"Our depth is the core of our team," senior Kenny Accardi said. "We can have one or two guys here and there that can score points in all of their events, but you don't win a county championship just by a few guys. You win it by an entire team of people who are competing and winning their events."
For Accardi, those contributions came about two weeks earlier in the 300-meter dash, one of the few events held before a loss of running water forced officials at the Prince George's Sports and Learning Complex to suspend the event. In the meet's first individual event final, he earned 10 points for Howard with a winning time of 35.97. The Lions continued to dominate from there.
Individually, Reservoir senior Kai Muniz capped his county championship career with wins in the 800-meter dash (2:00.75) and the 1,600-meter run (2:00.75), while Centennial senior Greg Costello won the 3,200-meter event. Costello ran down River Hill sophomore Anish Nanjappa during the final straightaway and crossed the final line in 9:53.34.
In the shorter races, Oakland Mills senior Camerson Vereen won the 55-meter dash (6.40), Hammond sophomore Loick Amouzou dazzled in the 55-meter hurdles (8.37) and Cenennial senior Juan Parra held off the competition in the 500-meter dash (1:06.58).
Mt. Hebron and Wilde Lake also had individual winners in seniors Colton Wartman (long jump, 20-10.25) and Kareem Press (pole vault, 11-06.00), respectively.
But more often than not, athletes from the Howard boys' team crossed the finish line first, and those marks went a long way in backing up a cross country county title in the fall — their first in 40 years — with an indoor league crown.
"To be able to perform at your best today is hard to do sometimes," Dickerson said. "In other sports, you have a whole season. You can have a bad day, and it's not the end of the world. If you had a bad day today, that was it. Your chances are over with.
"So to be able to have a team effort and all be on the same page today, I'm very happy with the team."
River Hill girls hold off Atholton
Lying on the track at the Prince George's Sports and Learning Complex, exhausted from running the final leg of the 4x400-meter relay on Monday night, River Hill senior Jasmine Tiamfook thought her team's county title hopes had vanished.
The Hawks finished last in the second heat — largely because of a second-leg stumble — and sixth overall in the meet's final event. They watched Atholton, also in contention for the league crown, earn runner-up behind Mt. Hebron.
"I thought we didn't have it," Tiamfook said. "That was scary."
However, the team totals at that time didn't yet account for the pole vault, where River Hill senior Olivia Island upset Raiders sophomore Madison Garrigus and Hawks junior Ada Beams exceeded team expectations with a third-place finish. It turned out the Hawks held nearly a 10-point lead entering the last race of the night.
So, despite closing the county championships on a disappointing note, River Hill's body of work throughout the meet was enough to secure the program's first county championship since 2009. The accomplishment rejuvenated Tiamfook, who gleefully led the team's victory lap with her phone in her outstretched arm and her camera facing down on her and her teammates to document the noteworthy occasion.
"Throughout the meet, it was just us working as a team, unified, cheering everybody on, and just coming out on top," said Tiamfook, who won the 800-meter run (2:24.49) and finished second in the 1,600-meter race (5:23.17).
"Great way to end senior year."
River Hill, which finished with 111 points, earned first-place finishes in the 800-, 1,600-, 3200-, pole vault and long jump to hold off Atholton (107.33 points). Mt. Hebron (96 points) and Howard (95.33 points) rounded out a contested top four.
The Hawks entered the meet's resumption in second place with 30 points — one point better than Hugus expected after those five events — thanks in part to a spirited 1600-meter winning performance from freshman Faith Meininger on Jan. 16. She then brought that grit and enthusiasm into Monday's event, starting with the 3200-meter trek.
Mt. Hebron senior Emily Beyer entered the race as the top seed and led for about the first 2,600 meters, but Meininger passed her soon after and cruised the final 500 meters for her second individual county title in as many races. Her time (11:26.65) bested Beyer's by about 11 seconds.
"Faith is just getting things going," Hugus said. "She finished the 3,200 and maybe kicked it in a little bit harder than I expected her to, and I said, 'Hey, that was a little quick on the finish,' and she said, 'There's more in the tank.'
"And it was like, 'OK, all right, Faith, all right,' and then she backs it up with a second place in the [800-meter race]."
Meininger's effort in that race proved crucial to River Hill's overall success in that Hugus expected her to finish third behind Atholton's Camryn Streib. Instead, Meininger sprinted past the Raiders junior at the last second to steal a few points. A similar scenario played out with Island and Garrigus in the pole vault.
And aside from those events, the Hawks took care of business by performing much like Hugus expected.
Junior Sydney Robinson didn't dominate the county meet like she had last season for Mt. Hebron, when she won the 55-, 300- and 500-meter dashes, but the reigning girls indoor track and field Athlete of the Year still earned plenty of points for River Hill. She finished just behind Mt. Hebron junior Jaiden Ritter in the 300- and 500-meter dash and came in after Ritter and Atholton senior Asha Washington (7.20) in the 55-meter sprint.
Plus, Robinson beat Washington for first place with her long jump (17-02.00).
On an individual level, Ritter stood out among the rest. She set a meet record (41.05) in the 300-meter race and won the 500-meter dash (1:19.32) in only her second time running the event all season. She was also a part of the Vikings' record-setting 4x400-meter relay team — along with Blaire Ridgely, Morgan Flack and Mia Flack — that finished in 4:05.67.
"I honestly wasn't expecting to do as well as I did," Ritter said. "For this season, I've just been setting goals for myself. Each meet, just drop my time little bit little by little. And counties, I really over excelled with my goals, and I don't think I could have done it without my teammates."
Other individual winners on the girls side were Atholton junior Kailee Bunyard (55-meter hurdles, 8.95), Marriotts Ridge junior Riley Murtha (high jump, 5-01.00), Howard junior Chinenye Iloanya (shot put, 38-02.50) and Oakland Mills junior Oluwaseun Sule (triple jump, 34-08.50).