Heading into the county championship Jan. 25 at Prince George's County Sports and Learning Complex, it looks as though Howard is the favorite to score big on both the girls and boys side.
"Howard boys sprinting is solid and then they have field events to back it, they have distance events to back it," said Centennial coach Kevin McCoy. "Then the Howard girls, I don't think there is a hole in their roster. They are just flat out good. They are probably going to score in every event guaranteed, if not multiple. I actually don't know the last time they lost a county championship."
The Lions' sights are not only on winning a county title, but also on a regional championship and moving as many athletes on to the state meet. The girls have won two out of the last three county championships, with the boys going for their first since 2007.
Howard is stacked on the distance side, especially on the boys team, which is led by Joey Lapointe, Ryan Gunderson and Dennis Denalli. They are looking to finish in the top-five at counties in the mile.
Senior Theo Braimoh will contend for titles in the long, triple and high jump at counties. He already broke the Lions school record earlier this year in both the long and triple jumps with a distance of 20-11 and 44-1, respectively.
Sophomore Nick Deamer will be one of the top 3,200-meter runners in the county, as his best time so far this year is 10 minutes, 3 seconds. Senior Ade Abdulkadir is ranked in the top three in the county in the long and triple jump, while sophomore Monseff Marrakchi will be running the 4x200 meter relay, 4x400 and 55 meter dash, with Erik Jenks running the 4x800, 500- and 800-meter races.
Jenks also broke Howard's school record earlier this year in the 800-meter dash, coming in at 2:01.
Ade Abdulkadir's twin sister, Adeola Abdulkadir, is a top performer on the girls side in all three jump categories, as she too broke a school record earlier this year in the triple jump. Bayli Smith is a heavy favorite to win the female shot put, while Teanna Jules is one of the top female sprinters in the area. The Lions' girls 4x200 team of Jules, Sabrina Marquez, Ty Reid and Sherise Scott boasts the top time in the county and broke the school record in the event earlier this year. Howard's 4x800 team of Taylor Jarayni, Emily Hawkins, Emily Magoon and Courtney Mann are all solid performers and will battle for a county title. Jarayni is also one of the top 800-meter runners in the league, but the leader of the talented group is Mann, who is tops in the county in all three distance events.
"Howard County has some great competition," said the Lions coach Tyler Wade. "It will not be easy, but both teams are in contention for a team championship."
For McCoy's group, they are led by the trio of Kara Taylor, Ashley Mazer and Jessica Jiang on the girls side for all the running categories, as the three are coming off a 3A state championship cross country team title from this past fall.
"The trio that I got from the cross country team is running pretty great right now," McCoy said. "I'm not 100 percent sure as of right now where I'm going to put them in. But I mean any of them can run the 4x800, mile or the two mile."
On the boys side for the Eagles, they are led by their top sprinter, Kyle Taylor who has run a 6.8 low so far this season.
"Maybe 6.84-6.85 something like that," McCoy added. "That's not bad, but it definitely needs to improve in order to try and qualify for the finals in the county meet or maybe even the region meet. But he's been doing well so far."
Individually, in the shorter distance races and sprints, Wilde Lake senior Jamila Brown and Marriotts Ridge senior Micah Meekins are both experienced names to keep an eye on among the girls. Both were first-team all-county performers during the outdoor season last spring, helping out their teams in the relays as well.
Oakland Mills' boys tied for fourth place at the Howard County Winterfest Invitational in early December. Kelsey White (mid-distance), Joey Navarro (distance), Cameron Vereen (sprints) and Melvin Bell (shot put) scored big in their respective events and have been leading the way for the Scorpions. At the same meet, Howard County cross country champion Brit Lang won the 1,600-meters and anchored the distance medley team to a second place finish. The boys also scored a second place finish in the same event. Mikyla Stephens and Lauren Wood are two others to watch on the girls side for Oakland Mills.
"I'm going to say the two mile is going to be pretty stacked for the boys and then the mile is probably going to be really stacked for the girls," McCoy said. "You got Brit (Lang), who nobody is going to beat, and then just a slew of girls after her who have run under 5:40 this year. It's going to be pretty intense."
Hammond is quietly improving and rising amongst the ranks this season, as the team has produced a number of personal records since the arrival of new coach Cliff Timpson, who took over in August. Shannon Starke and Moiyatu Roberts, who currently rank 17th and 10th in the county, respectively, are in striking range to challenge for the 300-meter race. Starke is also a top-15 runner in the 500-meters. Destiny Lyday literally jumped into medal contention in the triple jump, as she is currently ranked third overall in the county and 30th in the state.
On the boys side for the Golden Bears, newcomer Mike Bowan and junior Chris Alexander are also in striking range in a tough 55 meter dash, while Josh Sanchez is also someone to watch out for, as he's looking to contend in the 55 meter hurdles.
Hammond is only one of three county teams that have three or more sprinters in the top-25, which should make for an interesting 4x200 championship race.
River Hill looks to continue its success this season, as a few female athletes to watch are Sophie Caplan (pole vault), Sydney Robinson (long jump, 300 meters, 500 meters), Jasmine Tiamfook (800 meters, 1600 meters) and Kemi Moore (shot put). On the boys side are Trent Rose and Rahul Reddy in the 1,600 and 3,200 meter races.
"They're definitely on everybody's radar," said McCoy about the Hawks. "I mean, Trent (Rose) we know is the Howard County champ in cross country, he's good. So really, they have a fantastic distance team, so it's just where each kid gets place."
The Atholton girls team is performing very well entering counties. Despite losing some key seniors, there have been numerous young members of coach Ivan Alvarado's group that have stepped up this season. The Raiders are composed of only one senior, about 10 juniors and a talented sophomore class. Alvarado issued this year's group as, "the best class of girls to come through in the past five years – I would even dare to say 10 years."
"The freshman are very poised and very driven to succeed on not only an individual level, but have really fed into the team concept," Alvarado said. "They have truly exceeded any expectations and thoughts I had of them."
Some key players to watch are junior Holly Ann Huff-Edsall (currently ranked 20th in the state in 500 meters), sophomore Asha Washington (currently ranked 20th in the state and 2nd in the county in the 55 meters), junior Aman Moore (high jump), junior Brooke Walker (55 meter hurdles), junior Krystal Wood (55 meters), junior Fanny Yayi-Bondje (500 and 800 meters), sophomore Samantha Hall (55 meters), sophomore Gabriella DeGrezia (800 and 1,600 meters), sophomore Celine Pisanic (800 and 3,200 meters), sophomore Camryn Streib (500 and 1,600 meters), sophomore Ciara Wainwright (shot put), and sophomore Morgan Young (shot put).
Atholton has placed sixth at the Howard County Kickoff, 14th at the Howard County Winterfest Invitational (amongst 58 teams), second at the Howard County League Meet and first at the Howard County/Anne Arundel Challenge.
"On the boys distance side, Howard, River Hill and Atholton – even Hebron their pretty stacked," McCoy said. "They're difficult to deal with, so really I'm just really trying to get these kids some experience then maybe a year or two down the line we're on the same level along with the same numbers."
Mt. Hebron stocked up with a ton of young talent heading into the winter track and field season. On the boys side, some athletes to watch out for include Mathew Wingate (pole vault), Dillon Cutaiar (pole vault), Greg Bisant (1,600 and 800 meters), Justin Johnson (500 and 800 meters), Nate Hatcher (55 and 300 meters) and Eric Bussman (shot put). For the girls side, Sarah Humm (long jump, triple jump and hurdles), Julia Shanley (high jump) and Danielle Pitts (shot put) look to lead the Vikings.
"We have done well in our meets so far this season and continue to improve each week," said Vikings coach Paul Ulrich. "We believe we will be competitive in the championship season."
Mt. Hebron did lose one of the best sprinters in the league last year in Darnell Pratt, who transferred to Good Counsel entering this season. With his departure there is a huge gap at the top spot in the boys sprinting events.
"I mean Hebron sprinting was rolling pretty deep last year, but with the departure with Darnell Pratt who transferred to Good Counsel, opened up the game a little bit," McCoy added. "So really there are teams that a pretty stacked on distance, have some pretty good sprinters and are loaded on the field events – and the one that is loaded in the boys field events is Howard… (and for the) girls high jump, you got the defending county champ (Deanna) Yancey out of Wilde Lake."