As Howard sophomore Ibra Khariat prepared for the final jump of the final event at the indoor track and field county championships on Tuesday night, a large crowd of Lions athletes and coaches formed alongside the sand pit of the Prince George's Sports & Learning Complex in Hyattsville.
By this point, Howard's boys team had locked up its second straight indoor league title. First-place performances from middle distance runner Max Myers, long jumper Eric Okoye and thrower Collin Greene — combined with point-scorers in 12 of 14 events — provided the Lions with enough cushion that they did not even need to score in the triple jump. However, that was not going to stop Khariat, who already had the state's best triple jump mark among underclassmen, from delivering one more eye-popping result to an already special night.
With the entire complex at his discretion, Khariat fed off the adrenaline he received from his teammates' enthusiasm and encouragement to jump 43 feet, 1.50 inches — more than a foot better than his previous personal best and the ninth-best jump in the state, regardless of classification.
The Lions' faithful jumped and clapped and screamed upon seeing Khariat's feet touch the sand, celebrating yet another individual accomplishment. Then they regrouped and collected their third straight track and field county trophy.
"We knew that we were losing a bunch of great seniors," Howard coach Zachary Dickerson said. "But what those seniors left behind was kind of the blueprint to win this thing, hopefully year after year or be in that top three consistently."
A year after its historic 162-point total, Howard's 127.5 points Tuesday were more than enough to distance itself from runner-up Reservoir (91.5 points) and third-place Mt. Hebron (72). Following the Vikings were Oakland Mills (50.5), River Hill (45), Centennial (43.5), Atholton (38), Long Reach (36), Hammond (32), Wilde Lake (26), Glenelg (17) and Marriotts Ridge (5).
Howard's latest league title run began in the shot put, where the Lions swept the top three places. Greene won the event with a personal-best throw of 45-04.50, while senior Brian Quainoo (44-01.00) finished in close second and junior Christopher Joesph (41-10.00) took third.
With one event, the Lions totaled 24 points.
"We all push each other to be better," Greene said. "And today, we proved that because we came one-two-three in the entire county, and that shows all of our hard work."
Okoye, meanwhile, combined for 18 points between the long and high jumps. He set a personal record in the former event, winning with a mark of 21 feet, and in the latter event he came in second (5-10.00) behind Atholton senior Dorian Coates, who jumped six feet.
However, the Lions' star of the night was Myers. He ran a personal-best time of 1 minute, 7.31 seconds in the 500-meter dash to barely hold off a charging Talon Campbell of Reservoir, who crossed the finish line 14 hundredths of a second behind him. Myers then squeaked out another victory in the 800. His time of 2:00.37 was less than a second faster than those of Glenelg's Graham Dilworth (2:00.89) and Wilde Lake's Andrew English (2:01.23).
In his final event of the evening, Myers persevered through the pain and exhaustion to run the last leg of Howard's 4x400 relay victory, which Myers secured with Jayo Adegboyo, Reese Jamison and Ethan Mitchell in 3:35.91.
"We have people in all of the events just doing what they need to do," Myers said. "It was truly teamwork today. It was putting everything together, and that's how we were able to win."
In second place was Reservoir, which scored nearly 92 points largely because of its sprinters, middle distance runners and field athletes. Junior Ayomide Agbayewa won the 55 dash in 6.60 seconds, with teammates Jalen Jasmin (6.63) and Camron Mattocks (6.63) coming in right behind him. Agbayewa and Mattocks also won the 4x200 relay (1:31.84) with Talon Campbell and Emmanuel Ibeh, while Jasmin, Ibeh and Landon all finished in the top 5 of the long jump.
Campbell was the most impressive of the Gators' athletes on the boys side. Not only did he run the first leg of the winning relay, but he also won the 300 with a personal-best time of 35.54, just about caught Myers with his 1:07.45 in the 500 and was a part of the team's 4x400 relay team that finished fourth.
"My endurance and strength for running comes from lacrosse," Campbell said, "because it's a constant sprint, stop, sprint, stop, so I build that type of endurance because I don't train track year-round. And then when I get to practice for track, I just take it seriously and fine-tune the things that I need to."
Other winners from Tuesday included Mt. Hebron's foursome of William Jones, Evan Kocsis, Connor Croft and Sam Iseman (4x800, 8:25.17), Hammond's Loick Amouzou (55 hurdles, personal-best 7.76), Long Reach's Cameron Hindle (1,600, personal-best 4:28.03), River Hill's Anish Nanjappa (3,200, season-record 9:48.37) and Wilde Lake's Jackson Pittman (pole vault, 10-06.00)
Atholton edges Reservoir for girls title
Following the program's first outdoor track and field county title in more than 30 years last spring, Atholton was determined not to let the accomplishment become an outlier. In the minds of athletes and coaches, the Raiders were a program with the talent and resources to build a perennial county title contender.
Well, Tuesday night was another step in the right direction. In a meet that came down to the final event, Atholton edged Reservoir, 119.5-118, for the league championship. After the Raiders and Gators was third-place Mt. Hebron (97 points), followed by Howard (83.5), Centennial (64), River Hill (48.5), Oakland Mills (26), Glenelg (14), Long Reach (7.5), Marriotts Ridge (5) and Wilde Lake (1).
"I had the projections that we were winning by 0.25 [points]," Atholton coach Ivan Alvarado said. "We knew we had a deep team that could score in every single event. Obviously some of the events we had today didn't pan out the way we would have hoped for, but in other events, girls came through."
The Raiders scored in every event aside from the 55-meter dash, with about 65 percent of those points coming in the three relays and five field events.
Leading the way were seniors Morgan Young and Ciara Wainwright in the shot put. Senior captain Kailee Bunyard said the team refers to the throwers as "the twin powers" and their strength was on full display at the county meet. Young earned top marks for her throw of 36 feet, 2 inches, while Wainwright (35-09.00) wasn't far behind. Both girls set season records.
Other winners included senior Cassidy Bunyard in the high jump (5-00.00), junior Madison Garrigus in the pole vault (9-06.00), sophomore Morgan Nasir in the long jump (17-05.00) and senior Camryn Streib in the 800 (season-best 2 minutes, 25.90 seconds). The Raiders also placed second in the 4x200 and 4x400 and took third in the 4x800.
"Teamwork was definitely the most imperative part of this meet," said Kailee Bunyard, who finished as the runner-up in the 55 hurdles (season-best 8.88). "We won by only a point and a half, so it was absolutely necessary for every single girl to be performing her very best in every single event, and we definitely did that and we got it done."
Runner-up Reservoir tallied at least six points in 10 of the 15 events and dominated the 55 dash and 55 hurdles behind junior Adaobi Tabugbo, who matched her season record of 8.43 seconds in the 55-hurdle prelims before handily winning the event final in 8.51.
That result did not surprise Tabugbo — the reigning outdoor 3A state champion in the 100 hurdles — but her performances in the 55 dash caught her off guard. An unusually fast start gave her confidence she could also win this event, so she found another gear her competitors failed to match. She crossed the finish line in 7.30, a personal record by 1.6 seconds.
"There was a number of amazing performances and a couple of areas were a little lackluster," Reservoir coach Phil Rogers said. "But that's not to say that we didn't run great; Atholton just ran better, and I can't fault us for that."
While Howard and Atholton secured county titles and Reservoir claimed two runner-up finishes, no individual athlete could match the excellence of Mt. Hebron sophomore Sierrah Matthews, who had a leg in four event titles.
First came the 300, where Matthews bested both the reigning indoor Athlete of the Year (teammate Jaiden Ritter) and outdoor Athlete of the Year (River Hill senior Sydney Robinson) in historic fashion. Matthews completed the race in a personal-best 40.97 seconds, which broke the meet record Ritter set with a time of 41.05 seconds last winter. Ritter settled for third, while Robinson took second.
Next came another individual title and another personal record, this time in the 500. Matthews won the event 1:18.74 seconds, more than three seconds faster than Robinson (1:21.46), again the runner-up, and Reservoir sophomore Rhiannon Little (1:22.18). And if that wasn't impressive enough, Matthews also ran the fastest leg in the 4x200 — which Mt. Hebron won in meet-record time (1:43.64) — and in the 4x400 to ensure the Vikings set the county record (4:04.14) in that event.
After coming over from Atholton this year, Matthews looks to be one of the state's best sprinters.
"In the 300, I could have gotten out faster. On the back stretch it wasn't too bad, but I could have given more kick," Matthews said. "Same with the . I could have gotten out faster, but I felt a lot more comfortable than usual, and comfortable is only good in some cases. But I've got more things to do, and I would like to think that I have things to prove this year, and comfortable is not going to cut it."
Also deserving of recognition are the Howard quartet of Amanda Eliker, Sara Kindbom, Nimrit Ahuha and Emily Gorny (4x800, 9:52.05), Centennial seniors Alison Betler (1,600, season-record 5:23.03) and Cora Blount (3,200, 11:51.22) and Oakland Mills senior Oluwaseun Sule (triple jump, 33-08.00).