It was an emotional Class 3A Region I track and field championship that Oakland Mills' boys lost, 135-100, to Linganore Saturday at Linganore.
Oakland Mills' top miler broke his leg with 50 meters left in the race, two of their top sprinters were disqualified in the 100-meter -- and complaints about officiating were unusually harsh and widespread.
The series of mishaps punctured Oakland Mills championship hopes but didn't diminish several other outstanding efforts by its athletes. The Scorpions finished higher than any other county team at the meet. Centennial and Howard boys and girls teams also participated.
The Oakland Mills girls' third-place finish was the next best performance among Howard County teams in the competition. Christine Thomas, an outstanding sprinter, led the Oakland Mills girls by taking two gold and two silver medals.
Joe Drissel, a senior who missed last week's county meet with a sore ankle, provided the most dramaticmoment of the meet.
Just 50 meters from the finish of the 1,600-meter run, he broke his leg while running and fell to the track in agony. Drissel, who usually runs three events, had nursed his ankle all week and decided run just the mile because his leg still didn't feel 100 percent.
He was running in third place with 50 meters to go, when another runner passed him. As Drissel tried to accelerate, the bone broke near the ankle. Oakland Mills assistant coach Gerry Clapper said that the muscles near the ankle had apparently been damaged earlier and failed to support the bone when Drissel tried to accelerate.
"That put all the pressure directly on the bone," Clapper said. Hesaid the break should heal in four to six weeks.
Drissel's broken leg followed other demoralizing mishaps for Oakland Mills athletes.
Top sprinter Eric Graham, who won four gold medals at the county meet, false-started in the 100 meters and was disqualified, an error repeated minutes later by teammate Korey Singleton, who was also disqualified.
"The starter was holding them far too long before firingthe gun," Clapper said.
Graham was almost a certain winner, so his disqualification probably cost Oakland Mills 10 team points. It also cost him a chance at this weekend's individual state title. Only the top four finishers are eligible for the state competition.
"The 100 was the first event of the day, and the disqualification took something out of the team's spirit," Clapper said.
Singleton was almost certainly destined to finish third in the 100. So his disqualification likely cost Oakland Mills six more points.
Graham redeemed himself somewhat by running a blisteringly fast 200, winning in 21.6, his personal best. The county record is 21.2. Graham anchored the second-place 400 relay team, and with teammates Todd Colby, Singleton andRicky Gray, ran a 44.6. And Graham also anchored the first-place 800relay team of Gray, Singleton and Brandon Hart, who finished in 1:32.
An Oakland Mills high point was Hart's first place in the pole vault at 12-0, a personal best. Colby finished fourth at 10-6.
Oakland Mills also won the 3,200, featuring Brandon Hart, Bill Dye, Tim Brenza and Mike VanGhel, and the 800 relay. VanGhel produced an excellent effort in the 800, leading all the way until the end, when he lost by two feet, finishing third in 2:03.9. Gray finished second in the400 in 52.2. He ran on the 400 and 1,600 relay teams, which both finished second, and on the winning 800 relay. Dye finished fourth in the 1,600, passing Drissel, his fallen teammate. And Brenza ran fourth in the 3200.
Josh Waller was a pleasant surprise, finishing third in the 110hurdles in 15.8, a personal best.
While Oakland Mills was experiencing its misfortunes, it was an outstanding day for Centennial's Pat Rodrigues, one of the county's all-time premier distance runners. Rodrigues won the 3,200, 1,600 and 800.
He also had problems with the officials, earning a disqualification for Centennial's third-place 1,600 relay team.
Centennial coach Al Dodds said Rodrigues had taken the handoff for the team's third leg when a Liberty runner drifted into his lane, forcing Rodrigues to bump into him.
"The official said Rodrigues elbowed the Liberty runner," said Dodds.
Centennial, which finished fifth with 52 team points, placed third in the 3,200 relay with Keith Green, Kevin Green, Roger Stodt and Ben Both. Both also finished fourth in the shot, and Mark Maybee finished fourth in the triple jump.
Howard earned a fourth-place team finishwith 52 1/2 points. The team failed to win any of the competitions but earned places in the state meet in eight events.
John Finney finished second in the long jump, John Abron second in the 100, Chuck Jett third in the triple jump and James Morrow third in the 400. The Lions' 400 relay team of Morrow, Brendan Bragg, Finney and Abron also finished third.
Mike McClenney was fourth in the 300 hurdles, Steve Koziol fourth in the discus and Matt Wehland fourth in the 800 run.
Oakland Mills, with 67 1/2 points, finished third behindLinganore and Liberty. Centennial was fifth and Howard sixth.
Oakland Mills coach Ciaran Lesikar was frustrated by a rash of injuries and illnesses that he thought prevented the Scorpions from winning the region.
"We could have won it, if we were healthy," Lesikar said.
Seven girls who were likely to advance to state competition wereunable to compete Saturday because they were either sick or injured.
Christine Thomas, suffering a 101-degree fever, led the Scorpionswith two firsts and two seconds. She won the 400 and anchored the winning 1,600 relay, making up a 30-yard deficit on the final leg with a spectacular burst of speed. Her teammates were Kristi Avery, Bridget Roberts and Jenny Arbogast. Thomas also finished second in the 200 and 100.
Alicia Brown was another top performer for the Scorpions,winning the 3,200 and running a leg of the 3,200 relay that finishedsecond. That team included Anne Fuller, Roberts and Avery. Avery also qualified for the state meet in the 800, finishing fourth.
Lesikar, who had one hurdler disqualified, was among several county coaches who criticized the officiating. Final statistics won't be released until later this week, but Lesikar estimated as many as a dozen boys and girls were disqualified during the meet. Two or three disqualifications are typical in such meets.
Centennial's girls failed to wina single event but recorded two seconds, one third, one fourth, six fifths and four sixths, good for 52 points and fifth place.
Those who qualified for the state meet were Heather Jones, who was second in the shot; Marnie Sigler, who was second in discus; and Theresa Prebish, who finished third in the 800. Centennial's 800 relay team finished fourth to qualify also.
Howard qualified people in seven events. Sprinter Linda Schneider finished third in the 100 and 200 and rananchor on the winning 800 relay team that included Piedre Presley, Nicole Showell and Jenny McClanahan.
Camille Powell ran fourth in the 1,600. Laurie Saunders finished fourth in the shot and long jump and was part of the second-place 400 relay team that included Presley,McClanahan and Schneider.