The jubilant Howard Lions erased 19 years of frustration to win their first girls county track championship Thursday at Oakland Mills High, despite outstanding performances from Hammond's Kisha Jett and Samantha Andersch.
Howard's victory was remarkable, considering the team wasn't even among the top four at last year's county meet.
The Lions scored points in 14 of 17 events in an overwhelming team victory, outscoring runner-up Hammond, 144-116.
"After we beat Hammond in a dual meet this year, then we started believing we could win it," Howard coach Joe Thomas said. "When we scored 40 points at the highly competitive Arundel Relays, we knew we were prepared for today. The girls have worked hard and endured a lot of pain, even in bad weather, and never complained. They didn't mind being pushed."
Howard freshman Mona Jackson won two events, the high jump and triple jump, and set a new meet record of 5 feet, 2 inches, in the high jump. She also finished second in the long jump.
Two of Howard's top athletes, sprinters Diedre Presley and Tori Mills, summed up the team's feeling.
"We encourage each other and stick together on and off the track," said Mills, who missed last season with an injury.
Mills finished second in the 100 and 200 meters, third in the 400, and ran a leg on the winning 800 relay.
"Diedre [Presley] is the one who kept us together," Mills said.
Presley, a captain, ran second in the 400, third in the 200 and ran legs on the winning 400 and 800 relay teams.
Another captain, Jenny McClanahan, finished third in the 100 -- and ran legs on the winning 400 and 800 relays.
"We're a family," she said. "We can push each other. We know what to say to one another."
Julie Bowers was another big scorer for Howard, finishing third in three events: the high jump, 300 hurdles and triple jump.
Howard's Camille Powell finished second in the triple jump and fourth in the 3,200. Krista Fulton took third in the shot put.
Nicolle Showell, who ran on the winning relays, took fifth in the 100 --. And Kim Taylor finished fifth in the discus for the Lions, who failed to score points only in the 3,200 relay, 110 hurdles and 800 run.
As strongly as Howard performed as a team, it was again Hammond's Jett who was voted the Iron Woman Award, which is given to the meet's outstanding individual performer. The sophomore defended her county titles in the 100, 200 and 400 runs and the long jump.
Equally deserving of that award, however, was Hammond's Andersch, who won three grueling distance events, the 800, 1,600 and 3,200, and anchored the second-place 3,200 relay.
"I wish they had given the award to both of us," Jett said. "Samantha's races are much more mental than mine."
Andersch said she felt strong and confident this year as she defended titles in the 1,600 and 3,200 and won the 800 for the first time.
"The wind takes a lot out of you," she said. "The 3,200 is my least favorite event, and there was no one to push me in that."
Andersch made a strong finishing kick in the final 150 meters of the 800 to pass and pull away from runner-up Kristi Avery of Oakland Mills.
Glenelg finished in third place with 82.5 points. Debbie Snyder won the shot put and Marguerite Rupsis the 300 hurdles for the Gladiators, who also won the 3,200 relay and finished second in the 1,600 relay.
Glenelg's Kelly Pelovitz finished second in the 1,600 meter run and third in the 800 meters.
Fourth-place Oakland Mills (71.5 points) won the 1,600 relay, was second in the 400 relay, and Avery ran second in the 800 for the Scorpions.
Wilde Lake sophomore Kristen Riismandel finished third in the ,, 1,600 and 3,200 and sixth in the 800, and appears to be the strongest up-and-coming girls distance runner. She plays soccer the fall and basketball in winter, rather than run either cross country or indoor track.
Girls team standings: 1. Howard, 144; 2. Hammond, 116; 3. Glenelg, 82.5; 4. Oakland Mills, 71.5; 5. Centennial, 44; 6. Wilde Lake 28; 7. Mount Hebron 27; 8. Atholton, 14.