Westminster boys rule 3,200-meter relay Owls get state title, miss 8-minute mark


The members of the Westminster boys 3,200-meter relay team came to the state track and field championships yesterday with two goals.

First, they wanted to win. Second, they hoped to break the eight-minute barrier, a time they had chased all year.

The Owls achieved only one goal, but they can still be happy "just" winning a state title.

The relay team ran one of its best times of the year with a come-from-behind victory during the first day of Class 3A-4A competition of the state track and field championships at Western Maryland College.

Class 1A and 2A schools have their first day of competition today, and all four classes finish tomorrow.

The Owls -- with Wade Shank, Jay Merker, Dion Stanton and Steve Kahler -- clocked 8 minutes, 1.66 seconds, bringing them close to their goal. Their fastest time was an 8:01.30 at the Penn Relays last month.

Westminster was third early, took the lead with Stanton on the third leg, and Kahler opened things up on the final leg, as the Owls defeated Chesapeake (Anne Arundel) by nearly four seconds.

"We would have been upset if we didn't win," Merker said. "I wasn't that concerned [about trailing]. Leads change all the time."

All four runners turned in good efforts. Shank led off with 2:00.9, Merker followed with 2:01.3. Stanton ran 2:00.7 on the third leg, and Kahler finished things with a strong 1:58.3.

"Most teams will have two or three excellent 800 [-meter] runners," said Westminster distance coach Jim Shank. "When you know you don't have any weak legs, you're confident."

The Owls seemed a bit disappointed at not breaking the eight-minute mark.

Westminster had prepared for that happening. When the Owls ran at the Penn Relays last month, they bought a special baton to use in the states.

They wanted to win the state title, retire the baton and put it in the school's trophy case.

"We were [pushing] more for time than place," said Wade Shank. "We wanted to break eight."

The relay victory was the only scoring for Westminster's boys. The Owls stand fifth with 10 points. Quince Orchard leads with 39 points.

The Owls are 11th in the girls competition with six points. Eleanor Roosevelt leads with 26 points.

Jessy Farinholt and Holly Stewart combined for the six Owl points.

Farinholt finished fourth in the discus with a throw of 119 feet, 5 inches. Stewart took a fifth in the triple jump with a leap of 35-9.

For South Carroll, the girls scored six points. Denine Henderson finished third in the triple jump for the Cavaliers, as her leap of 35-0.5, was only five inches away from first.

The lone points the Cavaliers boys came from a fifth-place finish in the 3,200 relay.

South Carroll's time of 8:30.21 was only three seconds behind fourth-place Linganore's.

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