Long Reach lost several athletes from last year's girls track and field team that finished second in the Class 3A state meet. But the Lightning still has plenty of talent, something it showed in a big way yesterday at the Gator Invitational.
Long Reach got good performances from several performers, including senior Timisha Gomez, to edge out Paint Branch, Mount de Sales and Mount Hebron for the championship in the meet at Reservoir.
Gomez, who is headed to Saint Joseph's this fall on a basketball scholarship, scored 16 points by herself, taking second in the triple jump and 100-meter hurdles. The Lightning needed her help as it finished with 62 points, three ahead of Montgomery County's Paint Branch. Mount de Sales and Mount Hebron were next with 56 and 54 points, respectively.
The victory in a meet with teams from several areas gave the younger Lightning confidence heading into the Howard County, regional and state meets during the next few weeks.
"It feels good to know that we're still up with the competition after [losing people]," Gomez said. "We have freshmen and sophomores that have run well, and it makes us ... know what we have to do to get ready for the states."
The Lightning also won the 800 relay (1 minute, 47.5 seconds) early in the meet and picked up points in a number of other spots. Janay Woolridge took second in the long jump, just ahead of Long Reach teammate Tiffani Long, who finished third.
Johnna Espozito took second in the 3,200 for Long Reach, losing out to Emma Staley of Mount de Sales after the pair battled for much of the race.
Mount de Sales got a big performance from junior Ashley Duckett, who almost single-handedly kept it in the hunt for first place.
Duckett won the 300 hurdles (46.52) and ran on the school's second-place 400 relay team. She also won the 100 hurdles in 14.69 and helped on Mount de Sales' fifth-place 800 relay team. In total, she had a hand in 30 of the team's 56 points.
"I love going to these meets so we can show people what we can do," Duckett said. "It's a good feeling."
Staley's win also was a big one for the team. Coach Liz Johnson said her winning time of 13.12.63 was a personal record and could be a breakthrough.
"It was a great race for her," Johnson said.
Lauren McClenney helped fourth-place Mount Hebron stay close by winning the 400 in 59.50 and taking second in the 300 hurdles - just behind Duckett.
Suitland won on the boys' side with little trouble. The Prince George's County school posted 72 points and held off a late charge from Mervo (60). Oxon Hill, also from Prince George's County, took third with 48 points.
Mervo got strong efforts from a mix of its distance and sprint performers. Julius Coleman won the 1,600 in 4:32.99 and then edged teammate Brandon Lynch to take the 800. Coleman won that race in 1:57.13, just ahead of Lynch's 1:57.26.
Coleman had a long day, taking the SAT in the morning before racing down to Howard County to get to the meet.
"He was tired, but he ran well," Mervo coach Ron Neal said.
The Mustangs also won the 1,600 relay to stay within striking distance of the Suitland team that kept piling up points throughout.
River Hill also turned in a solid performance, staying close to the lead for much of the meet.
"This is the time we're working hard to prepare for the county, region and states," River Hill coach Albert Merrills said.
Several other local athletes fared well for the boys, including Long Reach senior Christopher Marable. Headed to Wesley College to play football next year, he is in his first season of track and field and has found success throwing the discus.
Marable won at yesterday's meet with a personal best of 129 feet, 5 1/2 inches. He's won most of his regular-season meets and is now thinking of trying the sport at Wesley when football's done.
"I just love it," Marable said. "I'll work hard this year and try to get myself placed in the states."