Any doubts Tiffani Long may have had about leaving Long Reach's girls basketball program for the indoor track team are gone.
That's because Long, the reigning Class 3A state champion in the long jump, will be allowed to compete in the same event at Howard County-sponsored meets this winter.
"I'm more excited about indoor track now," said Long, who will also likely participate in the 55- and 300-meter races for the Lightning. "I like it because I get to work on my long jump and see what my competition is doing."
Anne Arundel and Howard counties have adopted the long and triple jumps - long sequestered to outdoor track during the spring - for their county meets and the regular season-ending county championships.
Anne Arundel and Howard use the Prince George's Sports & Learning Complex in Landover for all their meets. The facility - which is also the site of the state championships - is equipped with runways and sand pits for both jumps.
"We're using a state-of-the-art facility that has the long jump and the triple jump there," said Norman Belden, the commissioner for track and field and cross country for Howard County.
Unlike Howard County, which has never before allowed its athletes to compete in the jumps, athletes in Anne Arundel County regularly participated in both jumps when the meets were held at the Naval Academy during the early 1980s, according to North County coach Ed Harte.
Chesapeake-AA coach Skip Lee said part of the effort to adopt the jumps was to offer more options for the athletes, particularly for sprinters.
"In the spring, a sprinter can do the 100, the 200, the 400 relay and the 800 relay," said Lee, who co-chairs the county Track and Field Coaches' Advisory Committee. "In the winter, he or she can only do the 55 and maybe the 300. Adding those two events gives the pure sprinter additional reasons to train."
Long said the long and triple jumps are more natural events for sprinters like herself.
"In the 100, it's an all-out sprint," she said. "But in the long jump, it's contained speed on the runway. You have to control your speed."
Montgomery and Prince George's counties - which also use the Prince George's Sports & Learning Complex exclusively - have been allowing their athletes to compete in the long and triple jumps for several years.
It's unlikely the other counties in the Baltimore metropolitan area will follow Anne Arundel and Howard counties. Baltimore City and Baltimore County hold their meets at the 5th Regiment Armory in Baltimore, which does not have jumping pits. Neither does Hagerstown Community College, which is where Carroll County bases most of its meets. And indoor track is not recognized as a varsity sport in Harford County.
With some county championships beginning as early as mid-January, here is a look at the race for gold. (Harford County does not have a county championship meet.)
Anne Arundel County: Graduation took a toll on defending champion Old Mill, which captured its first boys title since 2000 last winter. Whereas the Patriots relied on their middle- and long-distance corps to score the majority of their points last season, Old Mill's strength this year will be a sizable contingent of sprinters.
Annapolis will flex its muscles in the sprints and jumps, while Broadneck will rely on a long-distance crew that grabbed the Class 4A state crown in cross country this past fall. The dark-horse candidate could be Arundel, which boasts depth in the middle-distance events.
Broadneck collected its third straight county championship last winter and is blessed with talent in the sprints and long-distance races.
Baltimore City: The most competitive showdown in the metro area will likely involve the girls championship.
Mervo graduated no one and has more than doubled its roster from previous years. Edmondson has nearly tripled its ranks and will be strong in the sprints. And Digital Harbor will depend on its athletes in the middle-distance and field events for points.
All of them will be taking their shots at Western, which has won the last 10 city titles and returns a wealth of talent seemingly everywhere.
The boys' race might not be as suspenseful as Mervo has had a six-year stranglehold on the city crown courtesy of its sprints and middle-distance crew.
Baltimore County: Things are less mysterious here as Woodlawn is the heavy favorite to bring home its seventh boys championship in the last eight years and Dulaney is looking for its ninth girls title in 10 seasons.
Although the Warriors were hit hard by graduation, they return a strong nucleus of underclassmen to continue the tradition. Their primary competition will come from Dulaney, Loch Raven and Perry Hall.
On the girls' side, the Lions welcome a talented crew of freshmen into the fold and graduated just five athletes from last year's team.
Hereford will rely on runners from the Class 2A state champion cross country team.
Carroll County: The road to the boys and girls crowns runs through Winters Mill.
The Falcons didn't graduate a single athlete from the boys' and girls' teams that captured both county titles last winter. The boys' squad boasts a mix of sprinters and middle-distance runners, while the girls' team has sprinkled talent in nearly every event.
Century nearly took the county title from Winters Mill's girls, but graduation sapped the Knights of some of their key point producers. Westminster and Liberty could make some noise.
Howard County: Last year's boys crown came down to an entertaining showdown between Glenelg and Oakland Mills, and this winter could be a repeat.
Glenelg will try to defend its first county title since 1992 with its depth in the field and distance events, while the Scorpions will depend on their athletes in the middle distances and relays.
Atholton, Centennial, River Hill and Wilde Lake have the talent to alter the outcome.
The race for the girls' championship is perhaps more crowded. Glenelg - which grabbed its fourth crown in the last nine years last winter - will try to offset the graduation of four key athletes with middle- and long-distance talent.
Private schools: Eight consecutive Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association crowns have gone to Mount St. Joseph, and No. 9 could be on its way.
Archbishop Curley can match Mount St. Joseph's depth, while McDonogh will be powered by several superstars. Archbishop Spalding will draw on its MIAA championship cross country team.
McDonogh ended Mount de Sales' three-year reign atop the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland last winter and appears set to stay in the penthouse with talent in the sprints and field events.
But don't count out the Sailors, who return 15 seniors from last winter's team. Bryn Mawr can't be forgotten, while Maryvale will score points in the long-distance events. If Towson Catholic can become more than a two-athlete team, the Owls could make some waves.