Courtney Mann couldn’t concentrate in class on May 9. She was too busy thinking about another county championship title.
After winning her first outdoor track and field Howard County individual championship on May 8 in the 3,200 meters, the Howard senior had her mind set on more hardware during Day 2 at River Hill on May 9.
“I visualized that whole race probably the whole day,” Mann said after winning the 1,600 meters with a time of 5 minutes, 10.12 seconds. “I was sitting in class, pounding my foot on the ground and just imagining how it was going to feel, how much it was going to hurt and what it would feel like after. So I definitely came in with a strong mindset of winning today.”
In addition to her two wins, Mann finished third in the 800 (2:22.85) and helped the Lions place third in the 4x800-meter relay (9:65.56). The stellar performances helped the Howard girls’ team win its fifth straight county championship with 148 points.
Mt. Hebron finished second with 126 points, followed by Atholton (95), Reservoir (79.5), River Hill (59.5), Oakland Mills (45), Marriotts Ridge (43), Centennial (42), Wilde Lake (37), Hammond (10), Long Reach (9) and Glenelg.
On the boys’ side, Wilde Lake scored 128 points to edge Reservoir (107) and Howard (102). Atholton (95) came in third followed by Centennial (70), Mt. Hebron (45), Oakland Mills (42), River Hill (41.5), Hammond (23), Glenelg (23), Long Reach (21) and Marriotts Ridge.
But the Howard girls stole the day with its dominating team performance.
“This county is so good top to bottom and it just shows the mindset of the kids,” said Lions coach Tyler Wade. “They work hard. The underclassmen see the upperclassmen working hard and then when they are upperclassmen they just carry the baton and continue the work ethic and just keeps that thing rolling through. They know what to do and they work really hard. They sacrifice a lot and the results speak for itself.”
Howard had 14 top-three finishes combined in the two-day event, including winning performances by Mann, Bayli Smith (discus and shot put) and Ogechi Elemuio (triple jump).
“Courtney Mann running all four distance events this week killed it. We had sprinters doubling up back-to-back in the 400 and 200. Sherise Scott was a horse for us in the 400 and 200. Field was great. Bayli Smith won both the throws. Morgan Williams placed in all the jumps — there are just so many,” Wade said. “We have a big team that scores in a lot of events. There is a lot to name, but those are kind of the big ones. Haley Kappey getting second in the 200 and placing high in the mile is another one — just very proud of all those girls.”
Smith joined Mann, the Vikings’ Sydney Robinson and Wilde Lake’s Deanna Yancey as individual double-winners on the girls' side.
Smith threw 121 feet, 3 inches to beat out Reservoir’s Lola Alli (118-05) and teammate Chinenye Iloanya (101-08) in discus, and then refocused to throw a winning distance of 35 feet, 9 inches in shot put the second day. Iloanya followed Smith in second with 33 feet, 4 ½ inches.
“I had Chinenye pushing me, because she is a sophomore so it was a good competition going on in the team, but we still balance each other out,” Smith said. “It feels amazing [to win a team title] because we have big results but we also have high expectations every year and teams think, ‘OK, this is the year we beat Howard,’ and it’s nice to just beat them again and again.”
Smith missed the indoor season due to a concussion. She admitted she struggled a bit at the start of the spring not only because she was coming back from injury but also because of the change to her throwing technique. She was happy to collect her third and fourth county titles but is eager to better her distances at regions and states.
“I thought I could do better,” she said. “ I am going to focus on my technique and really do a lot of drills and just go for it. I’ve been reserved kind of the whole season, so I am just going to go for it.”
The Vikings nearly upset the Lions in the team race after a solid day from their young group of sprinters.
Robinson, the reigning Howard County indoor track and field Athlete of the Year, led the way with two victories and a pair of second-place performances.
She was edged out by teammate Jaiden Ritter to start the afternoon in the 100-meter dash. Ritter clocked in at 12.67 seconds and Robinson at 12.76, but Robinson came back to win the 200-meter dash, inching Ritter by .24 seconds, and then won the 400 with a time of 56.88 seconds to beat Ritter (58.03) and fellow Viking Satori Valentine (58.80).
“I had to push and fight to win the last two because at the end of the day I’ve got to win for my team so we can get that county championship,” Robinson said shortly after clocking in 25.45 in the 200. “I am very happy with my 200. After pulling off the  and having a good 10 minute break, and then coming back to the 200 finals and pulling off a really good time [feels great].”
Robinson then narrowly took home a county title in long jump, but Atholton’s Asha Washington came through with a distance of 17 feet, 1 ½ inches to beat Robinson (16-8).
Meanwhile, Valentine, who also placed second in the 800 meters behind the Raiders' Alexandra Hargrett, helped the Vikings win the 4x800-and 4x400-meter relays.
The Scorpions won the 4x200- and 4x100-meter relays with times of 1:46.26 and 49.13, respectively.
Wilde Lake’s Deanna Yancey won the 300-meter hurdles with a time of 47.03, beating out Marriotts Ridge’s Riley Murtha, who won the 100-meter hurdles in at 15.55. Murtha also placed second in high jump (5-0) behind Yancey (5-2).
River Hill sophomore Ada Beams won her first county title after clearing 8 feet to win pole vault.
As for the boys, Wilde Lake outpaced Reservoir thanks a number of winners.
Wildecats’ Kareem Press won the boys pole vault title despite coming in with a back injury, which kept him out of the running events. He cleared 11 feet, 6 inches to defeat indoor pole vault champion, Howard’s Lucas Shilling (10-6).
“I respect Reservoir a lot because I know the kids there and the coach and they’ve got a great program,” said first-year Wilde Lake coach Judson Lincoln, who was previously on the Gators coaching staff. “And we left about 20 points on the table from guys that were injured or [disqualified] so I was surprised that we were that far ahead to be able to win.”
T.J. Lyles was a big part of the victory, as he won the 110-meter hurdles (14.69) and finished second in triple jump (43-5 ¾). He aggravated his knee during triple jump and was forced to sit out the 300-meter hurdles, an event which he was seeded second.
“That’s what I mean about leaving points on the table,” Lincoln said. “But every one is stepping up and we still got to do better. Counties are great, but the next step is regionals and we want to qualify as many guys as we can for the states because that is the ultimate prize. We want to do the best we can there and see how the chips fall down there.”
Osita Smith was one of the Wildecats who also stepped up. He followed Lyles in the 110-meter hurdles for a second-place time of 14.99 and then clocked in at 41.28 for another second place finish in 300-meter hurdles behind Long Reach’s Ethan Cadogan (39.23). Cadogan also placed third in the 110-meter hurdles (15.01).
“For him, if he got some real good practices in he’d be awesome,” Lincoln said of Smith. “He is only a sophomore, so I am looking for him — he’s a football guy — but if he stays with track he’s going to break a lot of records. He is just a freak of an athlete.”
Christian Saulsbury won the 200-meter dash for the Wildecats after a second-place finish in the 100-meter dash. Oakland Mills’ Cameron Vereen won the race in at 10.88, while Saulsbury finished in 11.03.
“Christian was a little disappointed in the 100 naturally, he didn’t get his usual start out but he came back in the 200 and won that, which was a surprise to me and a surprise to him probably, but we got some good stuff going on,” Lincoln said. “Everybody was fighting to do their best and that is all you can ask of the kids.”
Reservoir coach Phil Rogers was proud of how his team performed despite a number of injuries.
“I wish we could of had one or two kids get through this meet and I think we would have had a shot. Losing Javare [Peart] [on Day 1] was a big one, and then a bunch of kids from Duckworth Relays that just haven’t been able to make it back yet,” he said. “I am hoping next week they’ll be ready to go, so I held them out for next week and I’ll see what happens.”
Kai Muniz won the 3,200 meters in 10:02.40 for the Gators, while teammate Bryce Bruce won two championships, throwing 152 feet, 8 inches to win discus and 48 feet, 9 inches to take win shot put. Reservoir's Ayomilekan Akinbinu also won a county title in the 400-meter dash in 50.29.
Centennial senior Elijah White, the reigning Howard County outdoor track and field Athlete of the Year, continued his stellar varsity career by winning three more county titles in the jumps to boost his total to eight.
He won the high jump by clearing 6 feet, 2 inches, the long jump with a distance of 20 feet, 11 inches and the triple jump by going 46 feet, 6 inches.
Howard's Erik Jenks won the 800 meters (1:59.10) and helped the 4x800-meter relay (8:09.20) finish second behind River Hill (8:08.28). Hawks senior Rahul Reddy anchored the win to collect his second county title of the day following a victory in the 1,600 meters (4:28.73).
Atholton won both the 4x200- and 4x100-meter relays on the boys' side, while Howard won the 4x400.