Rarely does an individual athlete win a state title from the second-to-last heat of an event final, but River Hill senior Chase McGeehan gave himself a decent chance to accomplish that feat with his 500-meter dash performance at the 2A state championships on Monday afternoon.
McGeehan only ended up in the slower heat because of his effort at the 2A East region meet on Feb. 4, when he blitzed the competition for the first 400 meters but fizzled out at the end to take third in 1 minute, 8.66 seconds. That meant he’d run in the second of three heats at the state, held at the Prince George's Sports & Learning Complex in Hyattsville. It was a position he did not anticipate but surely capitalized on.
Running by himself for much of the race Monday, McGeehan sprinted through the finish line in 1:06.63; more than a second faster than his previous personal record and better than any of his competitors’ qualifying times. Then, McGeehan stood with his coaches and teammates and waited. As the final heat unfolded, their eyes quickly moved from the race track to the live scoreboard. They pondered if McGeehan had done enough to win a state title.
Those aspirations became a reality when Oakdale’s Evan Schaefer crossed the final line first in 1:06.92, about three-tenths of a second slower than the Hawks’ newest state champion.
“Usually I’m in the top heat with the top guys,” said McGeehan, who missed nearly the entire regular season with a foot injury. “But usually you don’t see me up there with the very top, so that’s what makes this season really special.”
McGeehan was the first of two event winners from Howard County during Monday’s 2A state championships. In the final race of the night, Oakland Mills’ foursome of seniors Deon Breland, Rafi Cason and Javier Relf and junior Christopher Evans pulled out a victory in the 4x400-meter relay in 3:30.98.
“This win makes it so much more worth it, because I lost a lot of races that I could have won by a close margin,” Cason said. “Winning something like this feels really good.”
Just a few events earlier, Cason was part of the Scorpions’ 4x200 team that thought it squeaked out a state championship when it beat Oakdale by less than a second. It turned out that Westlake, which ran in the previous heat, defeated both squads with a time of 1:33.21. And in the 300, Cason (35.96) led for the entirety of the race before Century’s Jalen Stanton, who won four individual state championships, bested him by eleven-hundredths of a second.
Despite the narrow defeats, these results went a long way towards ensuring that the Oakland Mills boys had the best finish among county programs. With 32 points, the Scorpions finished tied for a distance third with Harford Tech. Oakdale (81 points) and Century (77 points) took first and second, respectively.
“Coming in, I thought we had a good shot at maybe fifth or sixth,” Oakland Mills coach Christopher Brewington said. “So to tie for third, it exceeds our expectations, so they did a great job.”
Aside from McGeehan and the Scorpions’ 4x400 relay squad, three county athletes secured top-3 finishes in their respective events. Hammond junior Loick Amouzou followed up his county and region titles in the 55 hurdles with a runner-up finish (7.66) at the state meet, while River Hill junior Anish Nanjappa, the reigning boys cross country Runner of the Year, came in second (9:51.31) in the 3,200. Then there was Wilde Lake junior Andrew English, who ran a personal-best 2:00.67 to notch third in the 800.
“The season has been good. It’s been a lot of progress,” Amouzou said. “The simple stuff is what gets me, so I just have to remember technique stuff, and making sure I sprint through every hurdle. It’s like hammer and process, but I’m chipping away.”
2A boys scores:
T-3. Oakland Mills (32 points); 6. River Hill (28); 10. Hammond (19); T-15. Glenelg (8); T-21. Wilde Lake (6); 27. Marriotts Ridge (3).
County teams were shut out of the top 8 on the girls side, with reigning state champion River Hill (22 points) finishing in a tie for ninth and the rest of the league scoring fewer than 10 points.
The Hawks had two athletes snag second place in their respective events. Reigning girls outdoor Runner of the Year Sydney Robinson was the runner-up in the 300 with a time of 41.54, while freshman Janasia Buckner (7.32) bested her senior teammate in the 55 dash by crushing her previous personal record by nearly two-tenths of a second. In the 4x200, Oakland Mills’ foursome of seniors Bernardette Molokwu and Oluwaseun Sule, junior Ciara Lott and sophomore Alana Oppermann captured third in 1:46.87.
“It feels amazing,” Buckner said. “This time my mindset was better: not thinking I was going to mess up but I was going to beat people today.”
2A girls scores:
T-9. River Hill (22 points); T-18. Oakland Mills (9); T-23. Glenelg (5).