The Howard boys indoor team is unique in that it has the potential to earn points in every event on the track and in the field.
Phil Rogers, who has coached at Reservoir the past 14 years, remembers fondly the last time he had that type of depth. It was in 2010, and the Gators finished runner-up to Damascus at the indoor state championships. In the spring, the program secured its lone outdoor state title.
In both seasons, Rogers’ teams won county and region crowns.
“The last time I looked at numbers and I had guys scoring in the top two, top three in every event of the county meet, we won a state championship,” Rogers said. “I knew exactly what that meant to me, so I hope [Howard coach] Zack [Dickerson] realizes how special that is and that he has the talent to do that.”
Both Howard and Reservoir, along with Mt. Hebron, are widely looked at as the main contenders to win the boys Howard County Championships on Jan. 16 at the Prince George’s Sports & Learning Complex.
But after Reservoir bested Howard by more than 20 points at last year’s league meet, Rogers put the target on the Lions’ back as the team to beat this winter.
“They’re going to have two or three guys score in a lot of events,” Rogers said, “which just shows how deep their team is and how good their team is.”
Leading the charge for Howard is senior Nick Deamer, who was named Howard County boys cross country Runner of the Year in the fall. He’ll be one of the favorites for county and regional crowns in the 1,600- and 3,200-meter races and should be one of the top runners in both events at the 4A state meet. He’s also shown the ability to represent the Lions in the 800.
Dickerson said the team’s top sprinter right now is senior Glenn Mayora, who will run the 300- and 500-meter dashes. Meanwhile, senior Nate Gilmore currently leads the county in the 55-meter hurdles and the triple jump and will complete in other field events, such as the high jump and the long jump.
“This is my fifth year coaching indoor track,” Dickerson said, “and this is probably the most balanced team that we’ve ever had when you look at sprints, distance, jumps and throws.”
One of Howard’s goals at the county meet is to score at least one point in all 15 events, and Dickerson believes his team has the talent and depth to make that happen.
Also in the back of his athletes’ heads is the possibility of winning the county triple crown, which started with a cross country county championship in the fall, their first in 40 years. If the Lions continue to do “the little things” — cooling down, icing after practice and focusing internally instead of on other competitors — Dickerson believes another league crown is well within reach.
As for Reservoir, Rogers believes the Gators can go toe to toe with Dickerson’s bunch on the track.
The defending county champions bring back senior Kai Muniz, who turned in top-five finishes in the 800 and 1,600 at the 3A state meet races a year ago. He figures to battle with Deamer and River Hill sophomore Anish Nanjappa for the county titles in the distance events.
Then there’s the short sprints, which Rogers views as the team’s strength. It’s a young core of runners, led by junior Tyler Levons, who currently has the county’s second-best 55-meter dash time (6.64 seconds). Senior Sundiata Kamau and sophomore Ayomide Agbayewa have the fourth and fifth-best league times, respectively, in the event.
Reservoir has also shown it’ll be a force in the 300-meter dash and 4x200-meter relay, as well as in the pole vault with senior Josh Krutz.
“I’ll use the phrase blue collar because I really think a lot of these kids bought into the concept of really busting their butts,” Rogers said. “Some of them have the talent and they’ve come in with the work ethic and god-given abilities, but they’ve really had to work to get to where they are now.”
Another team to watch is Mt. Hebron. Coach Paul Ulrich said the Vikings may not win as many individual race titles as the other contenders but should have top-three finishers in many events.
A trio of seniors headlines the group, starting with long sprinter Glen Turner, who will run in the 500 and 800. Michael Schlining is also one of the county’s top competitors in the 800, while Colton Wartman currently leads the league in the long jump (20 feet, 9.25 inches) and is second in the triple jump.
The Vikings also feature the best 4x800 relay time in the 3A classification so far this season.
“The difference with Hebron this year is that they don’t have any one guy, but again they’re going at it from a depth perspective,” Rogers said. “I’d have to give another favorite on the boys side to Hebron.”
Other county athletes capable of competing for county, region and state titles are Oakland Mills senior Cameron Vereen (55-meter dash), Centennial senior Ryan Paterson (shot put) and Wilde Lake senior Kareem Press (pole vault). Vereen, with a personal-best time of 6.47 this season, is one hundredth of a second behind the state leader in the 55-meter dash.
Mt. Hebron girls eye region, state titles
The accolades Sydney Robinson garnered as a sophomore at Mt. Hebron last season are eye-opening.
At the county meet, she won individual titles in the 55-, 300- and 500-meter races to help the Vikings finish second behind Howard. She followed up that with a win in the 300 at the 3A East regionals and finished runner-up in the 500. Then came two more top-four finishes at the state meet. Behind those postseason performances, Robinson was named the 2017 Howard County Times/Columbia Flier indoor track and field girls Athlete of the Year.
Residence issues forced Robinson to transfer back to River Hill, where she spent her freshman season, and in doing so she has elevated the Hawks into a strong county contender.
But they aren’t the favorites. That distinction still belongs to Mt. Hebron.
“If you’re looking for a team that’s going to win states this year or has the chance to win states, probably the Hebron girls have a decent shot,” Dickerson said. “They’re probably the favorite on the girls side.”
“Mt. Hebron has got the target on their back,” Rogers added. “They’ve got the potential to win everything, not only with their talent but with their depth.”
Ulrich agrees his team has to be one of the league favorites and its early-season marks support these claims.
The Vikings began the season by holding off River Hill at the Anne Arundel/Howard County Challenge on Dec. 12. They also won both league meets, one on Dec. 19 and the other on Jan. 2, with an average of 113.5 points. The Hawks and Atholton rounded out the top three at both events.
Mt. Hebron has excelled in the long sprints behind juniors Blaire Ridgely and Jaiden Ritter and seniors Ebere Ugorji and Morgan Flack. Ritter currently has the sixth-fastest time in the 300 in the 3A classification, while Flack is seventh in the 500.
In both events, the Vikings have three athletes in the top 21 of their state classification.
Ulrich also expects Ritter to gain a fair amount of points in the 55-meter dash, and in the distance events. Emily Beyer has already established her as one of the state’s top performers in the 1,600 and 3,200. Caylee Bergreen should also be a factor in the distance events.
Mt. Hebron has set its sights on county and region championships, Ulrich said, and then will “see what we can do in the state meet.” And if the Vikings perform well in the long distance events and the relays, Ulrich is confident his group can turn those aspirations into realities.
“If you can do well in the relays and get 30 points from the relays, you really only need 40 to 45 points to win an indoor [state] title,” Ulrich said. “So, if you can get the relays down, that puts you a long way towards accomplishing your goal.”
Meanwhile, at River Hill, coach Paul Hugus said the addition of Robinson has been “immensely helpful” because it gives the Hawks a component they didn’t have last year.
Senior Jasmine Tiamfook, who earned girls cross country Runner of the Year in the fall, and freshman Faith Meininger are two of the area’s best distance runners, meaning the Hawks will likely score plenty of points in the 800 and 1,600 and also come through in the three relays.
But Robinson gives the Hawks a frontrunner for the shorter distances, like the 300 and 500. She’ll also have a good shot to win the long jump at the county meet.
Add in junior Ada Beams and senior Olivia Island as contenders in the pole vault, and River Hill has a group coaches think can compete for a county crown.
“On the other side, you’ve got to look at where Sydney Robinson is,” Rogers said. “Now at River Hill, they have a chance to win or place second in almost every single track [meet].”
Atholton will also be in the county title conversation thanks to senior sprinter Asha Washington, who earned All-County honors last season after winning the 55-meter dash at the region meet and finishing fourth at the state meet. The Raiders also have junior Camryn Streib — who can run the 500, 800 and 1,600 — juniors Ciara Wainwright and Morgan Young in the shot put, and sophomore Madison Garrigus, who has the top pole vault mark in 3A right now. Their relays are strong, too.
Howard won the girls indoor county title last season, and even though it lost a bunch from that team, Rogers and Ulrich know not to underestimate the Lions.
Reservoir should also do well in the region and state meets once it gets sophomore Adaobi Tabugbo back. Rogers said Tabugbo, a distinguished performer in the 55-meter dash and hurdles, is currently visiting family in Nigeria.