Some of the faces may be different but the goals remain the same for defending Howard County outdoor track and field champion Howard.
The Lions have the potential to score in every event when this year’s county championship meet kicks off on May 8 and 9 at River Hill High School, and it’s the kind of depth that makes repeating in both the boys and girls competitions a real possibility.
“If we can [score in all the events] I think we will always put ourselves in position to contend for a county championship on both the boys and girls side,” said Howard coach Zach Dickerson. “I think this year is no different looking at the way things might play out. I think we can score points in distance, sprints, jumps and throws, so if we are able to do that I think we can have a successful day on both the boys and girls side.”
The Lions won their fourth-straight girls county title last season, while the boys were crowned champions for the first time since 2007.
If the Gator Invitational on April 29, which was the final regular season meet and had more than 55 schools represented, was any indication, Howard certainly is rounding into form once again.
The Lions won on the girls side with 72 points, while the boys finished fourth behind Dover (De.), Century and Wilde Lake (54 points), which edged Howard (48) for a top-three finish.
Although the Wildecats don’t have the same depth as the Lions, they have some of the best athletes in the state on their roster.
Howard County indoor track and field Athlete of the Year Christian Saulsbury is coming off state and national titles and has continued his impressive senior year by racking up top-three finishes in the 100-meter dash in every meet thus far. He set a personal-record time of 10.86 seconds in the 100 and set a school record with a time of of 22.63 in the 200-meter dash at the Scorpion Classic on April 21.
Wildecat teammates T.J. Lyles, Jason MacMillan and Jonathan Sussman will all compete for county titles as well. Lyles is one of the county’s best hurdlers and jumpers, while MacMillan and Sussman will vie for titles in sprinting and distance events, respectively.
Osita Smith rejoins the Wildecats after taking the winter off. He has already set personal records in the 110 and 300 hurdles, along with long jump.
“On the boys side, Wilde Lake has kind of slowly progressed this season, in my opinion,” Dickerson said. “They finally had all of their horses at the Scorpion Invitational and although they might not be as deep as we are or Reservoir, their top dogs are very, very talented. They might not score a lot of sixth, seventh or eighth [place finishes] but they are going to get a bunch of first, second and thirds and that adds up in a county championship.”
Like Howard, Reservoir has a deep group on the boys side. Junior distance runner Kai Muniz and senior throws specialist Bryce Bruce lead the way.
The Lions’ top athletes include seniors Erik Jenks (400, 800, 1,600 meters and relays), Nick Deamer (800, 1,600 and 3,200 meters) and Lucas Shilling (pole vault), while Kenny Accardi and Jayo Adegboyo are both first-year outdoor runners, who have performed well early this season.
“[Accardi] has been a really nice addition to help us out with that sprint, middle-distance side of things,” Dickerson said. “[Adegboyo] might be in all four relays for us, definitely going to be in three of them. So for a freshman to step in … it has been a really nice help for us this year.”
Top individuals for the boys include Oakland Mills’ Cameron Vereen (100 and 200 meters), Andre Turay (hurdles) and Joey Navarro (800, 1,600, 3,200 meters and relays). Turay won his first state championship during the indoor season, while Vereen earned a county title in the 100 meters last year and placed second in the 200 meters. Navarro is one of the county’s best distance runners and placed second in the 3,200 meters at last year’s outdoor 2A West region meet.
River Hill’s Rahul Reddy will challenge Jenks, Deamer, Navarro and Sussman on the distance side, along with the Scorpions’ Jared Nguyen and the Gators’ William Christian.
Long Reach senior Ethan Cadogan took third last year in the 110-meter hurdles and is coming off a victory in the event at the Gator Invitational.
Atholton senior Dae’trell Gordon earned an indoor all-county nod this winter after winning county and 3A East region titles in shot put. He will again be a favorite in the event.
Centennial’s Elijah White, the reigning Howard County Times outdoor track and field Athlete of the Year, is back for his senior season. He won all three jumping events at last year’s county championship meet and again is favored in the high, long and triple jumps. Hammond’s Jordan Lomax is coming off his first 3A East region indoor title in high jump and will also likely contend in the event.
For the girls, the Lions are loaded in a variety of different events. Senior Courtney Mann has been one of the county’s best distance runners for several years and is eyeing her first outdoor track and field county championship title following her first indoor championship this past winter.
Tyauna Bailey has broken out this season for Howard. The junior’s times in the 200 and 400 meters are currently among the top four in the county.
Sophomore Chinenye Illoanya, meanwhile, was the Lions’ break out star this past indoor season, winning county, region and state titles in shot put. She will try to match her success this winter, with her biggest competition coming from teammate Bayli Smith. Smith is the reigning county champion in the event and also won county, region and state titles in discus last spring.
“Bayli and Chinenye are a nice one-two punch on the girls throw side,” Dickerson said. “Courtney has stepped up to be one of the better distance runners in the county and we’re looking for some big points out of her.”
Mt. Hebron is arguably Howard’s toughest competition with the amount of depth it owns in the running events.
The Vikings are led by the 2017 Howard County indoor track and field Athlete of the Year Sydney Robinson, who could battle for county titles in four different events. But the lineup behind her is strong.
Jaiden Ritter (100, 200, 400 meters and relays), Blaire Ridgely (100, 200, 400 meters and relays), Ebere Ugorji (400, 800 meters and relays) and freshman Satori Valentine (400, 800 meters and relays) lead Mt. Hebron on the short distance side. Emily Beyer (1,600, 3,200 meters and relays) and Alexandra Banham (400, 800, 1,600, 3,200 meters and relays) combine to provide the Vikings with two of the best distance runners in the county.
Asha Washington is Atholton’s top sprinter, while Eleanor VanVranken and Gabriella DeGrezia will lead the Raiders on the distance side.
Centennial’s Alison Betler, Reservoir’s Annabel Cortez and River Hill’s Jasmine Tiamfook will be in the mix in the distance events as well. Marriotts Ridge’s Riley Murtha and the Gators’ Janaya Cooper-Marshall are two of the county’s top hurdlers, with each earning indoor all-county selections.
In the field events, Reservoir’s Lola Alli will likely contend for shot put and discus titles against Smith and Iloanya, while Wilde Lake senior Deanna Yancey is the reigning 3A indoor state high jump champion and also had top-three finishes in the event at last year’s county, 3A East regional and 3A state meets.