When River Hill junior Sydney Robinson finished the last of her four events at the outdoor track and field state meet at Morgan State University in Baltimore, she summerized her performances in one concise sentence, delivered with determination and delight.
“Today was a really good day,” said Robinson, sporting a wide smile as she spoke. “I have to say that.”
Robinson competed in four events Saturday — the 100-, 200- and 400-meter sprints as well as the long jump — and finished no worse than fourth in any event, earning 31 points for a Hawks team that placed runner-up behind Harford Tech in the 2A girls’ standings. On the boys side, Reservoir (64 points) also finished in second place, with South Hagerstown taking the 3A title with 72 points.
Robinson was also one of six Howard County athletes to win an individual state title. In addition to placing fourth in the 400 (57.88 seconds) and second in the 200 (25.24) and long jump (personal-best 17 feet, 8 inches), she won the 100 in 12.08, a personal record by more than two tenths of a second.
The other county champions included Robinson’s teammate, freshman Faith Meininger, in the 3,200 (11:13.31), Reservoir senior Kai Muniz (3,200 and 9:42.02) and sophomore Adaobi Tabugbo (14.48), Oakland Mills senior Cam Vereen (100, 10.73) and Wilde Lake senior Kareem Press (pole vault, 14-6). There were also four relay winners — Mt. Hebron girls in the 3A 4x400, Atholton girls in the 3A 4x800, Reservoir boys in the 3A 4x400 and River Hill boys in the 2A 4x800 — as well as a host of top finishes in both track and field events.
“Pound for pound, we’re one of the toughest counties,” River Hill coach Paul Hugus said. “I think if we had 20-plus schools like Montgomery County or Baltimore County has, we’d probably be one of the best track counties in the state. It definitely says we’re up there, and I think it helps that we’re battling each six-team meet at counties and so on and so forth. And when you mix it up with everyone else, the talent shines through.”
On Day 3 of the state meet Saturday, Robinson and Vereen immediately showed the speed Howard County athletes possess. Minutes after Robinson set a personal record, Vereen took his turn on the track with the hopes of capping his career with two straight outdoor state titles in the 100.
Vereen was not long removed from retweaking his hamstring in the preliminary race Thursday — an injury that has nagged him all season — but that did not prevent him from winning that sprint in 10.98, and it seemed like a nonissue as he blazed past his competition during the event final.
Despite what he viewed as a poor start, Vereen crossed the finish line in 10.73 to join Robinson in the winner’s circle.
“It shows that HoCo is no joke,” Vereen said about county athletes sweeping the 100 in Class 2A. “It shows that we have the determination — we know we have the speed — and if you look down on us, we’re going to pop right back up.”
Howard County also has some of top distance runners, evident by the races Meininger and Muniz ran on Thursday and Friday, respectively.
For the first portion of the season, Meininger was dealing with a stress reaction with her left tibia, forcing her to limp when she walked. The injury tested her patience but not her performance once fully healthy. After all, she won county and regional titles in the 3,200.
Looking for some extra movitation entering the event at the state meet Thursday, Meininger found a YouTube video, “Mind vs Body - Running Motivation,” and watched it with her teammate Jake Downing about 15 minutes before her race. Then she stepped up to the starting line for the 3,200 and ran the race of her career, locking up her first outdoor state title. Her time, 11:13.31, was her personal best by more than 10 seconds. She followed up that performance with a third-place finish in the 1,600 on Saturday.
“It talks about how the mind overpowers the body, like your mind dicates what the body can do. If you tell yourself you can do it, you can do it,” Meininger said. “So through that, I knew that my body wasn’t at its limits, it was just my mind, and so I just had to swich a gear.”
Muniz, the reigning indoor track and field Athlete of the Year, took his turn in the 3,200 on Friday and produced a similar result to Meininger. His 9:42.02 finish was not a personal best but was more than enough to cross the finish line first, securing a sweep of the race at the postseason events (counties, regions, states). In the 1,600 on Saturday, he entered the final stretch with a sizable deficit but ended up passing several competitors to snag second (4:25.20).
Thanks to Muniz, Tyler Levons (fifth in the 100, third in the 200), Antonio Rizzutto (fourth in the discus throw) and three top-five finishes in relays, the Gators backed up their second-place mark at the indoor state meet with another runner-up effort this spring.
“All the wins that I’ve accumulated, all the friends that I’ve made, it’s really good to be a part of this,” Muniz said. “Knowing this is my last meet, I’m happy that I knew almost everybody that I was racing. It was just a fun experience.”
Tabugbo also won an individual state championship for the Gators, following up her 55 hurdles state title in the winter by running a 14.48 in the 100 hurdles Saturday to take the 3A girls crown. Later in the afternoon, she shook the nerves ahead of the 300 hurdles and took third in 45.81.
As for the relays, Mt. Hebron’s quartet of Blaire Ridgely, Morgan Flack, Lara Abedin and Satori Valentine won the 3A girls 4x400 (3:59.96), while Camryn Streib, Isha Santhosh, Sara Carlisle and Emily Brefo claimed the 3A girls 4x800 (9:38.87) for Atholton. There was also Reservoir’s Josh Bradford, Emmanuel Ibeh, Tyler Levons and Vincent Stevens, who combined to take first place in the 3A boys 4x400 (3:22.81), and River Hill’s foursome of Chase McGeehan, Evan Ying, Anish Nanjappa and Brendan Fitzgerald who won the 2A boys 4x800 (8:02.86).
Team scores (county teams only):
Boys 2A: 5. Oakland Mills 44; 9. Wilde Lake 29; 13. River Hill 24; 19. Hammond 13.
Girls 2A: 2. River Hill 59; 20. Oakland Mills 9; 29. Wilde Lake 1.
Boys 3A: 2. Reservoir 64; 14. Centennial 19; 18. Atholton 14.5; 20. Mt. Hebron 13.
Girls 3A: 5. Atholton 42; 6. Reservoir 40; 7. Mt. Hebron 38; T-17. Centennial 11; T-22. Long Reach 6.
Boys 4A: T-13. Howard 23.
Girls 4A: T-31. Howard 2.