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High School sports

St. Mary’s indoor track captures first IAAM B Conference title, a fruitful conclusion to a strange season

St. Mary’s indoor track coach Kyle Hewitt couldn’t tell his team it won its first Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland B Conference title.

The Saints performed well through 13 of 15 events Monday until the championship meet was stopped short. Host Loyola Blakefield did not have a pit for the jumps on site.

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Hewitt tallied up points with the other coaches when it hit him — St. Mary’s had won. It was a new feeling.

The coach watched his Saints leave Monday’s meet excited and content with their own events. But he kept his mouth closed. There were some events still to be counted, outside of the two still to take place.

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“We didn’t want to get everyone’s hopes up, have the math teachers do the math wrong, and take it all away from them,” said Hewitt, who is a math teacher.

But it was a relief just to know. In all the strangeness that was this indoor — truthfully, outdoor — season, knowing there was more than likely a trophy awaiting the Saints on Wednesday made enduring the weirdness all the sweeter.

With 149 points and five first-place finishes, the St. Mary’s girls indoor track team captured the first B Conference crown in school history Wednesday at Archbishop Spalding. With the event split over two days, only part of the team could celebrate the win in the moment. But the Saints plan to gather in their gym before their home crowd next week to revel in the glory together.

Junior Chloe McCarthy seized gold in the 1,600 meters in her indoor track debut with a time of 5:47.38 and also took first in the 3,200 meters (12:19.67). Junior Gabby LaCroix finished first the 55-meter hurdles (11.74). The Saints’ 4x200 relay team of Lily Hayes, Audrey Cannelli, Brayden Cannelli and Emalynn Kline won its event (2:33.96), as did the 4x400 team with Hayes switching with freshman Isabella John (4:47.85).

Hayes took silver in the 55-meter dash (8.31) on Wednesday, as did John in the 500 meters (1:32.29) and junior Abby Wynne in the triple jump (26 ¾).

“Once we got to the actual meet, everyone performed really well in absolutely all of their events,” Hewitt said. “Just seeing the girls as happy as they were with their performances — everything else was smooth sailing after that.”

Having to pause a basketball or football game at halftime and continue two days later might completely change the results, throw athletes off their game, and so on. But those two extra days awaiting the final events actually benefited St. Mary’s.

Cannelli profited from the extra time. Rather than attempting the long jump after running three events Monday, she approached the pit fully rested. Wynne entered Monday battling a knee injury. A couple extra days and additional practices might have pushed her to second place from her coach’s perspective.

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Wynne never intended to jump. She didn’t want to push her knee too far Monday. But with the extra rest and practice, she took the chance.

“I was definitely surprised [with the result],” Wynne said. “I was told to take it as best as I could, not to do anything extra cause we didn’t need the points. And then it worked out.”

The Saints had become accustomed to meets not running as they’re meant to. That’s what this entire season was: cancellations and suddenly scheduled events.

“At this point, the girls are used to getting an email or a call from me the night before, couple days before, saying, ‘Yeah, the meet planned for tomorrow? It’s now three days later, two days earlier.’ And they just roll with it,” Hewitt said. “To be able to adjust to that, I think that’s one of the reasons we performed well at championships this year.”

St. Mary’s did what it needed to ensure success long before the first event Monday. Parents ushered their student-athletes to Baltimore County on time, despite the 11 a.m. start.

As a team leader, McCarthy directed much of her energy towards making sure everyone else had the right mindset. It was tricky to do, between running outdoors in the winter and facing constant cancellations because of the weather.

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“At the beginning of the season, it was making sure everyone knows the setbacks we have throughout won’t determine the results,” McCarthy said. “We had to make sure everyone trained as hard as they could. A race could pop up at any time, and could get canceled at any time.”

Those complications loom over every sport right now. Sometimes it’s snow; more often, it’s coronavirus.

“I think sometimes people lose focus. You don’t know if you’re having a championship or not, so not having something to necessarily look forward to can be hard, mentally,” McCarthy said.

But now, despite all that, St. Mary’s has a banner to hoist.

“It shows other people that just because we’re having a weird season doesn’t mean our training can stop,” McCarthy said. “We have to keep full focus.”

Senior Zoe Benitez of Key claimed gold in the 800 meters with a personal best time of 2:35.14. The Obezags finished in seventh place with 18 points.

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In the A Conference championship, Archbishop Spalding finished tied for fourth with Bryn Mawr, each tallying 71 points. Cavaliers junior Arden Martino claimed gold in the pole vault (10-6), while sophomore Athena Stith took first place in the long jump (16 7½) as well as second in the triple jump (32 7½). Sophomore Jalaia Creary took second place in the 300 meters (42.21) and kicked off the silver medalist 4x200 relay team with Martino, Madison Fuerst and Paige Burgess (2:25.55).


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