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Harford Tech’s Caitlyn Bobb racing to top by following impressive footsteps

Harford Tech's Caitlyn Bobb wins the Class 2A 500 meter run during the MPSSAA indoor track and field championships in Landover Monday, Feb 18, 2019
Harford Tech's Caitlyn Bobb wins the Class 2A 500 meter run during the MPSSAA indoor track and field championships in Landover Monday, Feb 18, 2019 (Dylan Slagle)

When Harford Tech’s Caitlyn Bobb stepped onto the track during the outdoor season of her freshman year, it was her first foray into the sport.

After playing volleyball and basketball, she decided during the spring season to try track. There was reason to think she would find success.

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Her parents have an extensive history with track that continues with her father, David Bobb, an assistant coach at UMBC. He has been coaching the Retrievers women’s track program for 18 years and the men’s team for 15. Before that, he was busy becoming UMBC’s first Division I All-American with third-place finishes in the 55-meter and 200-meter dashes during his junior year and finishing with four All-America honors during his four years with the team, his last coming outdoors in the 100 dash.

Caitlyn’s mother, Dawnette Douglas, ran track at UMES and is the school and Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference record holder in the indoor 55 dash, finishing in 6.5 seconds at the 1993 conference championships. She is also part of a school record 800-meter relay team (1:36.50) at the Penn Relays in 1994. She became the first female Hawk to compete in the Olympics when she ran the 100 and 200 dashes for Bermuda at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Spain.

Despite having never run before, Harford Tech coach Darrell Diamond had heard about Caitlyn’s skill set from other coaches at the school.

“I didn’t have her for track until she came out for outdoor,” Diamond said. “And I had talked to the volleyball coaches and basketball coaches and the things they were telling me about her was that she was very athletic, she was way above everyone else athletically.”

The Cobras had plenty of talented runners, including Petronilla Onyebadi, Beyonce Kelly and another solid freshman in Nya Ray, who all had events that they excelled at. Therefore, Diamond decided to ease in Bobb.

“When she first came to the team, I said, ‘Let’s just keep it really simple with her,’ ” Diamond said. “We will start off with her doing the 200 meters and the 400 and see how that goes. They are both similar events in training and practices are very similar so it won’t be a whole lot of change in trying to teach her hurdles or something like that.”

At the Twilight Invitational in Caravel, Delaware, in mid-April of 2018, he knew that there was something extra special about Bobb’s abilities.

“It was really cold weather that day and she won the race, but it was more she ran such a great time for what the weather conditions were,” Diamond said. “Right after that meet, then she just took off, her times were all 58 or 57 seconds [in the 400] and she was rolling.”

Bobb rolled to individual state championships in the 200 and 400, anchored the 400 relay to a title and ran the opening leg of the title-winning 800 relay.

Her times qualified her for a spot at the New Balance Outdoor National Championships at North Carolina A&T in Greensboro.

She finished third in the freshman race of the 400, finishing in 55.79 seconds, but she was not quite satisfied.

“That is a big accomplishment to me,” Caitlyn Bobb said. “It was a really big accomplishment especially because last year was my first year running indoor and every year you want to strive to set that new personal best or set that new record so I am just going to continue to work and push and continue to get better.”

One of her biggest goals entering this indoor season is helping her team win a 2A state title, something that eluded them by only two points last season as they fell 60-58 to Hereford.

“That is a huge motivation factor,” Caitlyn said. “You never know what other teams are doing or how they are setting up or what their strategies are to win states or regionals.”

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Bobb’s parents, despite their previous accomplishments, always supported Caitlyn pursuing different interests. At the conclusion of the New Balance race, David felt it was a good opportunity to provide some perspective based off years of racing and coaching.

“Her ninth-grade year at Harford Tech, she was interested in playing some sports, so I said, ‘Let’s play a different sport each season,’ ” David Bobb said. “What she did, and what she saw when she went to nationals in North Carolina in her freshman year, was that she could be quickly successful in track. I told her that a lot of those females that you are racing against, they ran indoor track, so they had a lot more preparation for that season.”

Bobb played volleyball in the fall but headed to the track during her sophomore indoor season. She won every 300 and 500 meter race, including the state championships. She won two more state titles by anchoring the 1,600-meter relay and leading off the 800 relay.

Bobb reached a new level outdoors that started with a big win at the Bullis Bulldog Invitational, when she ran a 53.72 to win the 400. At the state meet, Bobb ran a 54.02 in the 400 to win the 2A state title and set a Class 2A record. She also ran the sixth-fastest 400 in state history. The season concluded with Caitlyn reaching All-America status.

“She went to the Cayman Islands to represent Bermuda at the Carribean Games and then she won the under-17 girls 400,” David Bobb said. “Then she placed fourth at the New Balance Outdoor Championships because she wanted to become an all-American.”

Heading into her second season of indoor track, Bobb has big goals. She is planning to run at the Virginia Showcase at Liberty University and potentially the Montgomery Invitational and will focus on the 300 and 500 again, as well as the relays.

She has loftier goals that she wants to reach beyond the Maryland state level, including looking to repeat as an All-American again and potentially competing for Bermuda as early as the 2020 Olympics.

Despite these goals, her father just wants Caitlyn to continue to develop and pursue those goals while still enjoying her time as a high school athlete.

“Just keep on doing everything that she has been doing,” David Bobb said. “Three simple rules I always tell her in track and field are never underestimate your competition, execute what you are trained and don’t waste an opportunity and if you do those three things normally things go well so obviously if you have a certain goal then make sure you do what you have to do to achieve those goals whether it’s nutrition or it’s sleep or making sure you are doing what you have to do from an academic standpoint. Right now we are just trying to make sure she can live her life as a teenager and not get too overwhelmed with that stuff. If it happens, it happens, if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. She’s only 16 years old so she has a lot more years in front of her.”

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