He may be a sophomore, but Mt. Hebron’s Darnell Pratt looked like a seasoned veteran at the Howard County Outdoor Track & Field Championships at Wilde Lake on May 4-5.
Pratt, a 400-meter indoor state champion, won the 100- (10.81), 200- (21.93), and 400-meter (48:77) dashes, and helped lead the 4x400 meter relay (3:24.26) to victory to finish as one of two athletes — male or female — to win four events.
“It’s been a really, really crazy season. For him to come out and do this, I’m extremely happy. He’s been working really, really hard and to mentally prepare him for all those events is great,” said Vikings coach Teyarnte Carter. “I told him I’m just going to push him to his potential, so for him to come out here and mentally, physically, emotionally and cognitively come out here and race each event and get ready for the 100, move on, get ready for the 200, move on, and get ready for the 400, I’m really, really happy.”
Wilde Lake’s Jamila Brown performed a similar four-race sweep on the girls side, as she won the 100- (11:95) and 200-meter (24.70) dashes, and was also part of the Wildecats’ 4x200 (1:43.00) and 4x100 relay (49.54) teams that won.
While Brown and Pratt stole the show individually, it still wasn’t quite enough to push their respective teams over the top. Both the Wilde Lake girls and Mt. Hebron boys finished as runner-ups.
The Howard girls squad dominated the team competition with 126 points, 37.5 more than second-place Wilde Lake. The Reservoir boys team, meanwhile, scored 120 points to edge out Mt. Hebron (112).
In terms of other individual standouts, the list is a lengthy one.
Along with Tanzer Balimtas, Mark Moody and Liam Pedersen, River Hill senior Chris Heydrick helped win the 4x800 meter relay (7:52.01) before dominating his individual races — the 1,600 meters (4:15.98), and the 800 meters (1:54.88) — to finish a perfect county meet.
Atholton’s Jen Bleakney cruised in the 1,600 meters (4:59.80) and 800 meters (2:15.92), and helped the 4x800 relay (9:33.98) win, Long Reach’s Bria Hill won the 100-meter hurdles (14.93) and the triple jump (36-0), River Hill’s Sophie Caplan dominated the pole vault (10-3) and the high jump (5-0), Reservoir’s Donte Mitchell won the 110-meter hurdles (15.66) and the 300-meter hurdles (40.15), Howard’s Taylor Scaife won the discus (107-2) and the shot put (44-0), Centennial's Elijah White won the long jump (21-7) and triple jump (45-0), and Glenelg's Calvin Pitney cleared 15-6 to set a county meet record in the pole vault.
For Pratt, emerging as the day’s big winner on the boys side took overcoming some stiff competition.
In the 100-meter dash, he lined up against Atholton’s Miles Walker and Howard’s Trey Clark. A slow start almost cost him the victory, but he pulled it out in the final 20 meters.
“I didn’t get the best start, but I knew they weren’t too far ahead of me, so I knew I could catch them,” Pratt said.
The 200-meter dash was a similar story as he fell behind early, but standing at 6-feet-3, Pratt’s long kick helped him come from behind once again.
“I saw Miles Walker was in front with like 100-meters to go, so I just started pumping my arms I guess,” he said,
The 400-meter dash, an event he won at the indoor state meet, is an event dominated by him and teammates Andrew Humm and Nicholas Wardell.
But Atholton’s Dillon Carrington is a notorious fast starter, and Pratt knew he would need to avoid another slow start to take his third win of the day.
Fortunately for Pratt, he held his own in the first 200-meters, then dominated the final 200 to win the event by more than a second over Humm.
Loaded with top-notch 400-meter runners, the Vikings cruised to the 4x400 meter relay title over Reservoir.
Pratt may be new to the Howard County outdoor scene, but Wilde Lake’s Brown served as a familiar face atop the podium this year.
After winning the 100- and 200-meter dashes at the outdoor meet last year, she dominated the events once again.
She was most proud of peaking at the right time, along with helping her teammates (Briyonna Carter, Faith Taylor, Tyler in the 100-meters, and Elicia Craig, Faith Taylor and Londyn Tyler in the 200) get county titles.
“We broke the school record in the 4x200 ... and today I PR’d in the 100. I finally broke 12 and I have been trying to do that for a while,” Brown said. “In the 200 ... I ran my PR for the season.”
Even better was that Brown has found her confidence after an inconsistent season to this point.
“I’m definitely getting back into the feel of everything, and it feels good,” she said. “I feel like I’m finally back mentally where I need to be.”
Coming off a leg injury that forced him to miss the majority of the indoor season and the state meet, Heydrick wasn’t sure what to expect for his last outdoor season.
By winning the 800- and 1,600-meters, he proved he is fully healthy and still a force to reckon with.
“The injury came in around Jan. 10 ... and it took me about two and a half months to get back,” Heydrick said. “I’m just trying to get a lot of work in and keep the endurance up.”
In the 1,600, Heydrick edged out the defending indoor season champion — Wilde Lake’s David Eisenhauer — by almost four seconds and set a personal record in the process.
“The mile, I was happy with a PR, even if it was barely under 4:16. I’ll take it. It was a great time,” he said. “I wasn’t really expecting it.”
The 800 was equally as impressive as he finished just ahead of teammate Mark Moody and Mt. Hebron’s Nicholas Wardell, but it wasn’t a surprise considering how dominating he and his teammates were in the 4x800 relay.
The relay is what Heydrick is most proud of, and he aims to drop the time by three seconds to set a school record.
“I feel like we did really well. I couldn’t have asked for a better time for the team yesterday (in the 4x800),” he said.
Bleakney, the indoor state champion in the 800- and 1,600-meters, said she was extremely proud of her times and beating Oakland Mills junior Brit Lang, the 3,200-meter county champion, in both events.
“It was amazing. I broke 5:00 (in the mile), which is what I have been working (toward) for three years now. It was only one second, but it was all I wanted,” she said. “I am so happy with how I performed. I was a little nervous coming into it. The season has been a little off and on.”
Caplan won both her events in the first day of the meet and has been a rising star for the Hawks. Hugus said she has been getting better every meet, and even with a new approach to the pole vault, she dominated that event.
“She’s been working with a shorter pole, so we weren’t really sure what to expect. So when she came in yesterday and jumped 10-3, I think she even surprised herself,” Hugus said. “She jumped 5-0 in the high jump, and she’s a great competitor. She even scored some points in the long jump. We counted on her for a bunch of points, and she definitely delivered.”
Howard took the girls title after winning the indoor season and the outdoor season last year. The victory was capped off by a surprising upset victory in the 4x400 (run by Teanna Jules, Gabby Rayner, Ashley Matus and Sherise Scott), and it came after a last-minute replacement in one of the legs.
“It’s great. Every year we have a few really key kids graduate ... but we had a lot of new kids step up. Kids that want to be a part of the winning tradition,” Lions coach Tyler Wade said. “This was a team effort. We scored in just about every event. ... We killed it in the field, and we won the 4x400 to end the day which was awesome.”
Howard's Adeola Abdulkadir also won for the Lions as she took the long jump title (17-4).
Reservoir edged defending indoor county champions Mt. Hebron to win the boys title, and coach Phil Rogers said it was a total team effort.
“My kids stepped up big time across the board,” he said. “Between Donte and Dillon Mitchell, Matt Mercer, Brandon King, Joey Benson, Malik Sullivan, Kelvyn Sosoo, those guys were the backbone of the team. They really pulled through.”
Other winners for Reservoir are the 4x100 relay team of Sullivan, Mercer, Sosoo and Leroy Kamau.
Girls team standings:
Wilde Lake, 88.5
River Hill, 71
Oakland Mills, 67
Long Reach, 62.5
Marriotts Ridge, 59
Mt. Hebron, 32.5
- Hammond, 4
Boys team standings:
Mt. Hebron, 112
River Hill, 90
Oakland Mills, 56
Wilde Lake, 53
Long Reach, 15
Marriotts Ridge, 11