- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
LANDOVER — North Point standout senior Mercedes Tillman has turned the Eagles record book in track and field into her own autobiography as it relates to all the sprinting events.
Friday, she wrote another chapter in her celebrated North Point career, which began as a sophomore when she arrived to the school.
In the third and final Southern Maryland Athletic Conference gathering of the indoor track regular season, this one called the Charles County Invitational, Tillman dazzled on the course of the Prince George’s Sports and Learning Complex by boasting first place in the 55-, 300- and 500-meter races. Her first place in the 300 (40.21 seconds) broke her former school record.
Tillman owns the school record in all three indoor races just like she does in outdoor season during the spring in the 100, 200 and 400.
As she proved Friday, she’s not content with just having her name beside the all-time North Point standards in those events. She’s regularly trying to improve her school records.
At the Southern Maryland Indoor Track Classic on Jan. 5, involving 65 teams, also at the Prince George’s Sports and Learning Complex, she broke her own 500 school record.
“I have all the school records so I’m, like, [setting personal records] now [to better those school records],” said Tillman, among the elite contenders in Maryland to win her first career state title that she narrowly missed last year in indoor and outdoor. “It was good [Friday to win all three races], but it was hard at the same time because I have to get used to everything again. This was the first meet I ran all three [individual] events in one meet this season.”
North Point head coach Debbie Hall added, “She’s coming off a great junior year, and she’s four weeks ahead of where she was at last year. She’s breaking school records every time she steps foot on the track. I hope she is [on pace to win a state title this season].”
The exploits from Tillman, the only female athlete Friday to win more than one individual event and the only athlete — male or female — to win a trio of individual events, catapulted her North Point girls team to a convincing top showing as a team with 115 points.
Leonardtown and Thomas Stone were second and third, respectively, with 82.5 and 71.5 points.
On the boys side among the 13 SMAC schools competing, it was the Huntingtown Hurricanes that ran away with the meet. Quajae Jones claimed first place in the 55 dash and 55 hurdles to spearhead the Huntingtown boys to a meet-best 120.5 points, well ahead of North Point’s 89.5 and Stone’s 63 in second and third.
Long jumper Jules Lucas also captured the top spot in his event to aid the Huntingtown boys cause.
“I was very pleased with the boys’ performances and excited for them to get a win. I’m very proud of them,” Huntingtown head coach Valerie Harrington said. “It was the first time Jules Lucas has ever triple-jumped and he did really well. But as we all know, it all comes down in two weeks to the SMAC championships on [Jan.] 26 and how everybody is going to place their kids in different events. I’ll be honest with you, this was the last track meet of the regular season before [the SMAC championships] so teams were trying some things with younger kids [in certain events].
“So it’s hard to say [if our boys win is any indication of how the SMAC championships will go].
The North Point boys had won the two previous SMAC meets of this regular season. They were without key sprinter Denzel Hill (another obligation) and jumper Hezekiah Corbin (flu).
“It would’ve been pretty close,” Hall said about her North Point boys’ ability to push Huntingtown for first place had Hill and Corbin competed Friday.
“I know for sure that Patuxent and North Point were trying some young kids in some things,” Harrington added. “I think the boys will do very well in the SMAC championships, but I don’t know if we have enough depth once North Point loads up on all their [boys] like they’re capable of.”
The Huntingtown coach feels the same way about her girls, which she expects to post a better showing at the SMAC championships — at the Prince George’s Sports and Learning Complex — than their fourth-place team output Friday. Harrington expects her girls team to “do well” but knows it will have its hands full with the deeper North Point girls.
For the Leonardtown girls, their runner-up outcome was a program best among this regular season’s three SMAC meets. They had finished in third the previous two gatherings.
Heidi Reed led the Leonardtown girls as their sole event winner, capturing the top time in the 1,600.
“This is Heidi’s first year running track and she has brought a toughness to the team,” Leonardtown head coach Shawn Snyder praised. “I love watching her run and just compete. As coaches, we can train our athletes and teach race tactics, but unfortunately we can’t coach desire and competitiveness. This is what separates Heidi from so many runners — her desire and competitiveness.”
Reed was complemented by an array of scoring finishes by her teammates in the other events.
“I thought they did a great job. We had a lot of girls get personal bests and we ran some great relay times,” Snyder said of his girls team. “There are a lot of times and distances out there that we just can’t compete with. That said, we have an awesome team with quite a few great athletes. We were able to get enough high places to manage an overall second place. I think we have enough talent in every event to be competitive.”
Tillman was also involved with breaking another school record Friday as the anchor leg in the 800 relay for the North Point girls’ time of 1 minute 45.45 seconds.
Though it was a new Eagles program standard, it was not the meet’s fastest time in the 800 relay. That belonged to the Thomas Stone girls quartet of Rachel Halmon, Kolbi Sims, Jasmin Daniels and Miranda Wood, whose 1:44.73 bettered the new North Point girls record that broke the former school mark previously set in 2009.