- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
LANDOVER — The track felt his spikes dive in, and the finish line waited his arrival Wednesday night at the Class 4A East Region indoor track and field championships at the Prince George’s County Sports and Learning Complex.
The finish line welcomed North Point senior sprinter Denzel Hill before any other runner in the 55-meter dash, and as he put the finish line to his back, he became region champion in the event.
Hill also anchored the North Point 800 relay team that won a region title. The Eagles boys captured the 4A East Region team championship with 80 points, bettering Eleanor Roosevelt of Prince George’s County by eight points.
“The 55 is such a short race, and since I am so long and have a long body, I have to really focus on my start,” said Hill, who won the race in 6.63 seconds. “After the SMAC championships, I went back and worked on my start, my reaction time, my drive phase and that helped me get more consistent in the 55.”
Hill was joined by Desean White, Malachi Sheppard and Kyle Jones to win the 800 relay in 1 minute 33.5 seconds.
The meet also featured the Leonardtown Raiders, the Great Mills Hornets and the remaining Prince George’s County schools.
The Raiders boys placed seventh overall with 29 team points, and the Hornets boys earned 13th overall with four points.
The Eagles girls earned a second-place finish with 97 points, three points behind region champion Bowie of Prince George’s County.
Leonardtown’s girls placed third overall with 66.5 points, and the Hornets placed 12th with three points.
Hill, along with a large SMAC contingent, will return to Landover for the state championships Feb. 19, but the Eagles will be one of only six teams walking in with a team region title.
Hill said his goal going in was “Beat my time, and that will lead to me beating my competitors.”
North Point head coach Debbie Hall was gushing after her boys team walked out with a team title.
“This was awesome,” Hall said. “The boys team, we didn’t win SMAC last week, so this was a big, big push for us. We are really excited.”
Senior Mercedes Tillman helped lead the Eagles girls to a second-place finish, winning two individual golds after her first-place performances in the 55 (7.32) and 300 (40.32).
Now that she is going to states as a regional champion in both events, her main goal revolves around one of the events.
“I really want to win the 300,” Tillman said, “and I want to run a 39 [second time]. ... I keep running 40.2 or 40.3, so I guess I have to kick a little earlier than I normally do and maintain my speed.”
Danielle Baker, Tillman’s teammate, won the high jump regional championship with a leap of 5 feet 4 inches, and the Eagles girls 1,600 (4:02.48) and 3,200 relay teams (10:14.42) won region titles and will move on to the state meet.
The 1,600 team was made of Baker, Kendrah Bullock, Aliah Cherry and Indya Etheredge, and the 3,200 quartet was Bullock, Alexus Reese, Keyona Islar and Valencia McDowell.
The first time was the charm for Raiders senior Heidi Reed, who won the regional championship in the girls 1,600 run in her first year as a track athlete.
“I am pretty proud with it,” said Reed, who won the event in 5:29.51 and also placed second overall in the 800 in 2:23.49. “This is my first year doing indoor track, so I feel amazing winning regions.”
Leonardtown senior Rachel LaBatt earned a regional championship in the 3,200 (12:50.56) and teammate Hannah Sweet placed second overall in the same event, almost six seconds behind LaBatt.
After wanting to simply qualify for the state meet, LaBatt now has different aspirations for the state meet.
“I am going to compete,” LaBatt said. “That’s the main thing for me, seeing where I fit in. Forget about times, forget about all of that because they are just numbers. You go in and you race and try to see who has the most guts.”
Will Liebler (800, 2:03.13) and Daltyn Earl (shot put, 49-4) also won individual regional championships for the Raiders.
“I had a lot of goals set for myself this year,” Liebler said, “and that was obviously one of them. I still haven’t broke two minutes, but we will get there at states.”