- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Out of all the 13 teams in the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference, the best time of the indoor track and field season is competing for either a state team title or a state title individually.
Those teams and individuals will have their last shot to claim gold in next week’s state indoor track and field championships in Landover to cap off the winter season.
The Class 2A state meet will kick off at 11 a.m. Monday, while the 3A and 4A meets will both take place the following day at 4 p.m. at the Prince George’s Sports and Learning Complex.
The top four individual finishers in each event at the region meet qualified for the state gathering.
In 4A action, the North Point boys are coming off a 4A East title, while the girls were runner-up.
”I’m taking about 27 athletes to the state meet and we are going to lay it all on the line,” North Point head coach Debra Hall said. “This is the last meet of the season, so we are going to try our best.”
With an array of competitors who can score in major events, the Eagles boys will push for a state title off the strength of senior sprinter Denzel Hill, the region champion in the 55-meter dash in 6.63 seconds and anchor on the 800 relay team that won a region crown. Hill was joined by Desean White, Malachi Sheppard and Kyle Jones on that relay.
”This is my first time, so it is very exciting,” Hill said. “It’s very surprising to make it to states, I didn’t expect that. I just happen to excel and I was actually focusing on my start for the  in the outdoor season.”
Hill added, “I hope the boys and the girls teams do well, our goal is winning a state title. I’m focused on beating my time that I had at regionals. It will be a fun experience.”
Hall mentioned that the 3,200 boys relay team of Patrick Jones, Robert Keim, Garrett Davis and Chris Jones, who finished runner-up at regionals, will battle with the quartet of regional champion Oxon Hill.
”That [3,200 relay] race will be a battle, and we could possibly win a state title,” Hall said.
In girls, North Point’s well-balanced unit will be led by senior sprinter Mercedes Tillman, the region champion in both the 55 dash (7.20 seconds) and the 300 dash (40.32). Senior region champion Danielle Baker will be vital in the high jump at states after leaping 5 feet 2 inches last week.
The Eagles girls also will be strong in the relay events, capturing firsts in the 1,600 and 3,200 relays.
”This is my senior year and I want to win states in the 300,” Tillman said. “In the 55, it’s all about the start and in the 300, I want to finish strong. I’ve been getting mentally prepared.”
”I’m hoping Mercedes can win her first-ever indoor state title in the 300,” Hall said. “The 55 will be a tough race, but I think she will be able to pull that out.”
Leonardtown’s girls took third at the 4A East meet, while the boys took seventh. Both squads have region champions who are preparing for the toughest meet of the season.
”Our expectations of the state meet are to run our best times of the season and hopefully place in the top four, five, and even have some state champions,” Leonardtown head coach Shawn Snyder said. “We’ve been running at a very fast pace in practice to improve on times, but we are going to stay focused and have a good showing.”
Snyder mentioned that junior Will Liebler, region champion in the 800, and senior thrower Daltyn Earl, the region champion in the shot put, can have a pretty good shot of placing well at states.
In girls, Raiders senior Heidi Reed, in her first-season running indoor track, won gold in the 1,600 run and was a runner-up in the 800 at regionals. Snyder believes Reed has the potential to have a strong performance at states.
”Heidi ran really well in the 800, and I think at states she could place really high if she keeps a good pace,” Snyder replied.
Leonardtown senior Rachel LaBatt, a region champion in the 3,200, will be a spark along with Reed in scoring distance points for the team and placing high.
3A starts with Stone
The Thomas Stone girls are coming off a 3A East Region title last Tuesday at the Fifth Regiment Armory in Baltimore, and the boys were fifth. Senior Rachel Halmon, who claimed regional titles in the 500 and the 800, will also anchor the regional champion 1,600 and 3,200 relays at states.
The Cougars 800 relay quartet of Miranda Wood, Jada Jackson, Kolbi Sims and Destinee Mincy are also motivated for states after earning gold in the region.
On the boys side at Stone, the foursome of Juwuan Briscoe, Vaughn Walker, Raymond Robinson and Daylon Sims formed the regional championship 1,600 relay team, winning in 3:42.90, and are heading to states.
Huntingtown’s girls team, which finished runner-up in the region behind Stone, has junior Shania Collins in quest for a state title as the 55 dash regional champion, a race she won in 7.42 seconds, edging teammate Zanae Freeland by 13 one-hundredths of a second. Collins is the 300 dash regional champion as well, a race she won in 43.29.
Huntingtown’s Quajae Jones, a regional champion in the 55 hurdles, will be a major part in the boys team.
”I believe that all Huntingtown athletes can place in the top eight in their events at the state meet. We have a very strong region and those kids that made it to states should do well,” Huntingtown head coach Valerie Harrington. “The athletes have continued to work hard and fine-tune their technique to prepare for the state meet. I look forward to a strong showing by our athletes.”
La Plata senior Paige DeMent will look to continue her successful season at the state meet, fresh off of a regional title in the shot put with a throw of 37 feet 9 1/4 inches.