They’ve been getting up for 6 a.m. practices, staying after school, and working with their coaches since November, and all of that, just to shave a mere second off their time at the Penn Relays in Philadelphia.
But the Bowie High School boys’ 400-meter relay team said it was all worth it.
Competing in America’s oldest and largest track and field competition, the Bulldogs finished in 42.28 seconds, beating last year’s time (43.21) to place 11th among the 567 schools.
“I just think that every day we ought to get better,” said Maxwell Willis, who teamed up with Justin Beatty, Jonathan George and Antonio Coleman to qualify for the large schools championship.
The Bulldogs finished first in their heat, recording the fourth best time among all American schools. The championship is scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday.
“Tomorrow we just have to make sure we have our steps right ... and we’ll come out with the win,” George said.
Bullis School’s Simone Glenn was running for Brookwood in Georgia a year ago, and there, she said the competition wasn’t what she needed.
But after moving to Maryland last summer, she joined the Glenarden Track Club, led by Bullis coach Joe Lee, and found what she was looking for.
Glenn, a senior transfer, has been a vital part of the Bullis team this season and on Friday she helped the Bulldogs place third (47.54) in the 400 relay small schools championship.
“I think that’s a really good time for us,” Glenn said. “I’m proud of my teammates because we ran against a lot of great competition and we did well. So I’m happy.”
Glenn was joined by Alexis Pastell, Kyla Lewis, Gabrielle Tielman — all part of the Glenarden Track Club, Lee said.
“I heard they had a lot of accomplishments, and I felt like that was my calling, because I wanted to be a part of that legacy,” Glenn said.
The girls cut over three seconds off of last year’s time, Tielman said, finishing just behind second-place Virginia’s Nansemond River (47.49).
“We’ve come a long way as a school and as a track team,” Tielman said.
Bullis qualified for the championship with a 47.70 on Thursday.
“We have a tough team this year, and that’s how we train them. We train them to push through adversity,” Lee said after Thursday’s race. “That says a lot about their character.”
The DeMatha Catholic 400 relay team stood outside the track in the historic Franklin Field, minus their injured anchor, Jarriel Jordan.
Earlier, the boys had completed their race in 42.72 — good enough for first in their heat and 12th overall — but not good enough for them.
“No, no. [It’s] not what we are capable of,” Darryl Marshall Jr. said.
The Stags started the race off strong with Kordell Williams, Darryl Haraway and Marshall establishing a lead, but the race ended poorly when Jordan strained his hamstring a few strides before crossing the finish line.
“I couldn’t even see it. I thought we [set the team record] until I looked up and saw the clock was still going,” Williams said.
DeMatha finished seventh among all American schools and second in Maryland, behind Bowie.
“We’re on the right track but unfortunately our last leg pulled up,” Marshall said.
Other top-100 finishers from Montgomery County and Prince George’s County included Gaithersburg (43.09, 32nd), Henry A. Wise (43.20, 37th), Northwest (43.50, 54th), Eleanor Roosevelt (43.50, 55th), Bishop McNamara (43.66, 70th), Central (43.68, 71st) and Riverdale Baptist (43.95, 100th)
It’s not the final lap of the 3,000 that gets to Poolesville’s Chase Weaverling. It’s the one before, he said.
“It’s really two laps to go when I really feel like, ‘oh my god, I have 800 meters left,’” Weaverling said. “That’s when you need to mentally get strong and pick it up.”
But Weaverling did exactly that, going out with a bang in his second and final Penn Relays. The senior finished the 3,000 in 8 minutes, 33.73 seconds, improving on last year’s time (8:36.97) by more than three seconds.
“I actually tried to do the same exact thing [to prepare] because I ran so well last year, I wanted to be right where I was,” Weaverling said. “ … This year I had a little bit more expectations with myself considering I’ve been here before.
Weaverling, a University of Virginia recruit, placed 18th, with Loudoun Valley’s Andrew Hunter winning the race (8:16.31).
“A lot of the stands look empty from here. But when you’re down in the middle of it, it just feels like there’s a million people watching you. It’s just so awesome,” Weaverling said.
Oxon Hill’s Todd Sampson has been to the Penn Relays twice before, but this year he said he’s a little more pumped up.
“The other ones I was just going into it, they kind of just pulled me in for the ride. But this time I’m really competing,” Sampson said. “I’m doing a little bit of everything and I’m pumped up for it.”
The junior ran in the 400 relay Friday afternoon — one of his three events at the competition — and helped the Clippers place first in the heat (44.02) and 113th overall.
Sampson teamed up with Jabari Michael, David George and Trae Gross to finish .42 seconds ahead of second-place Bullis (44.44).
“We were all pushing for it,” Sampson said. “ … We were talking about [how] we’re not going to get second. It’s just not even an option.”
It was the second Penn Relays for Michael, who anchored the 400 relay last spring.
“Last year I was a little nervous about it, it was my first year running track,” Michael said. “Now I’ve been here before, I know what it’s like, how fast everybody is, I know what to do.”