DeMatha Catholic High School track and field freshman Anthony McFarland Jr. was walking to the trainer's room on Friday, when he got a surprising message from teammate Deon Haraway.
“He came to me and said 'we need you to come out to Penn tomorrow,'” McFarland said. “I was like 'huh?'”
Deon's brother, Darryl Haraway Jr., and the Stags' 400-meter relay team had qualified for the large schools championship at the Penn Relays earlier that day, but had to move forward without its injured anchor, Jarriel Jordan (hamstring).
So they called up McFarland to replace the senior, and hours after his arrival in Philadelphia, he was crossing the finish line with a first-place time of 42.04 seconds, in one of the biggest events in America's oldest and largest track and field competition.
“I knew he was going to do something great,” said Darryl Haraway, who joined Kordell Williams, Darryl Marshall Jr. and McFarland to set a team record.
McFarland, a speedy running back on the Stags' football team, said he asked for permission from his football coach before driving to Philadelphia with his father and godfather on Saturday morning.
“The thing about DeMatha is we're going to help each other. We're a family,” McFarland said. “I had to come out here and help my team get this win.”
DeMatha finished .26 seconds ahead of second-place Bowie (Justin Beatty, Antonio Coleman, Maxwell Willis, Jonathan George, 42.30).
“When I feel somebody coming on me, you know, my coaches and my dad tell me to push. Push,” McFarland said.
The Stags improved on Friday's 42.72 finish, unfazed by the 49,103 in attendance in the final day of the 120th annual event.
“This one means that we know that we're fast,” Haraway said. “.. We still need work, and we can be better.”
DeMatha also had top performances in other events, with its 1,600 relay team taking seventh in the Championship of America and Williams placing sixth in the 400 hurdles (53.90).
The team of John Oputa, Haraway, Darnell Pratt Jr. and Justin Hamilton ran the 1,600 in 3 minutes and 18.97 seconds after recording a team best 3:15.60 Saturday morning to qualify for the championship race.
“Every day, we're always in the weight room, we're always running,” Hamilton said. “The coaches have been motivating us and telling us that we can hit our times. We came out well and did our thing.”
The Stags placed sixth out of the 538 schools in Saturday morning's qualifying race and had the second-fastest time among American schools, behind T.C. Williams (3:15.60).
“We didn't expect that much, but we got it. That was the goal,” Hamilton said.
John F. Kennedy's Alieu Cole doesn't usually compete in the 400 hurdles — the event isn't usually part of Maryland meets — so his strategy going into Saturday's championship at the Penn Relays was to run it like a 300 and make his move after 200 meters. In hindsight that was a little too early, he said, but the senior still managed to take 11th with a 55.07.
“I mean, I just wasn't adjusted,” said Cole, who last ran a 400 hurdles over the summer. “I might have run the race a little too hard … I was just trying to bring it home the last 200 meters.”
Cole recorded the best Montgomery County hurdle time since 2006, according to mocorunning.com.
“I was really surprised that he ran it that fast.” Kennedy coach Kevin Monroe said. “… I'm really proud of what he did.”
Cole set a personal record, competing in his final Penn Relays.
“I had fun,” he said. “… It was a good memory.”
Whether it was a fumbled handoff, a stumble, or an untimely injury, there was always something holding back Eleanor Roosevelt' boys' 1,600 relay team.
But Saturday afternoon, Julian Rowe, Ahman Potter, Ryan LeTourneau and Jawuan Brown finally put together a clean race, finishing with a team-best 3:24.17 to place 55th among the 538 schools.
“We actually fought,” said Brown, running in his second Penn Relays. “Two years ago in the relays we didn't do well, so we had to come back and be strong.”
Brown ran the final leg in 50.73 seconds, holding off a final push from Daniel Boone (Penn.) to win the heat.
“I like pressure. I like having to put the team on my back,” Brown said.
It was the first Penn Relays for Potter, who ran the second leg in 50.83.
“I was so excited. I was coming down the exit and I was, like, yes, 'let's go Jawuan.' He pulled us through,” Potter said.
Roosevelt coach Elgin Gordon said this was the Raiders' first time running full strength and that the team could cut down its time in the upcoming championships.
“The goal is still to try and win states,” Gordon said.
Other top-100 performances in the boys' 400 relay include Oxon Hill, (3:20.46, 20th) Gaithersburg (3:25.64, 78th), Paint Branch (3:25.93, 85th) and Henry A. Wise (3:26.45, 98th).
Riverdale Baptist's John Hightower placed 10th in the high jump (6 feet, 3.5 inches).
Bowie's 1,600 team (Beatty, Willis, George, Coleman) was disqualified for a pushing violation. The Bulldogs' 3:14.90 finish would have been the fourth-best time out of the 538 schools.