When Oakland Mills coach Caskie Lewis-Clapper finally exited the 5thRegiment Armory in Baltimore on an unseasonably warm February night last Thursday, she was smiling.
And as she entered the team bus for the ride back to Columbia, her athletes let her know they appreciated her by suddenly becoming as raucous as they could.
The Scorpions had plenty to cheer about since they had just won the Class 3A state indoor track championship.
"I think we embarrassed her because she ducked behind a seat," said Eric Graham, one of the team's captains, who won two gold medals. "We really wanted to givecoach her first indoor state title. And we thought if we could win indoor then we can win outdoor."
Fourteen different Scorpions scored points for Oakland Mills, which won three events and placed second in four more.
Graham was the team's only two-time gold medalist: he won the 300 meters decisively in 37.0 seconds, and was part of the first-place 1,600-meters relay squad that recorded a winning time of three minutes, 38.9 seconds.
Joe Drissel, Phil Cassel and Ricky Gray joined Gray for the 1,600 relay, the last event of the night.
"One of the parents kept telling us we had to win it to win the meet,"Graham said. "But it turned out we really didn't have to."
Oakland Mills won easily, beating runner-up Leonardtown, 86-58.
When Graham, running third, took the baton in the 1,600-meter relay, Oakland Mills was in third place about 10 or 12 meters behind. But Graham turned on the jets and gave the Scorpions a 5-meter lead, which anchorman Gray maintained.
In the 3,200-meter relay, Brandon Hart, Tim Brenza, Mike Van Ghel and Bill Dye teamed up for an 8:40.4 victory. The Scorpions also trailed in this one.
"But Dye had an awesome leg of2:06.9 on the anchor," said Scorpions assistant coach Gerry Clapper,Lewis-Clapper's husband.
This is the second state title for the husband-and-wife coaching team. The Scorpions won an outdoor championship two years ago.
Although Rachel Smith provided a girls highlight, winning the high jump at 5-0, it was Oakland Mills' boys who dominated.
One of the most exciting races of the night was the 1,600 meters in which Joe Drissel finished second to Centennial's Pat Rodrigues (4:27.3) by a stride while setting a school record of 4:27.6.
These two seniors have had many battles in cross country and track butDrissel has never beaten Rodrigues.
Rodrigues, who also won the 3,200 meters (9:39.0), led comfortably by five seconds after 800 meters.
"The plan was to run a slower first half and let Rodrigues run out in front alone," Clapper said. "But we didn't expect to run so slow a first half (2:18) or so fast a second half (2:09). Joe really turned it on and the crowd went crazy on the last lap."
Oakland Mills' Paul Schoeny finished fourth (4:49) in the 1,600.
In the 500 meters, Gray finished second in 1:10.4, a little slower than his time in the county meet. The winner ran 1:08.3.
In the 3,200 meters, Oakland Mills' Ken Plasse ran third (10:23.4), Schoeny fourth (10:25) and Dye fifth (10:37).
The Scorpions' 800 relay team finished a disappointing fifth with Graham, Gray, Mark Alston and Todd Colby.
"Wewould have gotten fourth, but I was cut off as I made a move to the inside," anchorman Graham said. "I almost had to pull up."
Drisselplaced second in the 800 meters at 2:04.6, as Howard's Greg Yancey won it in 2:03.6. Brenza was fifth at 2:07.9. Howard's Steven Koziol was third in the shot at 41-0 feet.
In the pole vault, Blaine Hart finished second at 11 feet for Oakland Mills.