Regardless of what he does in the 1,600- and 800-meter runs at the state track and field championships tomorrow, Pat Rodrigues has secured his place among the great distance runners developed in the Baltimore area.
With little fanfare, the Centennial High senior is about to put the finishing touches on as solid a year of racing seen by an area boy since the 1970s. The accomplishment last night at Western Maryland College was his third straight state championship in the 3,200, as he took the 3A race in 9 minutes, 15.9 seconds. That's as fast as any area boy has covered eight laps since 1978, when Kenwood's Mike Sheely set the Maryland best with a 9:06.2 two-mile win at the Penn Relays.
Back in early March, Rodrigues was fitter than ever and taking aim at that mark. In the fall he claimed a third straight state cross country title and was an easy choice as The Evening Sun Runner of the Year, and followed up with his most productive winter. He claimed state crowns in the 1,600 and 3,200, and got seventh place in the scholastic indoor nationals in the longer race, dipping to 9:24 at the Carrier Dome.
That's also about the time a stress fracture appeared in one of his shins. Rodrigues was on the shelf until mid-April.
"I could've gone faster tonight if I hadn't missed all that time, but I can't complain," said Rodrigues, who'll attend William & Mary in the fall. "Considering the way March and April went, 9:15 is more than I could hope for here."
Rodrigues began running in the eighth grade, when he attended a cross country camp conducted by the Howard County Striders. He lagged behind an 8-year-old in his first training run, .. but a year later he was an eye-opening freshman, placing second at both the state cross country meet and the state outdoor track 3,200. Now there's no one in the area who can touch him at the 3,200. He'll try to add to his 1,600 resume tomorrow, and a sub-4:20 time is within reach.
Rodrigues shared the spotlight with another distance runner who claimed a Scott S. Bair Stadium record, as Dulaney sophomore Amanda White lowered the area record in the 3,200 for the third straight week. Her 4A time was 10:49.7, second-fastest in state history. Earlier, she helped Dulaney to second place in the 3,200 relay with an anchor split of 2:18.8 that barely caught another swift 10th-grader, Meade's Amy Bell.
Walt Whitman took the race in 9:38.8, and Dulaney's 9:47.6 was the fastest by an area team this season.
Area seasonal bests were recorded in eight events, the most surprising being an 8:05.4 from the Old Mill boys in the slow section of the 4A 3,200 relay. The Patriots got second overall, and junior Scott Boetig followed up a solid relay leg with more unexpected points, a second-place in the 3,200. The Patriots had a so-so day at their regional qualifier, and on paper they were supposed to score two points yesterday. Instead they have 34, and the inside track on their sixth state title since the school opened in 1976.
Also jumping to the top of the area leader board were a pair of 3A boys, as C. Milton Wright's Daryl Smith reached 53 feet 6 1/2 inches in the shot put and Thomas Johnson's Jeff Kluttz cleared 6-7 in the high jump. Glen Burnie was third in the 4X200 relay for 4A girls, in a fine 1:44.9, and Frederick's Nicole Brown placed second in the 4A triple jump with a mark of 36-8.
Chesapeake-Anne Arundel's Mattie Cymek had the fourth best discus throw in state meet history, as she won 4A with a toss of 133-9.