Just as the Oakland Mills boys finished their victory lap around Scott S. Bair Stadium in Westminster Saturday, the nightmare began for their counterparts from Hammond.
Officials at the state track championships discovered a scoring glitch that stripped the Bears of the Class 2A title just a few minutes after they had been announced champions and taken their own victory lap around the Western Maryland College stadium.
"How can they do this after they got everyone excited?" said a visibly disappointed Hammond coach Pete Hughes.
The scoring problem tarnished an otherwise outstanding meet for Howard schools.
Hammond's boys and girls teams each placed second in Class 2A, and Kesha Jett turned in what may have been the best state meet performance ever by a ninth grader.
Oakland Mills won the Class 3A boys crown and Centennial's Pat Rodrigues defended his 3,200- and 1,600-meter titles.
Oakland Mills' third boys team title (its second in three years) was surprising because of the problems the Scorpions faced during theseason.
Distance specialist Joe Dressel broke his leg in the region meet last week, sucking 20 or more possible points from the Oakland Mills arsenal. Then, two athletes were disqualified in events at the state meet.
"We figured it was pretty bleak," Coach Caskie Lewis-Clapper said.
But Leonardtown, Thomas Stone, Linganore and Surrattsville -- the Scorpions' closest challengers -- hurt each other morethan they hurt Oakland Mills, and the Columbia runners rose to the occasion.
"Every single runner today had a personal record or did better than he was seeded," Lewis-Clapper said. "Usually, you can saysome of your people had PRs (personal records). But for us, everyoneran PRs. It was every single one."
Oakland Mills earned the statetitle with just one individual champion, freshman Eric Graham in the200, but it also got firsts in two relays, a second in another and athird in the final relay.
"It couldn't go to a nicer group," Caskie-Lewis said of the state title.
Hammond's strong showing in the boys Class 2A meet was not surprising given their 216-point total in the regionals. In the state meet, the Bears rolled up most of their points in the jumps, relays and sprints.
Their lone individual champ was Andrew Teheh in the triple jump, while Cliff Epps was third in the 100 and fourth in the 200.
The Bears had 47.5 points, at firstthought to be one-half point ahead of Wicomico for the title. But a double-check of the scoring showed that Forestville, of Prince George's County, had not been credited for eight points it earned, giving the Knights 52 points and the team crown.
If depth in several events was the key for the boys, the girls depended on two premier athletes for about three-quarters of their points.
Jett had what some track fans called the greatest state meet showing ever by a freshman, winning gold medals in the 100, 200 and 400 --es. Despite those accomplishments, Jett was disappointed about a missed opportunity for a fourth gold.
Jett and Coach Joe Russo said the freshman missed a chance at the fourth medal after long-jump judges disqualified her and twoother athletes who were running in the 100.
"They told the girls they could go run the 100 and to come right back as soon as they werefinished," Russo said later. "Then, when they got back, the judges said they were disqualified."
Jett said she was especially disappointed because her best jump this year has been in the 18-foot range (she only started competing in the event recently), while the winning jump Saturday was just 16-feet-2 1/2.
Still, Jett said, winning three races in Saturday's heat and humidity was rewarding.
"I felt (the heat) when I was going to check in," she said. "But when I got outon the track, I didn't feel it at all. Running on that track is likerunning on a cloud."
Though no one was absolutely certain, Jett is thought to be the first freshman to win three gold medals in a state meet. Mary Lucas, who edits the programs for the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association and has done extensive research of track records, said she could not recall a freshman ever having won three medals.
Richardson, a senior who won the state 100 title last year, may have been upstaged by her younger teammate, but did well nonetheless. She was second to the aptly-named Jett in both the 100and 200 and took second in the 300 hurdles.
Glenelg wound up third in the 2A girls meet, but was more than 20 points behind the Bears,who themselves were more than 40 points behind first-place Central. It was Central's sixth straight state crown.
The Gladiators were paced by sophomore Debbie Snyder, who won the shot put Saturday and took third in the discus Thursday.
Rodrigues, meanwhile, came back from an injury for the second consecutive year to win a pair of state titles. His state championships in the Class 3A 3,200 and 1,600 runs were the eighth and ninth of his career, counting cross country and indoor and outdoor track.
Rodrigues won the same two events last year, just a few weeks after arthroscopic surgery. This year, he had tocome back from a stress fracture suffered during the indoor season. He also finished fifth in the 800 run and accounted for 22 of his teams 23 points.
"I was not always running against strong competitionin my freshman year (when the Eagles were in Class 2A)," said the modest Rodrigues, who plans to run track at the College of William and Mary in Virginia. "I'm happy with my titles, but there are some things I still need to do. I'm just hoping to keep dropping my times, and things will work out well."