WESTMINSTER — The Francis Scott Key 1,600-meter relay team did just what it had todo Saturday -- it ran a clean race, didn't drop a baton and finishedright behind Boonsboro.
And so, thanks to wins in both hurdle events by Kirk Lindsay, a victory in the discus by James Johnson and that 1,600 relay performance, Francis Scott Key held off a challenge from Boonsboro of Washington County to defend its state Class 1A boys track title at Western Maryland College's Scott S. Bair Stadium.
The surprise wasn't that Key won, but that Boonsboro was the closest pursuer.
The Warriors had finished third in the Monocacy Valley Athletic League meet earlier in the spring, and on paper didn't seem to be up to the task at the state meet.
Eagles coach John Seamanfigured Milford Mill of Baltimore County to post the strongest challenge, but the Millers wound up third (though still within striking distance).
Key held a slim, six-point lead over Boonsboro heading into the last event of the day -- the 1,600-meter run.
Boonsboro needed to score six more points than Key in the race, and earned eight points for finishing second. But the Eagles picked up six points for athird-place finish to clinch the win.
Seaman had been especially concerned after the Region I meet because two Milford Mill runners had qualified for the 800 run while none from Key did. But only one of the Millers' runners scored in the 800 at the state meet, while Boonsboro swept the top two spots in the 800 to pull ahead of the Eagles.
Key got back in front when the 400 relay team placed third (Boonsboro didn't score), then finished ahead of the Warriors in that all-important 1,600 to seal the win. It was the fourth state title for the Eagles, who also have finished second five times.
If the Liberty girls had any realistic chances of winning a state track title inthe near future, this meet was the time to do it.
Liberty is dropping to Class 2A next year and will face perennial power Central of Prince George's County, which won its 11th state title (including fivein Class 3A) Saturday.
The Lions finished tied for fourth with Laurel of Prince George's County in the Class 3A competition this year,though at one point Saturday they led eventual winner Bladensburg.
Junior sprinter-hurdler Julie Cox wasn't able to snare an individual gold medal, but was second in the 110 hurdles and 200 -- and third in the 100. Cox did manage to earn a gold for her part in a stirring 800-meter relay victory in last Thursday's first-day competition.
Cox was second by several yards when she took the baton, but was pulling away as she crossed the finish line.
Thing was, Cox wasn't even a part of that relay team in the region meet. Heather Bashem was the fourth runner in the region meet, and she qualifies as the county'sunsung hero of the meet.
Bashem had run in the event at the regional meet, where all events are run on the same day, so Cox could concentrate on her other events.
Lions coach Brad Hill had hoped that,even with a slower qualifying time, he could insert Cox in the eventfor the state meet and steal a few points.
The team managed to steal the entire race, as Bashem gracefully allowed Cox to fill her spot in the state meet. Bashem didn't receive a gold medal for winning the state title, but she should get one for class and being a team player.
One is a well-known basketball referee and track and field official, the other is a former National Football League standout,lawyer, former Baltimore Blast general manager and occasional sportstalk show host.
And both have daughters who are outstanding distance runner.
The first, of course, is John Morningstar, whose daughter, Stephanie, burst on to the state scene last May by sweeping the Class 4A 800, 1,600 and
The latter is former Colts linebacker Stan White, whose daughter Amanda did much the same thisyear (she won the 1,600 and 3,200 and was second at 800).
White (call her "Mandy" in person but use Amanda in print) is the latest in a string of outstanding young distance runners to burst onto the Class 4A scene in Maryland.
Two years ago it was Jennie Novak of Frederick (she was fifth in the 3,200 and sixth in the 1,600 this year), and last year it was Morningstar.
Will White still be queen of the distance runners as a junior next year? Only time will tell.
Anyway, Morningstar still had a good showing and helped the Owls to a tie for sixth in the team totals -- but behind two teams they beat in theRegion I meet, Dulaney and Frederick.
Westminster's Jeff LiBerge did about as well as any boy from Carroll can do in the state Class 4A meet, given the wide variety of his chores.
He won the pole vault with a 14-foot-9-inch effort (though he failed to establish a new meet record when he missed at 15-1), took third in the discus, placed fifth in the 110 high hurdles and was sixth in the shot put.
He helped Westminster to a seventh-place finish in the boys 4A meet.
Here are the county results from the weekend's state meet:
Francis Scott Key (Class 1A)