From afar, the Glenelg track contingent resembled a huge bull's-eye while it waited anxiously for official team results. It had congregated in the middle of the huge floor at Baltimore's 5th Regiment Armory.
The compact circle of red-clad bodies seemed almost motionless amid the backdrop of confusion created by other athletes gathering personal belongings and volunteers scrambling to pack up equipment as they head for their homes.
Glenelg unity showed clearly. It was that kind of unity and team effort that carried the Gladiators to two team titles in the Howard County Indoor Track Championships on Monday -- a surprising sweep of two competitive events.
The boys team edged out four other county squads, and the girls team nipped Hammond. The team scores weren't excruciatingly close, but close enough to leave some doubt at the end.
The Gladiators beat runner-up Howard, 92-71, in the boys competition. But that included a 10-point disqualification by Howard in the 800-meter relay race near the end of the meet. Glenelg won that event.
"I'm glad the meet wasn't decided just by that disqualification," Glenelg coach Roger Volrath said.
Behind runner-up Howard in the team standings, Oakland Mills finished third with 66 points and Centennial fourth with 64.
In the end, the boys star was once again Gerard Hogan -- a powerful force on the track and cross country scene since last year. Monday night he won two distance races, the 3,200 and 1,600, and also anchored the victorious 3,200-relay team with a strong leg of 2 minutes, 3 seconds.
In the 1,600, Hogan took the lead with 500 meters to go and beat runner-up Mike Vanghel of Oakland Mills by 4.3 seconds in a final time of 4:45.2.
The 3,200 was a tougher race for Hogan, who was voted by the coaches the top male performer --a award called the Iron Man.
"I really wasn't feeling great for the 3,200," Hogan said.
He fell 30 yards off the pace set by his brother, Edward, and looked to be struggling a bit. But he pulled himself together with four laps to go, picked up ground and finally passed his brother at the two-lap mark, finishing in 10:09.2.
Edward Hogan finished second, and Joe Rankin captured sixth place, giving the Gladiators a powerful 19-point event -- but only their second-best of the meet.
Glenelg scored 22 team points in the pole vault, won by Aaron Browning (10 points) at 12 feet. Jason Botterill (eight points) finished second at 11-6. Teammate Aaron Holland (four points) captured fourth place at 10.
The other victories for Glenelg were the 3,200-meter relay and the 800 relay. Jim Bielski, Rankin, Mike Goldberg and Gerard Hogan teamed up on the 3,200 for an 8:36.9 clocking, well ahead of second-place Atholton at 8:42.7.
Giving Gerard Hogan competition for the Iron Man Award was Atholton's Tony Dedmond, who won the 300 and 500 runs, finished fourth in the high jump and led off Atholton's second-place 3200 relay.
Dedmond had to beat Howard's James Morrow, who pushed him in both the 300 and 500.
Dedmond won the 300 wire-to-wire. "Getting out in front early was the key to winning that one," Dedmond said.
"But I knew it was close, because I felt his (Morrow's) foot hit my shoe at the 150-meter mark." Dedmond ran a38.3 and Morrow a 38.6.
In other events, Hammond's Robert Sharps won the 55 hurdles in 7.9 seconds, Wilde Lake's Craig Butler won the 55 -- in 6.9 and Oakland Mill's Mike Vanghel won the 800 run in 2:05.3.
Centennial took two first places, as Chris Calamari won the shot at 42-11, and Matt Kirpatrick won the high jump at 6. Centennial also finished second in both those events. Bill Woodford threw 42-9 1/2, and James Koehler jumped 5-10.
Oakland Mills won the 1,600 relayin 3:49.8.
On the girls side, Hammond's Kisha Jett and Jackie Rieschick, dominated the individual titles -- between them winning five of seven running events. But it was not enough to beat Glenelg for the team title.
The Gladiators won the opening event, the 3,200-meter relay, in meet-record time of 10:26.2 with Mary Marland, Alicia Adams, Kelly Pellovitz and Marguerite Rupsis doing the honors.
Hammond won the next five events, but the Gladiators picked up crucial points by placing.
Amy Ashby was third and Lakeasha Washington fifth in the 300 run, won by Hammond's Jett. Pellovitz finished second and Adams third in the 1,600, won by Hammond's Rieschick.
Cheryl Seymour ran third and Dana Allison fourth in the 500, won by Rieschick. Rupsis finished second in the 55 hurdles, won by Jett. And Ashby was third in the 55 --, won by Jett.
Finally Glenelg broke Hammond's stranglehold on first place when Adams won the 3,200 for Glenelg -- an event in which Hammond scored no points. Hammond rebounded by winning the 800 relay, but Glenelg was third.
The two teams kept slugging it out as Pellovitz won the 800 in a duel with a tired Rieschick, and Kerry Rutter edged Hammond's Royette St. Jean to win the shot.
"Wewon a lot of events, but just couldn't score enough place points," Rieschick said.
Glenelg finished out its scoring with Mary Rose Rankin taking third and Stacey Alexander fourth in the high jump, won byHoward's Julie Bowers. And the Gladiators won the night's final event, the 1,600 relay, in 4:36.9. The 1,600 wasn't a record, but capped a sweet 114-101 victory for Glenelg.
Hammond's Jett, who carted home four gold medals -- including three individual -- was voted the meet's Iron Woman award.
"I'm tired," she said. "In most meets, you leave feeling something was missing -- that you could have done better. Today, nothing was missing."
Nothing, of course, except the team title.