When Catonsville coach Jeff McDaniel learned Thursday night that his top distance runner had been hospitalized with a high fever and would be unable to compete in yesterday's state championship meet, he started to doubt whether his team still could be competitive.
But instead of folding, the Comets rose to the occasion, tying Bladensburg for a share of the Class 3A title -- the team's first.
"It feels great," said McDaniel, "especially in light of what's happened."
With Jaime Amirault, the Comets' regional champion in the mile and two-mile, confined to a hospital bed with possible pneumonia, McDaniel had feared it would be a big blow to Catonsville's chance of bettering last year's second-place finish.
"All the girls found out about it early, and they pulled it all together," said McDaniel. "They knew [Amirault] wouldn't be here, so they just picked it up a notch."
The Comets won the 3,200 relay, placed first and third in the high jump, and finished a surprising second in the 1,600 relay to assure the tie.
Linganore was third on the girls side, followed by Walt Whitman and Walter Johnson.
The other big story of the day was Atholton distance standout Bryan Townsend, who won the one- and two-mile races to help his team to a third-place tie with Randallstown.
Though Townsend's times were nowhere near the state record, the junior said his goal was simply to win.
"Time-wise, this wasn't my best meet, but I'm a place runner," said Townsend, who earned his first-ever championship medals. "I usually run pretty well, but I didn't expect to do this good."
Potomac won the boys meet, followed by Duvall, Atholton and Randallstown.