The list of entrants at yesterday's Gilman Relays read like a who's-who of the local track scene.
Poly, the defending Maryland Scholastic Association champion; Mervo, possibly the city's top team this year; Perry Hall, the two-time defending Baltimore County 4A-3A champs; Calvert Hall, the MSA cross-country champion . . .
For most entrants, it was a chance to work out the kinks in a tough early-season meet. For Oakland Mills, however, it was a chance to gain some badly needed respect.
The Scorpions got what they came for, winning four events and taking second in three others en route to a surprising 70-62 victory over Mervo. McDonogh finished third, Poly fourth and host Gilman fifth in the 12-team field.
"I told our guys that this was a chance for Oakland Mills to come up here against the big boys and get a little respect," said Scorpions coach Sam Singleton, who said his team's recent win at the Class 2A-1A state indoor meet hasn't changed its perception as a small-time program.
"People say that Howard County is a different brand of track than the city. Well, we'll treasure this one. This was sweet."
Oakland Mills and Mervo ran neck and neck for most of the meet, and the Mustangs had a slim chance to win entering the 1,600 relay, the day's final event.
But Oakland Mills sealed its own fate, as anchor Damon Ferguson crossed the tape more than a second in front of Mervo to clinch the win.
"It was a lot of pressure," said Ferguson. "I ran against two of [Mervo's runners] in summer league, and those guys are fast. I was just hoping they wouldn't pass me down the stretch."
Ferguson also anchored the Scorpions to first place in the 40relay and second in the 800 relay. Entering the meet, a number of other teams in the field had posted faster times than Oakland Mills in the 400 and 1,600 races.
Mervo kept things close throughout the meet, excelling at thfield events, then doing well in the sprints. The Mustangs began the day on a high note when the trio of Ben Braswell, Donte Palmer and Rodney Cabeen broke through the gusty winds to win the long jump, topping Southern's meet record by 7 1/2 inches.
"It's just the way we train," said Palmer, who had the longest jump among the trio at 23-4. "We run up a lot of hills in practice. The wind doesn't bother us that much."
Poly, the defending meet champion, won the triple jump and sprint medley but finished a disappointing fourth. With the school on spring break, several top runners were unable to attend the meet because of pre-arranged college visits.
The best finish of the day came in the distance medley, where Milford Mill's Mike Mamo came from 17 seconds behind on the final leg to beat a McDonogh runner by less than a second at the tape.
G; "The wind made it really hard to catch him," said Mamo.