The first act of Atholton-Oakland Mills IV took place yesterday.
The two boys teams have slugged it out three times this spring. They finished in a dead heat in a regular-season meeting, but Atholton won the Howard County and region championships -- with Oakland Mills second each time.
And in yesterday's first day of the Class 1A and 2A state championship meet at Western Maryland College, Atholton took another step toward coming out of the long Oakland Mills shadow by edging the Scorpions for the top spot. The tournament concludes today. Oakland Mills has been Howard County's dominant boys team for several years. The Scorpions have won two straight state Class 2A titles.
But this has been a breakthrough year for Atholton. The Raiders won the state Class 2A title indoors and appear to have a bit too much once again outdoors. They scored 40 points on the first day, leading the Scorpions by four.
Oakland Mills coach Sam Singleton acknowledged his team is not in the best of shape because Atholton is stronger in the sprints.
"There's too much depth," said Singleton. "You just can't offset their depth and speed. They could win all four relays."
Atholton scored 30 of its points with victories in the 800- and 3,200-meter relays. The 800 team consisted of Keith Jefferson, Cian Oatts, Jared Howard and Max Clifford, and they rolled to an easy victory over Surrattsville in a time of 1 minute, 30 seconds.
Howard, Eddie Chang, Chad Boothe and Ben Rohde opened the meet for Atholton by nipping Middletown (8:10.51 to 8:11.67) for first place in the 3,200 relay.
Chang gave the Raiders their other victory in the long jump. His leap of 21 feet, 4 3/4 inches was a personal best this year.
Both Chang and Atholton coach Pat Saunderson do little to hide the fact that the Raiders key on Oakland Mills at the big meets.
"We only talk about Oakland Mills," said Saunderson. "We measure our success by what they've done. They are the standard."
Said Chang: "We're trying to match them state title for state title. We've got to offset them."
In addition to Chang and the relay teams, Zach Tropf helped the Raiders offset Oakland Mills a bit more. He battled the Scorpions' Greg Curis for first in the 3,200 before falling in the end (9:41.2 to 9:43.1).
The Scorpions got another first-place finish from Anthony Howard in the high jump (6-4). They also took third and fourth in the shot put, as Brian Howard (49-6) and Kevin Rondon (48-9) combined for 14 points.
Atholton also held the top spot in the girls competition. The Raiders scored 22 points, just ahead of Surrattsville (20), Catonsville (19) and Walkersville (16).
For the Raiders, Dana Strickland finished second in the 3,200 behind Bridget O'Connell of Catonsville (11:31.4 to 11:41.0). Atholton got 10 more points in the triple jump as Amera El-Sawi (34-4) and Janis Dauberman (33-10 1/4 ) took third and fourth.
Oakland Mills scored 12 points, 10 coming from freshman Jennifer Johnson. A jump of 35-4 1/2 gave her the state title in the triple jump.
Catonsville also got a big performance from Lori Havrilla in the discus. The senior's toss of 108-11 put her second, just behind Jen O'Neill of Walkersville (109-3).
On the boys side, North Harford's Steve Shaw was the other local victor. Shaw took the shot put with a throw of 51-0 1/2 .
Francis Scott Key was the only local school to stand out in Class 1A. The Eagles stood third, just one-half point out of first, for the boys while the girls took fifth.
For the boys, Key's 20 points tied it with Smithsburg, just behind leader North East of Cecil County. Tony Cahoon gave the Eagles their biggest boost when he won the pole vault at 11-6.
Cahoon had begun to outgrow his pole, but borrowed one from North Carroll to help him get through the meet. It turned out to be a wise move.
"Tony's win was a pleasant surprise waiting to happen," said Francis Scott Key coach Rich Salkin.
Salkin's team annually gives him many pleasant surprises. The Eagles use a similar formula each year -- qualify several people in different events and get points from a bunch of them.
This year was no different. For the boys, Steve Wright (third in the high jump) and Bobby Bollinger (fourth in the shot put) came through.
The Eagles remain in the hunt for another state title. Key won the state championship in 1987, 1990, 1991 and 1993. The Eagles finished fourth last year.
Wilde Lake's Faisal Hasan repeated as state champion in the 3,200. The junior ran 9:45.8, improving over his time of a year ago by 5.1 seconds.
Francis Scott Key's girls got a third-place finish from Lisa Turner (3,200) plus a second in the 3,200 relay. They had 14 points, 12 behind first-place Westlake.
Joppatowne was the only other local victor for the girls. The Harford County team got a win in the 3,200 relay. Its time of 8:13.26 edged Easton (8:16.30).