LANDOVER - River Hill came to yesterday's state Indoor Track Championships at the Prince George's Sports and Learning Complex with just five athletes.
Luckily for the Hawks, one of them was Shane Stroup.
The junior captured a meet-high four gold medals, leading his short-handed team to its second straight Class 3A-2A state title.
It was one of two state titles on the day for boys teams from Howard County, with Oakland Mills taking its third straight crown in 2A-1A.
Stroup scored wins in the 500, 800 and 1600, also running the anchor leg on the Hawks' winning 4 x 800 relay team.
It was a major improvement from just one year ago, when he finished fifth in the 800 and ran a leg on the second-place 4 x 800 relay team.
"I trained harder," said Stroup. "I did more speed workouts and better speed workouts."
His efforts helped River Hill - which also qualified Justin Serota, Nathan Zahm, Evan Prucha and Michael Fleg - score 48 points to beat out La Plata (38) and Westlake (32).
"We knew that a lot of teams would beat each other up in certain events, and we were very strong in other events," said River Hill coach Todd Wright. "We knew after the regions that our points would stand up."
It was also a good day for Randallstown, which tied for third, and particularly its high jumper, Gary Bates. The senior cleared 6-foot-6 to beat out Prucha by two inches for his second straight title.
Bates, who cleared 6-10 in a meet earlier this season, will compete in the Nike National meet in Landover next month.
"He's got a couple things to iron out, then I think he can go 6-10 or better," said Rams coach Mike Gelman.
Led by senior Kyle Farmer's wins in the 55 and 300, Oakland Mills easily won another state crown, scoring 79 points to best Middletown (60) and Surrattsville (57).
Despite pulling his groin out of the starting block, Farmer still recorded a season-best 6.38 in the 55 - the fourth best time in the country this season, according to DyeStat.
"I told myself I had to finish the race because I knew the team would need the points," said Farmer.
His earlier time in the 300, 33.90, is ranked as the nation's second fastest this season by the same service.
Farmer was one of a handful of Scorpions competing with minor injuries, prompting coach Sam Singleton to withdraw his team from the 1600 relay.
By then, however, they had long since clinched victory.
"The kids ran well and worked hard all year," said Singleton. "This is what they were shooting for."
Singleton said his sprint-oriented team benefitted tremendously from the meet's switch of venues from the 5th Regiment Armory, which features a sometimes slippery linoleum surface, to the new state-of-the art facility.
"If we're in the Armory, we'd be in a dogfight, slipping and sliding," said Singleton.
Another Howard County standout, Glenelg's Jon Goldsmith, met with similar success, winning state titles in the 1600 and 3200.
It was a disappointing day for Woodlawn, which suffered a major blow two weeks ago when star sprinter Antonio Thomas suffered a strained hamstring at the regional.
The Warriors, who had finished runner-up each of the past two years, had to settle for 18th. The news was similar for defending champion Westminster, which took ninth.
Eleanor Roosevelt won the meet with 56 points, followed by Suitland (26) and Mervo (23).
Though local teams didn't fare well, several did produce top performances in single events.
Such was the case with Chesapeake's Matt Waranius, who cleared 6-8 in the high jump to beat out Arundel's Brian Devaul by two inches. C. Milton Wright's Patrick Bailey claimed gold in the 3200 (9:36.9), and Severna Park's 4 x 800 relay team triumphed.
Dulaney scored 19 points on the day, 14 of which came from Aaron Reuwer and William Duffy, who finished second and third, respectively, in the 1600.