Whipping into the final turn of the 1,600-meter run during yesterday's 55th annual state track and field championships at UMBC, Shane Stroup's ultimate high school athletic goal was within his reach. The River Hill runner was on the verge of breaking a 28-year-old, all-class state record.
"I heard the crowd cheering me on, telling me to go for it, and that relieved all my pain," he said. "I went for it, and luckily I got it."
He collapsed 10 yards past the finish line after a 4-minute, 7.11-second performance that electrified the crowd and stole some of the thunder from the Long Reach girls team's fifth straight state title and third straight in Class 3A.
"I collapsed because the excitement hit me hard," he said. "This means so much to me. I'm so happy that I can't believe it. But I'm also depressed that it was my last [1,600] race for a while."
Breaking the 1,600-meter state record was Shane Stroup's holy grail.
The River Hill runner, headed to the University of Florida on a track scholarship, dedicated his training through cross country season, indoor track season and outdoor season almost single-mindedly toward achieving that goal - one his father, a Wheaton High School teacher, repeatedly told him he could achieve.
The record of 4:08.6 was held by Wheaton's Jim Peterson, a contemporary of Stroup's father, Shane Sr. The elder Stroup had set state records for the high jump and pole vault in 1973 and 1974 and gone to Clemson on a track scholarship.
"He's been really focused since [Friday] night," said Stroup Sr. "You couldn't talk to him. You have to have some luck to break that record. It got cloudy and cooler and the wind died just before his race."
River Hill coach Bob Alexander called Stroup "the ultimate athlete. He has beautiful mechanics, his running style is superb and his breathing excellent. I trained him to peak for this race, and to take that last 100 yards as a sprinter would. I predict next year he'll break four minutes in the mile."
Long Reach has only been open for six years, and now has five girls state titles, but this was definitely the toughest to achieve. The Lightning nipped Walter Johnson, 65-64, despite the second-place team's victory in the meet's last event, the 1,600 relay, an event in which Long Reach failed to score.
"It shouldn't have been that close," said Lightning coach Leslie Thomas. "We didn't get nearly as many points in the jumps this year, and had to rely on our track athletes like never before."
She said it was a surprise fourth-place effort in the 300 hurdles by freshman Janay Woolridge that actually won the meet for Long Reach. Sophomore Timisha Gomez finished third in that event for Long Reach.
"I'm thrilled I beat so many people," Woolridge said. "It was my PR [personal record]."
The Lightning finished a disappointing third and sixth in the 100 meters and only third and fifth in the 200. Gomez was third in the 100 hurdles.
Long Reach's 400 relay team was expected to win, but a bad handoff dropped it to second place.
"We came through when we needed to and we're losing only one senior," Thomas said.
Damara Parrish, a junior who finished third in the 100 and fifth in the 200, said: "This feels good. I didn't think we had won. The team didn't perform as well as expected."
The Annapolis boys team, trying to win its first state title, finished second to Gywnn Park, 60-58.
"Coming out of regionals we thought we were one event short, either the 300 hurdles or 1,600 relay," said Panthers sixth-year coach Mike Ballard, who is stepping down because his wife is expecting a baby in October. "Gywnn Park also scored more points than we thought they could. But we scored in 11 places."
Mike Brown won the 110 hurdles (15.03) to pace the Panthers.
Other Baltimore-area 3A winners included Phil DeRosier of Long Reach in the 100, and Tommy Breaux of Randallstown in the triple jump.
Maleka Diggs of Milford Mill won the high jump, teammate Novia Brown won the 400 meters and Jeannette Curtis of Mount Hebron won the 100 hurdles.