Only three years had passed since the Mount St. Joseph track and field team last won the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association championship -- not a terribly long time by many standards.
Yet when the No. 1 Gaels captured the title at Calvert Hall yesterday, shouts of joy could be heard with sighs of relief.
"It feels like a weight off our shoulders," said Mount St. Joseph coach Jack Peach, whose team had just one crown to show for four consecutive undefeated dual-meet seasons in the MIAA. "We'd do well during the year, but then we'd get to this meet, and things would happen that didn't allow us to win. ... We showed we could pull it out today."
The Gaels needed all 127 of their points to nip No. 3 Calvert Hall, which had 124 points.
The key for Mount St. Joseph was the 800 meters. Trailing the Cardinals by four points with two events left, the Gaels collected a win and 10 points from Ryan Audy (2 minutes, 4.3 seconds) and a fourth-place finish and four points from Pat Burnett.
Meanwhile, Calvert Hall's third- and sixth-place finishes added up to seven points and gave Mount St. Joseph a three-point lead.
"Coach pulled us aside and said, `Go out there and run your best,' " Audy said. "And I had a little anger in me from the [1,600, where he placed third]. I got the win, Pat got fourth, and it was a big momentum swing."
Needing to stay close to the Cardinals in the final two races, the Gaels finished second and fifth in the 400 and 1,600 relays, respectively. Calvert Hall was third and fourth, respectively.
Mount St. Joseph drew victories from Tyler Blatchley in the discus (145 feet, 2 inches) and John O'Connell in the pole vault (12-6).
The Cardinals had a triple winner in George Panniell, who took the 110 high hurdles (14.62 seconds) and the 300 intermediate hurdles (38.55) and teamed with Jasper Ihezie, Lemar Williams and Lucas Pardew to take the 800 relay (a meet-record 1:30.01).
Jarell Clinton won the long (21-9 1/4 ) and triple (44-4 3/4 ) jumps, but coach Adam Seripoonsup could only smile ruefully at a missed opportunity to extend the program's conference-leading championship total to five.
"The loss [to Mount St. Joseph] earlier in the season brought the team together, and they worked a lot for this," he said. "We're very disappointed."
No. 9 Archbishop Curley placed third with 83 points courtesy of victories from Erik Silwick in the 1,600 (4:34.03) and its 400 relay squad of Rob Daniels, Will Squire-Rogers, Glenn Williams and Ray Ridgeway (a meet-record 42,84).
McDonogh's Darrius Heyward-Bey claimed the 100 (10.68) and 200 (a meet-record 21.65). Anthony Lott took the high jump (6-2).
Archbishop Spalding's Cedric Zellner won the 400 (50.07) and joined Dan Stacey, Michael Beard and James Russell to claim the 1,600 relay (3:27.53).
Other conference champions were Cardinal Gibbons' Shelby Fisher in the shot put (46-2) and Gilman's 3,200-relay squad of Justin Gayles, Travis Hale, Tauren Kagwima and Sam Jackson (8:14.46).