Whether indoors or outdoors, the Maryland High School Track & Field state meets are high up on the list of sporting events I love.
Over the course of six hours, you get to see everything that makes sports great: The spirit of competition, the drive and desire to be the best, the drama and passion. There’s triumph to delight in and heartbreak to feel for. There’s athletes digging down and finding more than you — and sometimes even they — ever thought they had.
That last sentence sums up what Williamsport’s girls achieved Monday in winning the Class 1A indoor team title. The Wildcats are a talented bunch. So was Digital Harbor. But Williamsport just wanted it a little more, and the Wildcats showed that in the very first event, as colleague Andrew Mason said in his story.
Williamsport looked like toast after the first two legs of the girls 4×800-meter relay. The Wildcats were in fifth place, at least 50 meters behind the leaders, when Tracey Forsythe took the baton for the third leg. They were an afterthought. But not for long. Forsythe kept pumping her arms and churning her legs, and the gap closed to 40 meters … then 30 … then 20 … and by the time she roared through her final lap and passed off to Morgan Keplinger, the Wildcats were in second and hot on the heels of Poolesville for the lead. It was an incredible effort from Forsythe, and Keplinger finished the job by taking control on her final lap to edge Poolesville’s Jenny Reid and give Williamsport a huge early boost.
Keplinger was far from done, though. A few hours later, she turned in an effort that may have surpassed Forsythe’s for pure guts. In the 800, Keplinger roared into the lead in the third lap, passing Digital Harbor’s Regina Summerville, and opened up a sizable gap. But Glenelg’s Christina Giampalmo made a huge move in the final lap and caught Keplinger toward the end of the backstretch on the final lap. Keplinger looked done … right until Giampalmo came up on her shoulder. Keplinger dug really deep, matched Giampalmo stride for stride over the final 100 intense meters and got her shoulders just in front at the line. The pictue of her celebration afterwards shows how much the win meant to her.
The Wildcats refused to settle for anything Monday. They could have settled for a third- or fourth-place finish in that relay, or Keplinger could have consoled herself with second in the 800. If they had, they would not have won the team title. They did the hard things that had to be done for the ultimate success.
There is a flip side — laying it all on the line, doing your best and coming up just short. North Hagerstown’s Katie Ritter and South Hagerstown’s Kyle Toms know what that feels like, but neither has any reason to feel bad.
Ritter came in as the top seed in the 2A girls 300 in 42.17 seconds and ran 42.08, doing absolutely nothing wrong. But River Hill’s Dorehn Coleman — whose seeded time was 44.10 — ran a sizzling 41.60 for the gold. Clearly, Coleman didn’t have to exert herself to her max to qualify for the state meet at regionals, and it served as an example that sometimes the seeding sheets don’t accurately reflect how things could turn out.
If I feel for Ritter, my heart really goes out to Toms. On his final throw in the 2A boys shot put, he took the lead with a very good throw of 49-11 3/4 — just a quarter-inch shy of the goal of 50 feet he had set for himself. He must have thought he had the gold, until Clarksburg’s Robert Thompson threw 50-1 on his final attempt to wrest the title away. Again, there’s no shame in doing your best and getting beat.