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Wildcats look for last laugh at state meet

February 15, 2004|by ANDREW MASON

andrewm@herald-mail.com

If indoor track was a barrell of laughs, the Wildcats would have the last chuckle.

A team crown at the Maryland Class 2A-1A state championships Monday at Prince George's Sports & Learning Complex in Landover, Md., probably would force at least a giggle.

Paced by their distance crew's no-nonsense approach, the Wildcats have roared to nearly every title in sight this winter, including a runaway victory at the West region meet Friday.

"We're not out here just to play and have a good time," said Williamsport distance coach Taylor Oliver, maybe alluding to some of the competition his runners have crushed all year. "We use our practices to our utmost advantage.

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"When it comes down to it, the sense of satisfaction from practices comes from, 'Wow, I was able to do that workout,' rather than, 'Hey, that was a fun time.'"

With Oliver's stable of horses, those workouts must be sights to behold.

"Practice is intense," said Devin Hewitt, who helped the Wildcats sweep the West's distance and middle-distance events. "We're all so competitive. We hate to lose anything."

Friday, Hewitt won the 3,200-meter run and anchored the winning 3,200 and 1,600 relays, Rhet Troxell captured the 800 and 500 and Aaron Buchman took the 1,600 and finished a stride behind Troxell in the 800 as the teammates trotted together to the finish line.

Those performances were especially impressive coming against some of the state's best. South Carroll's Phil Diven and Beall's Dan Dewitt, the 2A and 1A state cross country champs last fall, never were serious threats at any of the distances.

Oliver is hoping for similar results Monday.

"Our region is the strongest in the distances, so most of the same people will be competing for the same spots Monday," he said. "I really want to win all the distance events, from the 800 up and the 3,200 relay. If we can do that, that will give us 40 points. Thirty points won it last year."

Middletown, last year's 2A-1A boys champ, also will be in the thick of the state mix Monday. But the Knights, fresh off their eighth straight region crown, now are competing in the 3A-2A field.

Middletown coach Don Boyer said Urbana, the runner-up to the Knights in the West, will be a stronger challenge at the state level.

Individually, Boonsboro senior Dan Robinson, the two-time defending state champ in the 2A-1A 55 hurdles, could become Washington County's first athlete to win three straight boys indoor titles in the same event. That's the freedom he's after.

"I'd love to have three straight titles in this race. That would just make my heart set right," Robinson said. "Every day, all I think about is the state meet. I'm uptight every day until I get there. After states, then I'm set free."

Clear Spring junior Ashley Lockard will be after her second straight state title in the 2A-1A girls 1,600.

"I'm really excited," she said. "I just want to go out there and try to win again."

If she can put up with another 16 laps one more time, Lockard, who won the 1,600 in a dogfight before blowing away the field in the 3,200 Friday, has a strong chance to win both events again Monday.

"The mile's my race. That's the one I love," she said. "I don't even like the 3,200. I hate it, but I run it. I guess I need to start to like it more."

The state meet begins at 10 a.m. Monday. The Class 4A-3A championships are Tuesday at Prince George's Sports & Learning Complex.

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