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Best feet put forward

May 28, 2004|by ANDREW MASON

andrewm@herald-mail.com

Washington County's top high school distance runners are in such good shape it's a wonder they just didn't decide to return home by foot Thursday evening from Morgan State University.

They even might have beaten the team buses back to their schools.

"I think Washington County has some pretty good runners, if you ask me," said Clear Spring junior Ashley Lockard, one of many county runners who showed off their speed and endurance during the first day of action at the Maryland State Track & Field Championships.

Classes 1A and 2A began Thursday, classes 3A and 4A begin today and all schools compete Saturday when the meet concludes.

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Lockard won the girls 1A 3,200-meter run, North Hagerstown sophomore Hemu Arumugam captured the boys 2A 3,200 and Williamsport swept the titles in the 1A 3,200 relays.

The county's other state champs Thursday were North Hagerstown's Nevelle Pierre in the boys 2A high jump, Williamsport's Lacie Johnson in the girls 1A pole vault, Smithsburg's Tara Knable in the girls 1A discus and Shannon Fowkes, Katy Hill, Corina Campbell and Courtney Brown in the 1A girls 800 relay.

Williamsport's Theresa Ruland, Jordan Atha, Kristin Berry and Laura Forsythe combined to win the girls 3,200 relay in record fashion, breaking the tape in 9 minutes, 40.3 seconds - four seconds ahead of defending champ Poolesville and more than two seconds faster than the 1A record Poolesville set last year.

"It's awesome. It's so awesome," said Ruland, who put the Wildcats in front for good during the leadoff leg. "The plan was to win, but I didn't think we would. I'm just amazed. Everyone thought Poolesville would win."

Rhet Troxell, Curtis Babbie, Matt Oliver and Aaron Buchman fully expected to successfully defend Williamsport's title in the boys 3,200 relay, even after Oliver handed off the baton to Buchman, the anchor, trailing Beall by five meters.

"It had me a bit concerned, but not too much," said Buchman, who immediately erased the deficit. "We knew that we were defending champs. We just wanted to come out and prove that we're still the middle-distance power."

The Wildcats won in 8:16.8 - four seconds ahead of Beall.

Lockard came out on top of one of the day's most exciting races. She went through four laps in 6:09, trailing Bohemia Manor's Julia Stone by 40 meters, before knocking off the next four laps in 5:37 to beat Stone by nearly 20 meters in 11:46.6.

"I didn't think I had it at first, but after the fourth lap I went for it," Lockard said. "The plan was to sit and relax and then the last mile kick it. That's what Bake (Clear Spring coach Terry Baker) told me to do."

Arumugam led wire-to-wire in his race, winning in 10:04.0 - roughly 13 seconds off his personal record but 1.1 seconds ahead of runner-up Mike Evans of Stephen Decatur.

"The plan was to take it early," Arumugam said. "Getting my (personal record) would have been nice, but I'm just glad I won. That's all that matters."

Pierre wanted more than just a win in the high jump, which he won with a jump of 6 feet, 2 inches.

"I wanted to get over 6-4. I wanted a personal best," said Pierre, whose personal best is 6-4. "I just wanted to get higher."

Southern-Anne Arundel's Audrey Lee also jumped 6-2, but he finished second because he had more misses getting there.

"It's a good feeling to win," Pierre said. "But it's a better feeling to win at a higher height than the other guy."

Johnson was the surprise of the girls pole vault. Two weeks ago, she placed second at the county championships in a personal-best 8-6. Thursday, after needing three attempts to clear the opening height of 7-6, she cleared 9-0 on her first attempt to win the state title.

"I'm really surprised. It's just amazing," Johnson said. "I was hoping to go 9 feet, but I didn't expect it. I just wanted to equal my personal best."

Nothing was surprising about Knable's victory, her third straight at states in the discus.

"Three-peat, baby," she proudly announced to Smithsburg fans in the stands.

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