If Washington County is known for a sport, it’s girls outdoor track and field.
County girls teams have won 14 of the last 15 Maryland Class 1A state titles — nine by Smithsburg, three by Williamsport and two by Boonsboro.
“This county is where state titles are won,” said Smithsburg coach T.J. Hood, whose girls were last year’s 1A state champs. “There’s great coaching in this county. We emphasize the sport, and it shows.”
North Hagerstown even joined the party last year, capturing the 2A state crown.
All that only makes the local meets that much more exciting, as county teams first bump heads at home before taking on the rest of the state in late May in Baltimore.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun again, isn’t it?” North coach Robert Waugh said. “Every meet is going to be interesting. It’s going to be exciting and down to the wire, just like Washington County track is known for.”
While Smithsburg and North are reigning state champs, watch out for Boonsboro. The Warriors are on the rise.
“The potential for a state title is definitely there,” Boonsboro coach Becky Walter said.
The Warriors finished second in the 1A indoor state meet last month, without superstar sophomore sprinter Abby Duncan, who played basketball over the winter.
“I went through and scored it. You toss Abby in there and we probably would have won it,” Walter said. “And there are other people we didn’t have indoors.”
Those include standout seniors Katie Miller (hurdles) and Becky Young (throws), who they now have back.
Boonsboro was led indoors by sophomore Sarah Zielinski, who won state titles in the 1,600 and 3,200 and will be out for more outdoors.
The Hubs lost Renee Phillips and Katie Ritter, two of the county’s all-time great sprinters, to graduation. But they still have enough talent to make another run.
“We’re looking to defend our title,” Waugh said. “Last year, we had seven girls score the majority of our points at states. And right now, we have more than seven girls who can score points at states. We’re definitely feeling pretty good, but we know it won’t be easy. We’re going to work hard and let the cards fall.”
The Hubs have five returning all-county performers from last spring — seniors Corie Anderson (sprints), Imani Carter (sprints) and Beth Wagner (hurdles, high jump) and juniors Raven Jackson (jumps, hurdles) and Emily Simmons (distance). Also back is junior Charlotte Anderson, who was the 2A indoor state runner-up in the shot put this year.
The Wildcats are loaded on the track.
All four of their all-county selections from last spring are back — senior Allison Gulnac (hurdles), juniors Casey Arnone (middle distance) and Renee Barnes (middle distance) and sophomore Julia Price (distance). They also have sophomore sprinter Lauren Johnson, who won a 1A indoor state title in the 300 this year, and senior Kaelii Stout, who was the indoor county champ in the 800.
But they’re going to need some help in the field to get back to their state-championship form of 2008-09.
“We’re going to be strong in spots, but we know we have weaknesses we have to fill,” coach John Bailey said. “We’re putting a lot of effort into finding some field-event people. That’s where we’ve lost some points at the bigger meets, and that’s something we have to correct if we want to do well at the end of the season. We’ve got to find field-event points.”
The Leopards have a large team with about 50 girls, including five of their nine all-county selections from last year’s state-championship squad — seniors Jonelle Jerwick (vertical jumps), Sara Rishell (jumps) and Sarah Wren (sprints), junior Lauren Johnson (distance) and sophomore Mia Cardone (sprints).
“We have a lot of new faces, but that’s definitely a nice foundation to build around,” Hood said. “We have to replace a few people so it will be interesting. That’s always the issue when trying to defend the title.”
Senior Jaid Sandeen and sophomores Elizsha Streeter, Hayley Freeman and Kiona Mency teamed up to place second in the 4x200 relay at the 3A indoor state championships last month. Sandeen, who also scored at states in the high jump and pole vault, will also run hurdles this spring.
“I’m really looking for those four to score for us,” coach Dwayne Freeman said. “In indoor, they were 60-70 percent of our points.”
Senior standout Kayla Freeman (sprints, hurdles), who played basketball this winter, also returns to give the Rebels a Big Five.
“The girls will be pretty strong. We’ll be very competitive in the sprints, relays and field events,” Dwayne Freeman said. “Distance is my only concern, but we have some girls who are coming along and developing.”
The Panthers have 46 athletes (23 girls, 23 boys) on their roster — their most in about 30 years.
“We’ve got about 30 to 35 percent of the kids in the school out for track,” coach Jeff Spielman said. “But we really don’t know what to expect until we start the season. It all depends on how much the kids coming back improve and how the new kids step up. Right now, they’re all working.”
Junior Emily Johnson has scored in the 1A 55 hurdles at each of the last two indoor state meets. Senior co-captains Jenna Hull (jumps) and Cortney Golden (relays) have each been on the team for four years.
The young Blazers have less than 20 girls on their roster.
“It’s going to be a struggle. We don’t have any seniors and only a couple of juniors,” coach Doug McBurney said. “Hopefully these younger kids will continue to run track and improve throughout the years.”
While the Blazers lost state-champion thrower Paige Shirk to graduation, they do have junior Tessa Wiles, who was the 1A indoor state runner-up in the shot put last month. Junior Valerie Carey placed fourth in the indoor state high jump.
ATHLETES TO WATCH
Charlotte Anderson, North Hagerstown
The junior was the county champion and 2A state runner-up in the shot put this year indoors.
Corie Anderson, North Hagerstown
The senior joined the exclusive sub-minute club in the 400 last spring was part of the fastest 4x100 and 4x200 relays in Tri-State area history.
Renee Barnes, Williamsport
The junior capped her outstanding indoor season this year by heroically anchoring the 4x800 relay to 1A state gold.
Abby Duncan, Boonsboro
The sophomore is the reigning 1A state champ in the 100 and 200 and the Tri-State area record holder in the 400 (56.86 seconds).
Raven Jackson, North Hagerstown
The junior led the Tri-State area last spring in the long jump (17-7) and triple jump (36-8 1/2), and she was the county champ in the indoor 55 hurdles this year.
Jonelle Jerwick, Smithsburg
The senior was the state runner-up last spring in the pole vault and high jump. She owns the all-time Tri-State record in the pole vault (11 feet).
Lauren Johnson, Williamsport
The sophomore’s breakout season indoors this winter included a 1A state title in the 300.
Jaid Sandeen, South Hagerstown
The senior is the Rebels’ do-it-all scorer — pole vault, high jump, hurdles, relays, you name it.
Beth Wagner, North Hagerstown
The senior was the 2A indoor state champ in the high jump last month and the county champ in both hurdles races and the high jump last spring.
Sarah Zielinski, Boonsboro
The sophomore won 1A indoor state titles in the 1,600 and 3,200 this year.