LANDOVER — Early in the season, indoor track and field athletes and coaches from around the region were asking, “Who are those guys with the ‘V’ on their jerseys?”
Now they know.
Cambridge-South Dorchester High School Viking – there’s that ‘V’ – boys made a strong statement Monday, winning Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association Region 1A titles in the 4×800-meter relay and the 800-meter individual run in their first season of indoor track and field competition.
Overall, C-SD finished fifth out of 19 teams, with a score of 30. Boonsboro boys and girls both won the team titles. C-SD girls finished 15th of 18 teams. There are 13 events, 10 track and three field, in Maryland high school indoor competition.
“I think it just goes to show the need for the program in the first place,” Boys’ Head Coach John Shaw said. “We had such strong community support all season, this is just the icing on the cake.”
Coach Shaw was joined this year by Girls’ Head Coach Heather Silveira, and assistants Lois Narr, Angie Condon, Kason Washington and Clint Falduto.
In the 4×800, the speedy squad of seniors Matt Koletsky, Trevor Goodwin and Carson Taylor, with sophomore Connor McCroy, earned their medals after a grueling duel with the men from Fairmont Heights. The Vikes beat their own previous best time by four seconds, ending with 8:32.34, just 39 hundredths of a second in front of the rivals from Prince George’s County.
“There is no greater feeling than victory,” Goodwin said. “We’ve been dreaming of a state title for years now, and it finally happened. It means so much, not only to the four of us, but to everyone who has helped and supported us along the way.”
Koletsky caught his breath and stepped on the track again, with enough gas in the tank to grab another title, this one in the 800-meter individual run, in a time of 2:03.67.
Cambridge-South Dorchester was the highest-placing Mid-Shore team at the 1A and 2A championship meet. Among the Lady Vikings, Janee Quailes earned seventh in the 500-meter dash, and the 4×800 squad of Quailes, Cassidy Shockley, Brooke Webster and Carrie Price grabbed eighth.
Rounding out the boys’ scoring were Carson Taylor, sixth in the 1,600 meters; the 4×400 team of Taylor, Koletsky, Goodwin and Dante Meekins, eighth; Zhihong Pang, fifth in pole vault, and Taylor Pohl, seventh in shot put, meaning the Viking boys scored in all of track and field’s venues of running, jumping and throwing.
But it was the boys’ 4×800 that had the crowd of thousands roaring in the Prince George’s Sports and Learning Complex.
The Vikes were ready, having trained outdoors through the coldest weather to prepare for their eight-minute trip to the championship. Coaches had studied opponents’ season-best records and splits – individual relay runner’s times – so they knew it would be a battle with the men from Fairmont Heights.
Then three weeks ago, Connor McCroy was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his foot. Zhihong Pang, a pole vault specialist, stepped up in Regionals to help the team qualify for States, as the Vikings hoped McCroy would heal in time for the big show.
He did, and was ready to rock on Monday. “It means so much that I get to represent my school like this,” he said. “This is a dream come true.”
The Vikes’ strategy was to stick close to the Fairmont Heights men, to give anchor Koletsky a chance to use his strong kick, or finishing sprint, to bring the win home to C-SD.
Goodwin took the first four laps on the 200-meter track, recovering from a hard shove at the start line, courtesy of a Boonsboro runner. Trevor left that boy in the dust as he kept the pace he needed, passing the baton to a newly healthy McCroy with the Vikings in a close second place, behind Fairmont Heights.
Connor gave it everything he had, and after a little more than two minutes, passed the baton to Carson Taylor. C-SD was still in second, but Taylor started a few seconds behind the leader.
It would take a gritty performance to close the gap, and here’s where senior Taylor dug deep, found his Viking determination and narrowed the margin. Coaches had known all along that with Fairmont Heights’ anchor being Tyreke Thompson, one of the state’s fastest men, Koletsky would need to get the baton with C-SD in the lead.
It was close, but Thompson was ahead with Koletsky a couple steps behind for their first two laps as the volume level in the arena went from merely loud to thunderous – the fans knew a great race when they saw it.And C-SD’s coaches knew Koletsky would keep his head, even as the pain of the race mounted, and stayed on the heels of Thompson, pressing him out of his best pace.
As they began the third lap, Koletsky took the lead and the crowd went wild. It was Thompson’s turn to hang on, and he did until the fourth lap.
On the back stretch, he surged ahead, trying to pass, but Koletsky saw him out of the corner of his eye, and found another gear to stay just ahead. Then on the final turn, Thompson tried again, and Koletsky did the same.
On the home stretch, both men turned on the jets. The crowd raised the roof in appreciation of the spirit and toughness of the athletes, as Koletsky crossed the finish line with his arms raised in victory.
“Winning this means a lot to us,” Taylor said. “It’s my first year out here and I never thought I’d make it this far. But through the help and support of our coaches and teammates, we won.”
“I’ve never cried after a race before today,” Koletsky said. “The win was for Cambridge.”