“The Dream” 4A Maryland State Indoor Track Champions
Last Tuesday evening the Men’s Northwest Jaguars track team traveled to PG Sports-Plex to compete in the 4A State Indoor Track Championships. The meet would feature the highly ranked Regional Champions, Bowie High, Paint Branch High and Severna Park amongst the 32 schools who qualified. The Jaguars looked on as they entered the arena with one mind-set… to fulfill a “Dream”.
This “Dream” was something discussed by the guys as they sat up on top of Sugar Loaf Mountain two weeks earlier. Led by senior Matthew Watson and Austin Castleberry, the guys began a trek through the snow and trails of Sugar Loaf, from the bottom to the very top. Here is where they came together as they sat at the top and made a commitment to a “Dream”… winning the school’s first Indoor State Title and two State titles in a row (they had just won Outdoor track).
Seizing the moment before the start of the meet, coach Youngblood gathered the guys. “I do not care what the other schools have done, if you choose to put each other first and give a super human effort today… they will never see it coming” coach Youngblood barked to his guys as all eyes were intently upon him and coach Wil. “If they slip up in some of their events and we as warriors do what we have to do… guys ,we have the best jumpers around, some of the best relays, sprinters and we have you” as he pointed to Diego Zarate. The Jag’s started things off by placing in the 4×800 relay with Brendan Rhoderick leading off to Rizwan Kureshi to Sam Weingord to Diego (who would run a 1:58.9 anchor leg).
Next up was Jalen Walker who held up his part of the Dream as he placed 3rd in the 55m dash. It was then after the 55 trials and hurdles that the guys realized it could happen. Next up would be Diego in the mile as he went from the gun. Staying on the shoulder of the lead runners was the plan and he stuck to it. Lap after lap Diego stayed 2nd place until with a lap and half to go he made a move and left the field as he stunned the crowd and became the 1600 meter state champion by over 4 seconds over his nearest competitor (4:21, a personal best and new school record). It was here where Austin Castleberry and Anthony Duruji paused in their warm-ups for the High Jump and realized the dream is happening. The jumpers did not disappoint as they did what was asked of them. “you will be the last two standing” was heard from coach Youngblood as he pulled them over. Final result of high jump, Austin Castleberry 1st place (State Champion) and Anthony Duruji 2nd in the state.
With the other schools not pulling ahead in their individual events the Jags had a lead going into the 3200 meter run. Diego came thru yet again as he placed 3rd in the state. The “Dream” took a detour as the Jag’s 4×200 relay was disqualified but heavily favored Bowie was also disqualified. The “dream” would come down to the 4×400 relay with favored Bowie and Paint Branch in the fast heat and the Jag’s in the slowest of slow heats. Diego tried to give the Jags more in the 800 but to no avail as he was exhausted after his super human effort.
It would come down to the 4×400 relay and both Northwest coaches knew the “Dream” was possible. Pulling the relay aside, coach Youngblood would try to drive home his point. “You will leave no regrets, I want you to give me NOTHING but your best and you will do it”. “Guys, forget we are winning the heat and we will win it, but push even harder and race the clock, we have to beat the teams in the fast heat”.
The entire Northwest TEAM of the lady Jag’s (12th overall in the state) lined the railing around the track for this final event. With sensational sophomore Andrew Daniels leading off in a personal best, (Captain) Matt Watson running a killer leg (51.2) and Brendan Rhoderick running a beautiful 3rd leg it came down to speedy Jalen Walker as the guys time of 3:30 would not only win the heat but place them 4th overall. Bowie would take 1st and Paint Branch 2nd in the relay. Would it be enough? All teams huddled within their camps and waited. Paint Branch, Bowie, Severna park and all waited with bated breath. Then came the announcers booming voice over the PA system, “ 5th place with 30 points Eleanor Roosevelt, 4th with 37 Severna Park, 3rd with 45 points… Bowie High”. “And your State Runner-Up with 46 points Paint Branch High and ladies and gentleman our 2014 Maryland State Indoor Track Champions with 48 points…NORTHWEST HIGH”. Bedlam broke up as Northwest WIl and Youngblood embraced as guys jumped on top of each other in joy.
The “Dream” had become a reality as whoops and shouting could be hard from all the parents and friends as well as that of the Northwest Team. The guys have been to the mountain top and they seem to have not come down as they now have won two State Titles in a row now.
Story and Photos supplied by Robert Youngblood