POTOMAC– County athletes competed with national as well as state track and field leaders, won multiple events and placed in several others at Bullis High School’s second annual Bulldog Invitational Saturday.
The Lady Bulldogs won the girls 4x100m relay with a time of 45.9 seconds, the new fastest time in the state for the season, beating Brooklyn team Paul Robeson High School (47.32 seconds), who in turn earned the fastest time in the state of New York this season.
The Bullis School took first place in the boys 4x200m relay with a time of 1:27.25 minutes and earned a ranking as the fastest team in the state for the event. The Bulldogs also won the boys 4x100m relay with a time of 42.67 seconds, followed by Prince George’s County rival Suitland High School (42.99 seconds); however, another school holds the fastest time in the state from a race completed the same day. St. John’s College High School finished second (1:29.17 minutes), Suitland finished third (1:30.3 minutes) and Paint Branch took fourth place (1:30.35 minutes).
The Lady Bulldogs didn’t run quite fast enough to win the girls 100m hurdle finals, although three Bullis girls placed in the finals. Western Branch High School, whose shuttle hurdle relay team was the fastest in the U.S. for the indoor season, and who beat Bullis to earn a new national record at the New Balance Indoor National Championship, was represented by sophomore Shadajah Ballard (first place, 13.92 seconds).
Bishop McNamara junior Taylor Grimes placed second (14.12 seconds), followed by Lady Bulldogs senior Alexis Postell (14.28 seconds, third place) and freshman Leah Phillips (14.34 seconds, fourth place). Bullis junior Cierra Pyles finished less than a second later (14.99 seconds, ninth place).
The Paint Branch girls team won the distance medley relay with a time of 12:50 minutes, followed by Holton Arms School in second place (13:17 minutes).
Also in distance events, two county juniors each placed second in the 3200m run. Holton Arms junior Kristen Bitsberger (11:46 minutes, second place) earned a personal best time, despite the fact that she tripped and fell off the track during her first lap.
“I was off the track and in the turf in everything,” Bitsberger said. “I just went flying.”
She credited a fellow runner with helping her off the ground and back into the race.
“If another girl hadn’t helped me, I don’t know if I would have kept going,” Bitsberger said. “I didn’t know if I was going to get back up; I just felt pain. I wasn’t sure if I was hurt or not.”
A runner from St. Mary’s Ryken helped her make her decision.
“She like grabbed me and kind of dragged me along,” Bitsberger said of the St. Mary’s Ryken runner.
She said her strategy was to keep up with the front pack of runners and then to try to pass them.
James Hubert Blake junior Evan Pollack finished second in the boys 3200m run with a time of 10:03 minutes, followed by Bullis sophomore Tony Patrinos (10:06 minutes) in third place.
Western Branch’s team took first place in the 4x800m relay with a time of 8:09 minutes, followed by Charter School of Wilmington in second (8:14 minutes).
For Paint Branch’s relay team, the boys 4x800m relay (8:39 minutes, fourth place) was a continuous battle to pass other teams and to keep the team’s place in the pack of runners, anchor leg Hussayn Coulibaly said.
“You got to keep fighting and when you come out (of the first 100 meter curve) you have to know not to let anybody else pass you,” the Paint Branch anchor said.
Over the course of the race Paint Branch passed a total of three teams, though not without the teams passing the Panthers once or twice along the way.
Paint Branch seniors James Cobb, first leg, and Chris Nguyen, third leg, as well as junior Rashid Walker, second leg, formed the team with Coulibaly.
In addition to the challenge of maintaining a race pace, runners had to be aware of people running behind them, because the competitors might pass them.
Coulibaly, a junior, said hearing coaches of the runners behind him motivated him to run a pace that was painful to keep.
“I heard the other coach say ‘Don’t let them go; just keep fighting,’” he said.
When Coulibaly’s part of the race was a little more than half over, he felt pain in his muscles.
“The last 300 (meters) hurt,” he said.
He acknowledged that the competition made the race challenging and was pleased with how his team ran, despite the time being slower than he would have liked.
“I think we ran our hearts out,” Coulibaly said.
Coulibaly added that he was grateful to his teammates and fellow relay members for cheering him on.
“My teammates and my school just motivated me,” he said. “They just said go for it.”
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