LANDOVER — At last week’s Montgomery Invitational track meet at the Prince George’s Sports and Learning Complex, the Bullis School girls 4x200 meter relay team became the fastest girls’ relay team in the United States, racing on a flat track, shattering the previous track record.
The quartet of two sophomores (Shaniya Hall and Leah Phillips) and two seniors (Ashley Seymour and Masai Russell) finished their race in one minute, 37.28 seconds.
“When we ran that 1:37, we were really impressed and elated,” said Russell, who anchored the relay.
The Lady Bulldogs had been trying to break the facility record at the Prince George’s Sports and Learning Complex since the start of this season, Russell said.
To that end they worked hard, paying attention to improve baton exchanges by keeping the baton moving properly. Russell explained how she and her relay teammates learned from a mistake they made the week before when a disqualification on account of a baton exchange error kept them from breaking the facility record with a time of 1:38.
Russell said she was excited to learn that the team also earned the No. 1 time in the U.S. on what is known as a flat track, compared to a banked track that is elevated on the edges.
“[With] banked, the tracks are elevated, and those actually make you run faster,” Russell said. “Your instep isn’t as bad...on a flat track – it’s harder.”
“It [a banked track] decreases your time, which is why it was an honor to run a 1:37 [on a flat track],” she added.
The Lady Bulldogs add this latest accolade to the one earned at the Southern Maryland Indoor Track and Field Invitational at the complex Jan. 6: the top high school girls 4x400m relay time of 3:46.29 minutes.
In the 55m dash, Northwest senior sprinter Khaloni Mganga not only beat Western Tech High School junior Glory Fagbuyi (6.60 seconds) by two-hundredths of a second, he also earned a lifetime personal best time of 6.58 seconds.
Mganga attributed the faster time to an adjustment he made to how he positioned his feet at the starting line. After he was dissatisfied with his time in the preliminary race (6.65 seconds), he consulted his coaches, Fran Parry and Robert Youngblood, who suggested he “use my blocks more.” At first, he was skeptical, but then remembered how the blocks helped him during practice, and he raised the starting block for his right foot by one notch.
“I was pretty sure that I lost the race, but I knew I was going to run something fast,” said Mganga, who has run track since seventh grade. “Since the race is so short, you have to make sure you get off the blocks as quickly as possible."
Walter Johnson senior Abigail Green, 18, won the girls one-mile run invitational, finishing in 5:04 minutes.
“It’s been so long since I last ran a mile,” Green said. What the senior Lady Wildcat didn’t know was she became the fastest miler in the state for the current season.
Five seconds after the starting gun went off, she maintained a lead of several meters. Paint Branch senior Yasmine Kass (5:12.99 minutes, third place) kept a close distance behind her for a majority of the eight laps.
“I could feel kind of pressure behind me; I wasn’t really sure, but I could hear people cheering for Yasmine behind me, so she was going to be close by,” said Green.
Green has focused her indoor track races on the 3200m run this season, but she wanted to see how she would finish and place in a mile race before “championship season,” which begins with Montgomery County Public Schools track championships Jan. 17. Sore muscles from tough workouts this week slowed her down a little, but she said she was satisfied that she finished with a similar time to previous track seasons.
The one-two finish in the boys’ mile run was as close as the finish in the boys 55m dash finals. Richard Montgomery sophomore Garrett Suhr (4:21.81 minutes) said he broke his lifetime personal record. Suhr led from the beginning of the race. He sped up on his final lap, his face scrunched with effort. However, Mountain View senior Henrik Anderson (4:21.79) sped past him just a couple of meters before the finish line, finishing two-hundredths of a second faster and bumping Suhr to second place.
Northwood senior Eldon Phillips (1:05.79) created a gap between himself and the rest of the runners in his heat of the 500m run. He then placed second overall, just 0.26 seconds slower than first-place finisher Milford Mill Academy senior Aariq Nixon (1:05.53 minutes), who ran five heats before him.
Bishop McNamara senior Taylor Grimes placed first in the girls 55m dash finals in 8.10 seconds after finishing in the top 60 participants during the preliminary race. Bullis senior Cierra Pyles placed second in the girls’ 55m hurdle finals (8.16 seconds), followed by Northwest senior Editta Pessima (8.18 seconds). Pyles also won the girls’ triple jump (38 feet, 09.5 inches), followed by Bowie High senior Ja’Tae Joyner who jumped 37 feet, 0.5 inches.