Photo by Lisa McArthur
If there is a silver lining to the (almost certain) cancellation of the entire 2020 outdoor track season, it's that it gives us some more time to reflect on the past decade of cross country and track that will officially come to an end this summer. So we'll spend some time looking back at the athletes, the races and the moments that defined this decade in Maryland.
The Awesome Milers of 2015
There are hardly any events throughout the sport of track and field that resonate as soundly as the mile (or, more commonly on the high school level nowadays, the 1600). Many high school runners' track careers have been defined by record-setting, milestone-breaking performances in the event, and some of the matchups that we've seen throughout the decade and beyond between the top distance runners in the state.
There are many ways to break up the all-decade 1600/mile leaderboards, and one of the most interesting ways is to examine them by class. At what point was Maryland the strongest and/or deepest in the event? As it turns out, the answer comes out pretty much the same on both sides.
To rank each class on both sides, we scored each leaderboard like a cross country meet (except that a "team" could have more than seven placers, which just raises the scores of some of the other "teams"). For the boys field, we set the cutoff at the instantly recognizable 4:20 mark, a milestone that has meant the world to countless athletes throughout the years. For the girls, we went with the slightly less recognizable mark of 5:08; 5:00 would have given far too small a field, while 5:10 too large. Setting the mark at 5:08 made the field nearly the same size as the boys', allowing for better side-by-side comparison. Below, the boys are on the left side of the table and the girls are on the right.
|Score||Class (# of qualifiers)||Place||Class (# of qualifiers)||Score|
|47||2015 (10)||1||2015 (13)||52|
|56||2018 (8)||2||2017 (8)||79|
|95||2011 (7)||3||2011 (7)||103|
|121||2019 (8)||4||2016 (11)||113|
|132*||2014 (9)||5||2019 (5)||170|
|132*||2020 (8)||6||2018 (5)||196|
|158||2013 (6)||7||2021 (5)||207|
|DNQ||2016 (4)||8||2014 (5)||217|
|DNQ||2017 (4)||9||2012 (3)||DNQ|
|DNQ||2012 (3)||10||2020 (3)||DNQ|
|DNQ||2021 (2)||11||2022 (1)||DNQ|
The similarities of the table are quite profound. For both genders, not only does the class of 2015 boast the highest number of athletes to reach the cutoff, but also the lowest score. That year is followed by either 2018 (boys) or 2017 (girls); both respective classes are headlined by three of the top milers of the decade, but fall short due to a shortage of depth when compared with 2015. And the boys and girls milers of the class of 2011 round out the top three in both instances.
Statewide trends can be seen on both sides. For instance, the number of milers to hit the arbitrary cutoffs were relatively low from 2011 through 2013 (no girl from the class of 2013 hit the cutoff). The numbers began to rise in 2014 and peaked between the years of 2015-18. The class of 2020 will likely be robbed of the chance to set faster personal bests during their senior outdoor seasons, which makes the fact that eight boys from the class of 2020 already hit the mark that much more impressive, and begs the question: how good could the milers of the boys class of 2020 been with one final chance?
The thought that began this entire exercise was simple: which class of boys milers was better - 2015 or 2018? When scored cross-country style (top five), the class of 2015 comes out on top, with four of the top nine and five of the top 18 milers of the decade (and the "slowest" of the five, Jordan Leon, was also a 1:50 800 runner). However, the class of 2018 boasted three of the best runners (Dalton Hengst, Ryan Lockett and Kieran McDermott) the state has ever seen. Was it unfair to go five deep? Can we say that the unprecedented star power of the class of 2018 makes it the best class of milers?
The debate could last hours, so instead, we'll take a look back at each of the top runners in the two classes and how they got to their peaks.
Class of 2015
Diego Zarate (Northwest High School; 4:08.24, fifth overall)
Zarate (left) competing in the mile at the 2015 Penn Relays. (Photo by Brandon Miles)
Zarate did not begin his high school career a superstar; as a freshman, he ran only 4:55 in the 1600. He made a big leap as a sophomore, qualifying for states in the 3200 during both the indoor and outdoor seasons, but had still yet to break 4:30. At the end of 2013, he would not have been very high on the list of members of the class of 2015 most likely to go under 4:10.
That shifted in 2014. After an excellent cross country season, Zarate pulled out a surprise performance at the indoor state meet, running 4:21.83 (an eight-second personal best at the time) and winning the 4A state title, helping Northwest win the team title as well. He repeated as state champion in the spring, beating out Whitman's Evan Woods in an epic, down-to-the-wire race, and began to show off his improving speed, clocking multiple sub-1:58 800s.
After winning the Gatorade Player of the Year Award as a cross country senior, Zarate returned to the track even faster. He successfully defended his 4A indoor title, and his only loss of the year in the event came at the hands of River Hill's Chris Heydrick at the Montgomery Invitational. He went on to win the Emerging Elite mile at indoor nationals, running 4:16.00.
Perhaps his best high school performance came at the Penn Relays, where he ran his personal best (a 4:09.69 full mile) and finished third behind Drew Hunter and Mikey Brannigan, two of the country's top milers. Afterward, he went on to win county and regional titles in the 1600 before being forced to miss the state meet due to illness. He would go on to compete at Virginia Tech, clocking personal bests of 3:43.38 (1500) and 4:00.44 (mile).
Christopher Heydrick (River Hill High School; 4:10.84, seventh overall)
Heydrick wins the Emerging Elite Mile at the 2015 New Balance Outdoor Nationals. (Photo by Lisa McArthur)
Over the past decade, only three freshmen (Dalton Hengst, Antonio Camacho-Bucks and Garrett Suhr) clocked faster 1600/mile times than Christopher Heydrick did in 2012. That year he ran 4:25.48 in the freshman mile at New Balance Indoor Nationals (side note: Loyola-Blakefield's Michael Wegner was right behind in 4:25.71. He would run a high school personal best of 4:20.31 in the 1600, just missing eligibility for this list).
Heydrick won a county and regional title in the event as a freshman, although his time didn't drop below 4:23 until his junior year. After never having finished any higher than fourth at the state championships throughout his first two years of high school, Heydrick ran a blistering 4:17.50 at the 3A indoor state meet, which still stands as a 3A state meet record and the second-fastest time ever at indoor states, behind only Vincent Ciattei. He didn't run quite as fast during the outdoor season, but he didn't need to, going undefeated throughout the year in the 1600 and winning both the 1600 and 800 at states.
As a senior, Heydrick ran one of this best races in the aforementioned matchup with Diego Zarate at the Montgomery Invitational, which Heydrick won. A late-season injury relegated Heydrick to only running (and helping win) the 4x800 at the indoor state meet, but he was back on the track in the spring. After back-to-back 4:15 performances at counties and regionals, he met his match - Milford Mill's Jordan Leon - at the 3A state meet. Leon (who will be discussed shortly) turned in one of the best state meet performances of the decade, forcing Heydrick to settle for second in both the 1600 and 800.
Heydrick, however, would have the final triumph in the head-to-head battle. After Leon won the first section of the Emerging Elite mile at New Balance Outdoor Nationals, Heydrick turned in his best effort in the second heat, clocking a 4:12.30 full mile to win the event. One can only imagine what kind of race would have transpired had Leon and Heydrick gotten another shot to go head-to-head. Heydrick competed at the University of Connecticut where he ran personal bests of 3:51.40 (1500) and 4:09.88 (mile).
Mikey Singer (McDonogh High School; 4:11.83, eighth overall)
Singer competing in the Championship Two Mile at the 2015 New Balance Outdoor Nationals. (Photo by Lisa McArthur)
The careers of two of the state's top distance runners, Singer and Dalton Hengst, crossed briefly in the 2014-15 school year. It was a pairing that nearly resulted in a Penn Relays distance medley relay title with Singer on the anchor. His career got off to a fast start when he clocked a 4:28.75 1600 personal best as a freshman in the spring of 2012. He would go on to win the first of two sections of the Freshman Mile at New Balance Outdoor Nationals that year as well.
Singer took another big step as a sophomore, winning his first conference title in the winter of 2013 as a sophomore and running a 4:21.69 full mile at New Balance Indoor Nationals. That spring he cracked the sub-4:20 barrier multiple times, including another victory at the conference championship; he is just one of five sophomores throughout the decade (along with Hengst, Gilman's Beck Wittstadt and Richard Montgomery's Garrett Suhr and Mark Unger) to break 4:20 in the 1600/mile.
Throughout his junior season, Singer kept a stranglehold on the MIAA, winning two more titles in the 1600 and continuing to drop his personal best (he ran a 4:17.52 mile in the winter, and a 4:14.64 1600 in the spring). At the time he was just the fourth runner to break 4:15 since the start of the 2010-11 indoor season.
During his final outdoor season, Singer reached another level still. His only loss of the season was a runner-up finish in the 3200 at the MIAA Championships, after he had clocked a 9:08 personal best earlier in the spring. He ran a 4:14 anchor and brought McDonogh within a tenth of a second of a Penn Relays distance medley title. At the conference championships, he lowered his 1600 personal best to 4:11.83 in a dominant effort, winning by nearly six seconds and making it six straight seasons in which he won the conference's 1600 title. Singer ran at Army West Point, clocking personal bests of 3:48.66 (1500) and 4:10.53 (mile).
Evan Woods (Walt Whitman High School; 4:12.20, ninth overall)
Woods at the 2015 John Hay Distance Festival. (Photo by Don Rich)
Because Woods did not compete during the indoor season, he wasn't in the state spotlight for quite as long as some of the other runners on the list. His career was marked by steady, year-to-year progression, beginning with a 4:39 personal best as a freshman and culminating in two state titles as a senior (and a third on the cross country course).
The 1600 had been Woods' main event since his freshman year, and as a sophomore he crept closer to the state's elite, clocking a 4:23.71 personal best and going on to finish sixth at the state meet despite finishing just fifth (and qualifying based on time) at the 4A West regional meet.
As a junior in the fall of 2013, Woods captured his first regional title at the 4A West meet and went on to finish fourth at the state meet, the highest underclassman. That spring a rivalry within the trio of Woods, Zarate and Wootton senior Urgy Eado formed. The three finished 1-2-3, in varying orders, at counties, regionals and states. Woods got the best of Zarate at the regional meet and nearly repeated at states in an all-out performance that left Woods stumbling through the line, just a half-second behind Zarate.
As a senior in the fall of 2014, Woods finished second to Zarate at counties and regionals before a surprising, runaway victory at the 4A state meet to earn his first state title. On the track the following season, Woods began to expand his range, competing in more 800s and 3200s; he swept county, regional and state titles in the latter. He had run a 4:16 full mile earlier in the year but finished second to Zarate once again at regionals in the 1600; unfortunately, Zarate's illness cost a chance at one final rematch between the two, and Woods handily won the state title in the 1600. His fastest mile performance came at the John Hay Distance Festival in early June when he ran a 4:13.67 full mile. Woods ran at The College of William and Mary where he ran 3:54.01 (1500) and 4:19.32 (mile).
Jordan Leon (Milford Mill High School; 4:15.78, 18th overall)
Leon competes in the two mile at the Bishop Loughlin Games. (Photo by Kyle Brazeil)
Of everyone's journey onto the sub-4:20 leaderboard, perhaps nobody's was more unique than Leon's. For the first two years of his high school career, Leon was almost exclusively a 400/800 runner, not competing in cross country during the fall as a sophomore. He ran a handful of 1600s as a junior and finished fourth at the indoor state meet in the 800.
As a junior, however, Leon began to transition to longer distances, and it started during the fall. In his first season of cross country at Milford Mill Leon ran 16:31, placing third at the Baltimore County Championships and finishing second at regionals. That indoor season he began to show up on state leaderboards, running a 4:30 full mile and 9:54 3200, although his still mainly focused on the 800, finishing as the 3A runner-up. He expanded his range even more during the outdoor season; he swept the three distance events at the county meet, running 1:58/4:26/9:38. At states Leon ran 4:19.62 (at the time, a seven-second personal best) and 1:56.76, finishing second to Christopher Heydrick both times.
During the fall, Leon was both a county and regional runner-up, and his transition into a do-it-all distance runner was complete. Twice he ran sub-9:30 during his senior indoor season, and came back from running the 3200 to not only win the 3A 800, but set the new 3A indoor state meet record (which still stands). As a senior, Leon was unstoppable; he didn't lose a single race from the 800 through the 3200. While he ran fast times throughout the year in the 800 and 3200, the same didn't happen in the 1600 until states.
His performance at the state meet is one that may never be repeated for some time. He beat out the top two finishers from the XC state meet in the 3200 (including Nick Fransham, whose time on the post-2013 Hereford course was still a course record until this past November). Then he came back and beat Heydrick in the 1600 and 800, the same way Heydrick had won the year before. He ran 4:16.05 and 1:53.40 in the two races - his second and third in a 20-hour span - and if that wasn't enough, he ran a leg on Milford Mill's state-winning 4x400.
As mentioned above, he won the first heat of the Emerging Elite mile at New Balance Outdoor Nationals, and one can only dream of a final rematch with Heydrick had they been in the same heat. He finished out his career by anchoring Milford Mill to a national title in the 1600 sprint medley relay, running the 800 meter anchor leg. He competed collegiately at both the University of Maryland - Eastern Shore and Sam Houston State University, running personal bests of 3:59.32 (1500) and 4:19.03 (mile).
Class of 2018
Dalton Hengst (McDonogh High School; 4:06.77, first overall)
Hengst after winning the 3k at the Yale Track Classic. (Photo by Wendell Cruz)
Sort the 1600/mile leaderboards throughout the state by just about any criteria and you will see Dalton Hengst's name at the top (ditto for the 3200 and 5k leaderboards, as well). Ever since running sub-16 as a freshman in the fall of 2014, Hengst was on the radar of just about every running fan in the state. He topped that by running a sub-4:20 full mile that year - indoors. He ran a 4:18.20 full mile that year and the 1200 leg on the aforementioned distance medley relay team.
His breakout performance as a sophomore came at the Millrose Games in February 2016, when he ran 4:14.48, and it only continued when he ran 4:11 at indoor nationals a month later. That personal best dropped another tick to 4:10.43 that spring, and by this point Hengst was traveling up and down the east coast to run against some of the best milers the area had to offer.
After making some headlines in other events (qualifying for Foot Locker Nationals during the fall, running an 8:28 3k in January), Hengst came back to the mile, again at Millrose, and broke the magical 4:10 barrier for the first time. He repeated the feat at New Balance Indoor Nationals, where he ran his overall personal best and finished fourth. That outdoor season Hengst ran a sub-9:00 3200 at the prestigious Arcadia Invitational, won the Penn Relays mile (the first of two back-to-back Maryland victories in the event) and beat out Sam Affolder in a matchup for the ages at the Stan Morgan Invitational in Carlisle, PA.
Hengst was amazingly continuing to reach new heights as a senior in the fall of 2017, clocking multiple sub-15:00 5ks and once again qualifying for Foot Locker Nationals. The 2018 indoor season, however, would be Hengst's last at McDonogh. While he did not lower his personal best in the mile, he turned in several more great performances, including fourth place at the Millrose Games and third place at New Balance Indoor Nationals, just behind Poolesville's Ryan Lockett. Hengst now competes for Ole Miss University and owns collegiate bests of 3:43.92 (1500) and 4:08.23 (mile).
Ryan Lockett (Poolesville High School; 4:07.38, second overall)
Lockett wins the 1600 at the 2018 outdoor state championship. (Photo by John Roemer)
Lockett's ultimate emergence as one of the top distance runners in Maryland state history was made even more improbable by a transfer to Gonzaga College High School in Washington, D.C. as a sophomore. He had run well as a freshman on the Poolesville cross country team, but got his first real track experiences at Gonzaga as a sophomore, running 4:35 and 9:49 in the 1600 and 3200, respectively - solid times for a tenth grader, but not nearly indicative of what was to come.
Back at Poolesville as a junior, he improved dramatically throughout the fall and eventually captured the 3A state XC title. That indoor season he also showcased some sharp new speed that allowed him to win the 3A 1600 state title (and the 3200 title as well). He reached another level during one eight-day span in the spring; he won the Viking Invitational mile in 4:16.59, then went out to the Penn Relays and nearly went from last to first in the 3k, "settling" for second place in a blistering 8:24.43.
Fast forward to the winter of 2018 (and three more state titles along the way), and Lockett was on the verge of another monumental leap. He kicked off the indoor season with a 4:13.69 full mile at the New York Armory, putting him in the national spotlight. Lockett then chose to compete at the Millrose Games in February, a decision that cost him a chance at a couple more state titles but led to a chance to compete at indoor nationals. There, he surprised everyone in the field with a second-place finish, even beating Dalton Hengst, who had held the title of top miler in the state for two years. Only Hengst can boast a better 1600/mile time throughout the decade than Lockett.
For most of his outdoor senior season, Lockett did not travel in search of elite competition. He rebounded from a disappointing race at Penn Relays (where another Maryland runner took home the title) and swept county, regional and state titles in the 1600 and 3200. He did finish his high school career on another high note, running a 4:09.09 full mile at the Music City Distance Carnival in early June, finishing just behind Dalton Hengst. Lockett currently attends the University of Virginia and owns a collegiate best of 4:11.88 (mile).
Kieran McDermott (Bel Air High School; 4:08.18, fourth overall)
McDermott breaks the outdoor state meet record in the 800. (Photo by Craig Amoss)
In the same vein as Woods, Kieran McDermott did not run during the indoor season, but what he did on the track in the spring was more than enough to leave a lasting legacy on Maryland running. He found success on the track early on, running under 4:30 in the 1600 as a freshman and qualifying for the state meet in the 3200. Even as an underclassman he could be seen charging to the front of major cross country races ahead of the pack, a mentality that ultimately put almost absurd amounts of distances between himself and the rest of the field.
As a sophomore, McDermott won his first UCBAC titles in the 1600 and 800 and finished third in the state in the former, even after moving up to the 4A classification that year. However, even after an excellent junior cross country season (15:44 5k season best, fourth at the 4A state meet) he wasn't quite considered in the uppermost echelon of distance runners in the state entering that spring.
Then he went undefeated throughout the season. A 1:54.37 800 in April set the tone, but it was his solo 4:16 effort at the 4A North regional meet that started to grab attention. Could he do it again on the biggest stage? Not only did he do that, but he went above and beyond, running 4:11.94 to win the 4A state title by nearly seven seconds.
A tremendous effort it was, but McDermott was not done. He returned to the cross country course as a senior and, after a couple of early bumps, went on to clock a 15:33 personal best and sweep conference, regional and state titles. That outdoor season, for the first time, McDermott went up against top out-of-state competition on the sport's biggest stage - the Penn Relays. He did not disappoint, beating out a field that included Ryan Lockett to win perhaps the biggest title of his career. For the rest of the season, the 1600/mile took a back seat to the 800, and for good reason: he broke Rodney Giles' longstanding outdoor state meet record by running 1:50.90, then lowered that time to 1:49.80 at New Balance Outdoor Nationals, where he finished third. He competes for Princeton University.
It's almost impossible to overstate just how deep the class of 2015 was on the girls' side. 13 out of the 66 girls who ran faster than 5:08 throughout the decade were from the class, comprising nearly 20% of the field. While the class of 2017 was led by Hayley Jackson (whose 4:45.55 performance at the indoor state meet was the fifth-best indoor 1600 time of any girl in the country in the 2010s) and fellow Foot Locker XC Nationals qualifiers Maria Coffin and Julien Webster, it simply could not match the depth of the class of 2015.
While the top of the girls class of 2017 isn't quite as strong as the top of the boys class of 2018, it still makes for an interesting debate as to what constitutes the best class of runners in a single event.
Class of 2015
Meggan Grams (Boonsboro High School; 4:56.10, sixth overall)
Grams anchors Boonsboro's distance medley relay team at the 2015 New Balance Outdoor Nationals. (Photo by Lisa McArthur)
For the first two years of her high school career, Meggan Grams ran at neighboring Williamsport High School in Washington County. As a freshman she ran 5:29 indoors (capturing her first county title) and 5:21 outdoors, qualifying for states in each season. After running 5:22 as a sophomore in the winter of 2013, she had a breakthrough race at the Apple Blossom Invitational, running 5:09.31 in a runner-up effort to James Wood's (VA) Amber Hawkins. She would run no slower than 5:13 for the rest of the year, winning conference and county titles and finishing second at the 2A state meet.
After her sophomore year Grams transferred to Boonsboro High School and took off immediately. That fall she dropped her 5k personal best from 21:04 the season before to 18:54; after the Oatlands Invitational on September 21, she did not lose a race, including the 2A state meet. The improvements translated to the track, as well, as Grams ran a 5:08.65 full mile at Virginia Tech and an 11:14 3200. She first broke five minutes in the 1600 at the MVAL Antietam Conference championships and went on to win two state titles that spring.
Grams met her match as a senior in the form of one of the country's top rising stars: Patuxent sophomore Hayley Jackson. Grams ran indoor personal bests in the 800 (2:21.73) and 1600 (5:05.91), but finished second to Jackson in both races at the 2A indoor state meet. The same was true in the spring: Grams ran 10:42.54 and 4:56.10 at states - both personal bests - but finished second each time. She was able to claim one final state title in the 800, and yes - she ran a personal best in that race, too.
Grams and teammate Haley Wright - both relay mates on 4x800s and distance medley relay teams that twice ran sub-12:10 at New Balance Outdoor Nationals - are one of just three pairs of runners from the same school to break five minutes this decade (Mount de Sales and Walter Johnson boast the other pairs). Grams ran in college at Eastern Kentucky University where she clocked personal bests of 4:21.00 (1500) and 4:50.02 (mile).
Clare Severe (Walt Whitman High School; 4:57.23, eighth overall)
Severe at the Virginia Tech Invitational. (Photo by Jon Fleming)
Clare Severe and Evan Woods are the only girl-boy tandem who were ever teammates to appear among the top 15 of each list. An outstanding soccer player who twice led Whitman to state titles in the fall, Severe was a track star from the word "go". After running 5:33 indoors as a freshman, she won the 4A West 1600 title in 5:07.10, the first of a dizzying assortment of titles she would accrue throughout her career.
She won her first state title in the winter of 2013 as a sophomore. That spring, she ran what would end up her personal best time in the 1600 at the Montgomery County Championships, beating fellow sophomore Caroline Beakes (who also ran her high school personal best time). Severe beat Beakes again at both the regional and state meets, and also swept the 800 meter races at regionals and states to raise her state title count to three through her sophomore year.
As a junior, Severe nearly won the invitational mile at the Montgomery Invitational, but the 1600 took a back seat to the 800 throughout championship season. At states Severe helped Whitman win the 4x800 title, then came back and broke 2:20 indoors for the first time to win her fourth individual state title. After finishing second behind Walter Johnson's Kiernan Keller at the outdoor regional meet, she did the same, dropping the 1600 at states in favor of the 800 and running another personal best (2:14.35) and capturing state title number five.
In the winter of 2015 Severe was almost exclusively an 800-meter runner. She led Whitman to another 4x800 title and then ran the second-fastest time ever recorded at the indoor state meet (2:15.30) in the open 800. In the spring, however, she returned to the 1600 and was as dominant as ever, taking county and regional titles in the event with ease. In her final 1600 race of her high school career she went under five minutes for just the second time in her career (and the first time since the spring of 2013) to win her seventh and final individual state title. A two-sport athlete at Lehigh University (soccer and track), she ran personal bests of 4:22.78 (1500) and 4:45.41 (mile).
Jennifer Bleakney (Atholton High School; 4:58.29, tenth overall)
Bleakney wins the 2015 3A indoor 800 state title. (Photo by Lisa McArthur)
Another two-sport star (for Bleakney, field hockey was the fall sport of choice), Jennifer Bleakney began running as a sophomore at Atholton High School. In the winter of 2013 she won the Howard County title in the 1600 and went on to run 5:20.05 at the 3A state meet, good for fourth place. She lowered that time to 5:12.65 in the spring, winning another county title, although she did not compete in an open event after that.
Instead of having to shake off some rust after being away from running for several months, Bleakney opened up her junior indoor season with a 5:08.61 1600. She took the 1600 and 800 at the Howard County Championships, running her county title count up to four, but again did not compete at regionals. That changed in the spring of 2014 when Bleakney went undefeated throughout the year in the 1600. In fact, no girl got within even six seconds of her in any 1600 after her first race of the year at the Pikesville Track Classic. She only got stronger as the season went on, too, sweeping the 800 titles at counties, regionals and states.
As a senior, Bleakney opened up by finishing fourth in an absolutely star-studded field at the Howard County Winter Festival that included Brit Lang, Hayley Jackson and Georgetown Visitation's Emily Kaplan. She also met her match at the 3A indoor state meet when she finished second behind Urbana's Emily Mulhern, whose 5:02.06 performance is still a 3A indoor state meet record. By the spring, however, Bleakney was back to her unstoppable ways.
She first broke five minutes in the 1600 at the Howard County Championships, then did so again at the outdoor state meet in a rematch with Mulhern, which Bleakney won. After her first 800 of the season at the McNamara Mustangs Invitational, Bleakney did not lose a race in either event throughout the spring. She remains the only Howard County girl of the decade to break five minutes in the 1600 (Brit Lang's time is converted from a 5:01.22 mile). Bleakney played field hockey at both Syracuse University and the University of Maryland.
Kiernan Keller (Walter Johnson High School; 4:59.28, 13th overall)
Keller runs away with the 4A indoor 1600 state title. (Photo by Lisa McArthur)
Kiernan spent the first two years of her high school career at the Academy of the Holy Cross in Kensington. After running 5:42 as a freshman, she quickly developed in the 1600 as a sophomore. She ran 5:17.93 at the 2013 Private and Independent Schools Invitational, then topped that in the spring when she ran 5:09.59 at the Katie Jenkins Invitational. She won two WCAC titles that season as well (1600 and 3200) and helped the Holy Cross girls also win the conference title in the 4x800.
Afterward, Keller transferred to Walter Johnson High School before her junior season. She joined an up-and-coming Wildcat squad that, led by Keller's fifth-place finish, took down defending champions Bethesda-Chevy Chase at the state cross country meet in the fall. That indoor season, after finishing second to Winston Churchill junior Lucy Srour in the 1600 at the county meet, she came back to win regionals and her first state title.
That outdoor season, Keller first broke five minutes in the 1600 at the Viking Invitational and then ran her personal best at the county meet. At states, however, she was taken down by yet another junior, Bethesda-Chevy Chase's Nora McUmber, in both the 1600 and 3200. Keller returned strong for her senior season on the track, however. She swept all three championship meets in the 1600, and after not having run faster than 5:10 all season, she ran 5:01.47 at the state meet, still the fifth-fastest time ever recorded at indoor states.
Keller did not run a personal best as a senior in the spring of 2015, but her junior season time of 4:59.28 had already made her just the fourth girl at the time to go under five minutes in the decade. Along with Abigail Green she was one of just three pairs of girls who shared an alma mater to break the five-minute barrier. Keller ran at the University of Maryland where she recorded personal bests of 4:45.24 (1500) and 5:13.17 (mile).
Caroline Beakes (Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School; 5:00.02, 15th overall)
Beakes (left) competes in the 3k at the 2013 Penn Relays. (Photo by Don Rich)
While her classmate, Nora McUmber, would go on to pile up the accolades throughout an outstanding high school career of her own, it was Caroline Beakes who ran the faster 1600 time and round out the top five of the class of 2015 (McUmber is sixth). Beakes began running at Bethesda-Chevy Chase as a freshman in the winter of 2012 and focused mainly on the 3200, although she did win the open mile at the Last Track to Philly Invitational.
That outdoor season, she still mainly focused on the 3200, winning a county title and finishing second at states, but she did also qualify for states in the 1600, where she ran 5:16.40. In the fall of 2012, Beakes and McUmber were the state's top distance duo; McUmber and Beakes went 1-2, respectively, at counties and regionals before Beakes emerged as the winner at the 4A state meet. The Barons won team titles at all three races. Beakes and McUmber were again a dynamic force during the track season as well.
Beakes' only loss of the indoor season came in the 1600 at the regional meet; she won her first track state title in the 3200 and was also a member of the winning 4x800 team. That spring, Beakes ran personal bests in nearly every event, including a 9:49.76 3k at the Penn Relays (which converts to a 10:32 3200) and a 5:00.08 1600 at the Montgomery County championships. She won state titles in the 4x800 and 3200 and finished second behind Clare Severe in the 1600 and 800 at both regionals and states.
Beginning in the fall of 2013 Beakes was forced to miss much of her junior and senior seasons. She did not run track at all as a junior, and only returned to the 1600 in the spring of 2015. She ran a season-best 5:25 at the 4A West regional meet and also ran a leg on the team's state-winning 4x800 relay. Beakes also competed on the team's 4x800 and 4x1600 teams at New Balance Outdoor Nationals.
Class of 2017
Hayley Jackson (Patuxent High School; 4:45.55, second overall)
Jackson runs away with yet another state title. (Photo by John Roemer)
From the beginning of her high school career in the fall of 2013, Hayley Jackson was one of the top runners of her class. A few years later, she would leave a legacy as one of the top runners of any class. As a freshman she won indoor conference and regional titles in both the 1600 and 3200. During the outdoor season, she did the same, clocking 5:04.39 and 10:37.18 season bests at the SMAC Championships.
The next fall she won her first state title during the fall, beating out Liberty senior Sarah Rinehart in a race that went down to the wire. That race set in motion a chain reaction of state titles that ran throughout her senior season. She first broke five minutes in the 1600 at a dual meet in the spring of 2015 and lowered her personal best to 4:55.14 by the end of the season. The chain was only interrupted when she missed most of her junior outdoor season in 2016 (by that point she had already racked up an incredible eight individual state titles).
Instead of stagnating, however, her running career rebounded in a dramatic way the next fall. Jackson went undefeated - unchallenged, really - all the way throughout the state meet. She was one of four Maryland girls to qualify for Foot Locker Nationals in November, finishing sixth at the Foot Locker Northeast Regional. Her best race, however, came at Foot Locker Nationals in December, where she finished eighth. She is the only Maryland runner, boy or girl, this decade to have finished better than tenth at a national XC meet.
She opened up her senior indoor season with a 4:52.32 1600 at the Southern Maryland Track Classic, and later competed in the Millrose Games, where she finished fifth in the mile. A week later, she turned in what was likely the best race of her high school career: a 4:45.55 performance in the 1600 at the 2A state meet, one that completely changed the scope of the state meet record book forever. The next-fastest time ever recorded at indoor states? 4:58.99.
Jackson went on to win three more state titles that spring, finish fourth in the mile at Penn Relays and clock a 10:14 two mile at the Brooks PR Invitational in June. All told she won 14 individual state titles throughout her career at Patuxent. She now runs at West Virginia University, where she has run personal bests of 4:19.69 (1500) and 4:39.80 (mile).
Maria Coffin (Annapolis High School; 4:56.26, seventh overall)
Coffin at the 2017 Anne Arundel County indoor championships. (Photo by Brandon Miles)
Although a very good runner from her first seasons at Annapolis, Maria Coffin's prowess as a miler didn't fully come into view until her sophomore outdoor track season. Coffin had finished second at the 4A state cross country meet as a sophomore in 2014, and throughout her first three seasons of track had focused mainly on the 3200, qualifying for states in all three seasons.
That changed in the spring of 2015 when Coffin opened up her season with a 5:09.29 1600 at the Pikesville Invitational where she lost a battle with senior Jennifer Bleakney. She further whittled away at the time throughout the course of the season until she made another large leap down to 5:00.90 at the state meet, finishing second behind Clare Severe.
After spending her sophomore year finishing second and third on the state level, Coffin captured her first state championship as a junior in the fall of 2015; she also qualified for Foot Locker Nationals for the first of two consecutive years. She first broke the equivalent of five minutes at the Montgomery Invitational that winter when she ran 5:01.03 for a full mile, finishing second behind Hayley Jackson. Later that season she won her first track state title in the 1600.
That outdoor season Coffin went undefeated in every race in Maryland, first officially breaking five minutes at the Viking Invitational. She ran an indoor personal best at the 2017 indoor state meet in one of the most thrilling races of the decade against Abigail Green; the girls joined Hayley Jackson as the only ones to break five minutes at the indoor state meet, and nobody has done it since. Coffin set her 1600 personal best during her final season at Annapolis at the Hoka One One Henderson Invitational, and won her seventh and final state title in the 1600 that year. She currently runs for Providence College where she owns a mile personal best of 4:56.67.
Julien Webster (Catoctin High School; 4:57.79, ninth overall)
Webster on her way to winning the first state title of her high school career. (Photo by Craig Amoss)
As a freshman at Catoctin High School, Julien Webster clocked a 1600 season best of 5:35.92. In fact, at the end of her sophomore season, her 1600 time sat at "just" 5:28.28. In the two years that followed, however, Webster steadily ascended to the top of Maryland's distance running hierarchy.
It began during her junior year of cross country, when she cut over a minute off her 5k personal best and nearly two minutes from her three mile personal best. That indoor season she dropped her 1600 time from 5:28 to 5:15, winning her first two regional titles in the process and finishing second to Hayley Jackson in the 3200. She continued to set season bests in the spring, knocking her 1600 time down to 5:08 at the Frederick County Championships and then cutting off another five seconds when she ran 5:03.75 - good for second place - at the state meet.
Webster's improvements carried back over to the course as a senior, where she broke 18 minutes in a three mile race at the Frank Keyser Invitational. In other years, she may have dominated the 2A state meet, but was forced to settle for third behind Jackson and Kelly Wesolowski. She did put her name into the center of the state spotlight when she finished tenth at the Foot Locker Northeast Regional, grabbing the final qualifying spot for nationals along with three other Maryland runners.
Her 1600 time held fairly steady throughout her senior indoor season, but it was also the season during which she captured her only state title in the 3200 as Jackson focused on the 1600 and 800. Heading into the state meet in the spring, she had still not improved upon her 5:03 time, but her 10:37 performance in the 3200 on Thursday - the tenth-fastest time in outdoor state meet history - foreshadowed what was to come. It was, obviously, another runner-up effort behind Hayley Jackson, but Webster broke out with a five-second personal best, cracking the elusive five-minute barrier in her last high school race on Maryland soil. Webster competed for both Syracuse University and the University of Delaware.