The State Meet We Missed: 4A Boys

Aiden Goldenberg-Hart and the Richard Montgomery boys set an indoor state meet record in the 4x800 without arguably their top runner. What could they have done at full strength in the spring? (Photo by John Roemer)

It's impossible to make a completely accurate prediction of what the outdoor state championships would have looked like. Some competitors improve greatly since the winter (or the last time they competed). Sometimes new influxes of talent elevate a program to state title contender status. Injuries happen, unfortunately. In any case, we can still look at the indoor season and last outdoor season to try and figure out what could have been at this year's 4A boys state meet.

Meet Records in Jeopardy

4x100 Meter Relay, 4x200 Meter Relay

Both the Bowie and Paint Branch boys sprint squads were among the best in the country this spring. Bowie ran a US #7 1:28.81 4x200 at the Virginia Showcase, and Paint Branch ranked tenth at 1:29.15. Bowie was led by senior Brandon Nya (21.48 200, 33.75 300) and sophomore Oumar Balde (22.71 200, 36.20 300); Paint Branch featured a senior trio of Alonzo McBryde (6.39 55), Jaeden Burke (6.42 55, 35.05 300) and Chukwumdi Osuji (6.52 55, 35.11 300).

The Bowie boys' time was just shy of what the Suitland boys ran in the 4x200 during the winter of 2012 before they set the state meet record in the 4x100 in the spring. The Paint Branch boys easily ran under 1:30 at the Sportsplex this winter, something the Henry A. Wise boys (who set the 4x200 state meet record in the spring of 2012) never did. Throw in the Eleanor Roosevelt boys, last year's 4x200 state champions and holders of plenty of sprint talent themselves this year, and the spring could have looked a lot like the spring of 2012 when Suitland, Wise and Laurel tore up the track in the relay events and set three state meet records between them in the winter and spring.

4x800 Meter Relay

7:44.67 - the current state meet record, set in 2008 by Quince Orchard - is fast. There is no denying it. Only Oxon Hill (2017) and Gilman (2012) ran faster this decade. But the Richard Montgomery boys ran the fastest-ever 4x800 at the indoor state meet (7:59.00) this past winter - and did it without possibly their top half-miler. They did so because they feature one of the top stables of mid-distance talent in recent state history. Senior Seydi Sall moved up to the 4x800 over the winter, and with 1:04.01 500 speed and another season of speed endurance training could have become the team's biggest weapon on the relay. Junior Noah Turner ran 1:58.90 as a sophomore last spring. Junior Elias Applebaum ran 1:59.75/4:25.98 this indoor season. Senior Aiden Goldenberg-Hart ran 2:01.88/4:29.65 this winter and also won regional titles in both events. A 7:44 4x800 is a 1:56 average for four legs, something that both Sall and a near-peak Suhr (who ran 1:55.02/4:13.90 last spring as a junior) could easily outpace. It definitely would not have been out of the question; unfortunately, now we'll never know.

Pole Vault

Senior Corey Troxler became one of the biggest contributors for a South River team that finished fourth in the team standings at this winter's state meet. He finished third in the high jump and easily won his third pole vault state title, clearing the same height (14'6) as he did at last spring's state meet. It would have taken another jump to challenge the current 4A outdoor state meet record of 15'2, but Troxler's 14'9 indoor season best was just five inches off of that mark. As the top pole vaulter in 4A this past winter by a full foot and a half, Troxler would have likely been the only one capable of breaking the record that is now over a decade old.

The Best Matchups

200 Meter Dash

The final 300 meter race of the season took many by surprise. Bowie's Brandon Nya, who had dominated the event throughout the season and was the heavy favorite entering the state meet, ended up finishing third as Arundel junior Hafis Upshaw - a transfer runner from Pennsylvania - broke the 35-second barrier and won his first state title. Was it an unlikely outcome or the beginning of a breakout? Four boys (Upshaw, Nya and Paint Branch's Jaeden Burke and Chukwumdi Osuji) ran between 34.97 and 35.11 at the state meet, and there was plenty of talent in the 55 meter dash field as well. Would Nya have regained his dominant form during the spring?

300 Meter Hurdles

The five top finishers from last year's state meet all left, four of them being senior and the fifth, North Point sophomore Samurai Matthews, moving down to the 3A classification. That left Urbana's Mark McCauley (40.07 personal best) and Perry Hall's Amiri Goode (sixth at the 4A state meet) as the top returners in the event. Of the seven finalists at this winter's indoor state meet in the 55 meter hurdles, Northwest's Eric Kim owned the fastest 300-meter hurdle personal best at 42.63. Would one (or some) of the top shorter-distance hurdlers have expanded their repertoire to include the 300 hurdles? Or perhaps an observant coach would have converted a sprinter to the longer hurdles after noticing an absence of elite returning times in the event in the 4A classification this year?

Shot Put

The 4A boys shot put field at this year's indoor state meet was one of the best in recent history. Three throwers - Howard's Collin Greene, Einstein's Aaron Lomax and Broadneck's Joe Simpson - cleared 53 feet in the event. That's the first time it's happened at the 4A indoor state meet since 2009, and a big step up in the depth of the field when compared to just a few years ago (between the 2016 and 2017 4A indoor state meets, nobody threw better than 47'8). How things would have played out in the spring - could they have continued to improve and each possibly challenge the 60-foot mark? - would have been a great storyline throughout the spring.

Who Missed Out?

Which boys missed opportunities to win state titles before graduation?

Hassun Jones, Henry A. Wise

A transfer student from Delaware (where he jumped 42'9.25 as a junior), Jones recorded the state's third-best triple jump of the indoor season (45'9) in a winning performance at the Prince George's County Championships. Like all other horizontal jumpers, however, Jones would have to wait until the outdoor season to try and win a state title in the event - except that the outdoor season never happened. The same goes for Northwest's Bryce Middleton, the Montgomery County triple jump champion who cleared 45'2.25, and Arundel's Ali Ilupeju, who won Anne Arundel County titles in both the long and triple jumps.

Surafel Mengist, Springbrook

Mengist's journey to the top of the state leaderboards in the distance events has been persistent and methodical. He first qualified for states as a sophomore in the winter of 2018. As a junior, he finished ninth at the 4A state XC meet, then fifth in both the indoor and outdoor 3200. He won his first regional title as a senior this past fall, then won county and regional titles in the 3200. He took the state's fastest 3200 time in the state meet, but finished second to state XC champion Sam Keeny. Mengist likely would have had one final shot at a 3200 state title in the spring against Keeny, but will still get to leave as Springbrook's best boys distance runner in a few decades.

Brandon Nya, Bowie

The aforementioned Nya was one of the best sprinters in the country this season, but fell just one meet shy of completing a near-perfect senior indoor season as he got nipped at the line in the 300 at the indoor state meet. He came back to finish second in the 500 meter dash, although that race wasn't nearly as close as Richard Montgomery senior Seydi Sall ran away with the title. Nya had the speed and strength to win anything from the 100 to the 400 this spring, but sadly missed out on the chance.