Unlocked Race of the Day: An Ultimate Sprint Showdown


It was only the result of a set of circumstances for two different elite athletes that Maxwell Willis and Darnell Pratt met at the 2016 WCAC Championships. Pratt, a junior, was new to the Good Counsel track and field squad. As a freshman Pratt had won the conference title in the 400 meter dash - but as a DeMatha Stag, not a Falcon. In 2015, Pratt transferred to Mount Hebron High School and promptly won three MPSSAA state titles (300 meter dash in the winter, 200 and 400 meter dashes in the spring). Now, as a junior, Pratt had joined a loaded Good Counsel team that was brimming with upperclassman talent.

Willis, meanwhile, had spent the first three years of his high school career on another equally loaded sprint team at Bowie High School. Like Pratt, Willis earned his first state title as a sophomore in the spring of 2014 (200 meter dash), then swept the three individual sprint events at the 2015 state meet. In 2016, Willis transferred just across the state border to Archbishop Carroll High School in the nation's capital and continued his ascent.

On the first day of the conference championships, Willis and Pratt were slated to go head-to-head in both the 100 and 200, but Willis was unfortunately disqualified in the former. In the 200, Willis (owner of a 20.55 personal best from the previous spring) easily distanced himself from St. John's Eric Harrison and Pratt. The finals were a different story, however. Pratt lowered his personal best from a previous 21.63 down to 21.34, taking Willis right down to the line. Willis held off Pratt, claiming the only individual WCAC title of his career. The next year, in the same race, both Pratt and Harrison (who would win the finals) ran under 21.40, letting one wonder just how good of a race it could have been had they all gotten to face each other as seniors. Still, the 2016 matchup represents one of the few times that two of the state's top athletes of the decade went head-to-head as upperclassmen.