The 2010s Defined: The Unexpected State Champions (Girls)

Just eight days before she ran 2:17 to win the 2A state title, Thomas Stone's Mone't Peterson had not run faster than 2:25 in the 800. (Photo by John Roemer)

Earlier this year, after the indoor state championships we identified some of the individual state champions who were among the most surprising to earn that title, given the rest of their performances throughout the season leading into the meet. Now we take a look back at the last decade of state meets to see who else rose the occasion on the sport's biggest stage.

A note: selections should be considered within context of the season. For example, an athlete who wound up winning five state titles throughout their career could still make this list if the specific performance was their first as a sophomore.

Spring 2011 - Taylor Caulk: She had qualified for states in the long jump the year before, but even most of the way through her junior season at Churchill she was probably not considered one of the contenders for either the long or triple jump state titles. Through the regional meet Caulk had jumped a personal-best 34'7.50 in the latter (finishing tied for second with teammate Serenah Polite). Although three other girls came into states having jumped further than the pair at their respective regional meets, Caulk and Polite turned in one of the better performances by a pair of teammates, going 1-2 (Caulk's 37'9 winning mark was nearly two feet longer than the third place finisher's). Caulk also second in the long jump, and may have won that title had DuVal's Mobolaji Adeokun not had a breakout performance in her own right.

Winter 2013 - Kiara Parker: Parker won five state titles during her career at Westlake, with four of them coming as a senior in the winter and spring of 2015. The first, however, was much more of a surprise. A sophomore Parker - a newcomer on the Maryland track scene - took a 7.30 personal best in the 55 meter dash into the 3A state meet; she had also finished just third in the event at the regional meet. She clocked a 7.21 performance in the prelims, faster than top seed Shania Collins, and then edged Friendly's Nailah Johnson by two thousandths of a second in the finals.

Photo by John Roemer

Winter 2014 - Senait Weaver and Kayla Geho: One of the top 1A sprinters as an upperclassman, Weaver's first brush with the spotlight came during her junior indoor season. She had finished second at the 1A Central regional meet in both the 300 and 500 meter dashes, and fourth at the Baltimore County Championships in the latter. After finishing fourth in the 300 at states, Weaver toed the line in the fast section of the 500; a minute and 21 seconds later, she edged North Carroll freshman Mackenzie Poist to earn the first of her three individual state titles.

For six years, Manchester Valley dominated the 1A girls indoor shot put, with three different girls winning five titles. Heading into states, Kayla Geho had not cleared 30 feet in the shot put all season, and had finished behind teammate and fellow sophomore Katie Krebs. It did not take long for her to post a breakout performance at states, however; her first throw was over 33 feet, a three-and-a-half foot personal best and easily the best anyone in the competition would throw.

Winter 2015 - Caitlin Bowman: It was just the second time in her career she had qualified for the state meet (and the first time since the spring of 2013 as a sophomore). The spring before, she had finished seventh at the 3A South regional meet in the high jump. Bowman won the SMAC Championships earlier in the season, but had only cleared five feet once prior to states and had finished just fourth in the high jump competition at regionals. At a state meet where five girls cleared the five-foot mark, Bowman was one of them - and also the only one of the group to clear 5'2. Her first-place finish would be the only time she placed among the top ten at states.

Spring 2016 - Mone't Peterson: Within the span of a week, Peterson made one of the quickest improvements in a single event of the decade. She had previously run 2:25 in the 800 and won the indoor conference title, but finished just sixth at the outdoor conference meet. At the 2A South regional meet, she won and set a new personal best of 2:23 - but it was perhaps what she didn't do in the 400 meter dash that set up her surprising state meet win. By finishing just eighth at the regional meet, she was competing in just the 800 at the state meet, and being fresh for that race seemed to make a world of difference: Peterson ran 2:17.20, beating out Liberty's Evelyn Zietowski and Hereford's Alicia Kozlowski for the victory.

Fall 2016 - Ana Rhoten: Perhaps the most unexpected cross country state champion of the decade, Rhoten had finished 44th at the state meet the year before as a freshman and was coming off of fifth-place finishes at both the conference and regional meets. In fact, she wasn't even the Huskies' top runner at the 1A West regional meet, where junior Faith Parandhamaia beat her out by a couple of seconds. Rhoten finished nearly 50 seconds behind the regional champion Camryn Harper, who was considered the favorite heading into the state meet race. So when Rhoten put almost 30 seconds between her and Harper at Hereford in November, to say it was a surprise would be an understatement.

Interestingly, history almost repeated itself this past fall. Freshman Sophia Brown had finished just fifth at the 1A West regional meet, but hung around with Smithsburg's Daylie Younker up the dip at Hereford in the final mile of the race. Brown ended up finishing second, tying her highest finish in any race over the course of her freshman season, and her huge performance helped Northern Garrett upset Brunswick in the team title chase.

Winter 2017 - Gwenyth Asbury and Maegan Gabby: It was her first time qualifying individually for the state meet, and one key decision helped Asbury win her first state title. She had qualified in both the 1600 and 800, but after running a leg on the 4x800 team that finished third at states, her coaches had her sit out the 1600 and wait for the 800 later in the meet. At counties and regionals (where she had run the 1600), she had placed sixth and fourth, respectively, in the 800; at states, she beat out Paint Branch's Yasmine Kass for an unlikely victory in the only individual race she would ever compete in at the state championships.

Has any program dominated an individual event like the Oakdale girls have in the pole vault? After Emma King and Jackie McNulty accounted for indoor state titles in the event from 2011-15, the 2016 winter season had come and gone without an Oakdale girl on top. As of the beginning of February 2017, it looked like that might not change, as junior Maegan Gabby sported a personal best of just eight feet. However, Gabby raised that mark to 8'9 at the regional meet where she finished second (she hadn't finished higher than fifth in any competition all season). At states, Gabby repeated the feat with another nine-inch personal best. She cleared 9'6 on her second attempt to win the 3A state title.

Spring 2018 - Christina Marion: Marion holds a special place in history as St. Charles' first-ever individual girls state champion. During the final few meets of her junior outdoor season, she raised her personal best and finished higher at every single meet. Marion's run began at the SMAC Championships where she finished fourth, and then at the 3A South regional meet where she was the runner-up (and cleared the 35-foot mark for the first time). However, she still had to contend with Northern's Jasmine Holland (the conference and regional champion) at states. Marion's first jump of the state meet took her 36 feet, 11 and a half inches. In Holland's final jump, she fell just one inch shy of Marion's opening mark, sealing the latter's place in the state record books.