On This Date: The Birth of a Hurdle Rivalry

Photo by Brandon Miles

In the winter of 2017, Brandon Tunson was emerging as one of the state's top hurdlers at C.H. Flowers. A steady progression throughout the season culminated in a fifth-place finish in the 55 meter hurdles at the state championships that season, followed by a fourth-place finish in the 110 meter hurdles at the outdoor state meet in May.

Meanwhile, fellow junior Daniel Whitfield was also making a name for himself as one of the state's top private school hurdlers down the road at Riverdale Baptist. Season bests of 7.53 and 14.41 in the 55 and 110 meter hurdles, respectively, earned him a spot in the Emerging Elite sections at both New Balance indoor and outdoor nationals that year.

Flash forward to the 2018 indoor season. Tunson is returning as one of the early favorites to win the 4A title in the 55 meter hurdles, but he has a new challenger: Whitfield, who was now competing at Henry A. Wise High School. Now competing in the same county, region and state classification, the two had been set on a collision course that would give Maryland fans some of the best hurdle races of the decade.

Their first meeting of the 2018 indoor season at the Ed Bowie Classic did not disappoint. It was their first head-to-head meeting since the Riverdale Baptist Invitational the spring before (where Whitfield ran 14.41 and Tunson placed fourth) and their first as PG County rivals. In the prelims, both runners ran 7.66 in separate heats, setting up a showdown in a loaded finals section that included two juniors who would go on to win state titles in the event in 2019 (Oxon Hill's Zackary Sampson and DuVal's Adetomiwa Adebayo), as well as Blake's Elias Boussouf and Bishop McNamara's Drake Murphy and Jeremiah McCain.

In the finals, Whitfield (7.55) edged Tunson (7.60) in a race that put them at first and third, respectively, on the Maryland leaderboard at the time. It would not be their last meeting. The two would both run 7.47 at the Prince George's County Invitational on January 11, and Whitfield would beat Tunson at the county championships by clocking a season-best time of 7.34.

Whitfield did not compete at regionals or states, however, opening the door for Tunson to win his first individual state championship. That spring, Tunson held the slight edge during the stretch run, sweeping county, regional and state titles (running 13.89 at the 4A state championships) with Whitfield right on his heels in second place every time.