Hannah Schwab (middle) and teammate Jasmine Wilson (right) will be key factors for Howard's future as state title contenders. (Photo by Craig Amoss)
It may have felt like it at certain points during the past several months, but time didn't stop during 2020, and several athletes overcame the obvious challenges to not only maintain fitness, but reach new levels in their performances. These eight girls took advantage of the opportunities given to them and will be title contenders once sanctioned sports start back up.
Na'Shae Early (Mt. Hebron), Trinity Franklin (Bullis) and Orianna Moore (St. Vincent Pallotti)
Perhaps more than any other event, the discus was harder to evaluate because nothing like it is contested during the winter season. Both Early and Moore cleared the 100-foot mark for the first time during the 2020 outdoor season.
Early did so at the Bullseye Summer Track Series meet on August 27, besting her previous personal best by ten feet. During the indoor season before the shutdown, Early had thrown a personal-best 33'2.50 in the shot put, falling one spot shy of qualifying for the state meet.
Moore was one of Maryland's biggest breakout performers during the winter season. At the IAAM Championships she launched a 37'2.50 throw to win the shot put title, almost three feet better than her previous personal best. She eventually eclipsed the 40-foot mark at one of the final contested meets in March, finishing as the MD #2 thrower for the season. She threw 109'8 on September 24, the second-best by any Maryland thrower during the outdoor season.
Meanwhile, Trinity Franklin became Maryland's undisputed top thrower as just a sophomore in 2020. Her 40'10.50 shot put mark led all athletes during the 2020 indoor season, and it wasn't a fluke performance: she cleared 40 feet four separate times over the course of the winter. Then, in August, Franklin threw 44'5.75 at the PA Powerfest, the fourth-best performance of the decade in the event by a Maryland girl.
Serena Landsman (Winston Churchill)
Landsman's progression from her freshman year in 2018 (20.68 personal best in the 100-meter hurdles) to her senior year has been remarkably consistent. She qualified for states for the first time in the spring of 2019 as a sophomore (finishing 12th in the hurdle prelims) and then scored at states for the first time last winter as a junior (finishing 6th in the hurdle finals).
Not even the COVID-19 shutdown could slow down Landsman. She lowered her personal best in the 100-meter hurdles from 15.75 down to 15.10, the fastest mark in the state. She did not lose in six separate races throughout the summer and fall months. For good measure, Landsman also showed some speed in the sprint events (13.06 100, 27.29 200).
Sameena Mathew (Elite Youth Track Club)
On March 7, Mathew clocked times of 26.96 and 58.66 at the PVA Youth Indoor Invitational, one of the final meets contested during the 2020 indoor season. As it turns out, Mathew was right on the verge of a breakout that would catapult her up the Maryland leaderboards. On July 28, Mathew took home a win in the 400 meter dash at the first Bullseye Summer Track Series meet - her 56.97 time was (and still is) a personal best.
She also finished second in the 200 meter dash that evening, which would be the only time she finished second in three races during the 2020 season. On August 27 she ran 25.11 in the 200 meter dash, a mark that also led all Maryland athletes. Mathew will be one of the interesting names to watch should sanctioned sports return this spring.
Ashley Sadler (Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart)
As a freshman during the spring of 2019 and sophomore last winter, Sadler excelled mostly as a jumper, recording a personal best of 16'9.50 last February that ranked third among all Maryland sophomores in the event. She came into the 2020 spring season with personal bests of 13.21 (100) and 27.34 (200) at Stone Ridge.
Sadler quickly eclipsed those marks during the summer months. She ran two separate personal bests on September 17 at a Bullseye Summer Track Series meet, finishing second overall in both the 100 (12.83) and 200 (26.13). Those performances in the sprints have established Sadler as one of the top all-around athletes in the ISL heading into 2021 and 2022.
Hannah Schwab (Howard)
The 2019 Howard girls cross country team was deep enough that, despite Schwab's sophomore breakout, she rarely competed on the varsity squad (she did run at the 4A East regional meet, finishing 21st). If the 2020 season is any indication, however, Schwab will be a big part of Howard's title defense during the next cross country season.
She clocked an 18:44 three-mile at the first Central Maryland XC open meet in September, finishing right in the mix of a stacked field with runners like Mollie Fenn and Erin McQuitty. Finishing ahead of Schwab? Fellow Howard teammates Nimrit Ahuja and Jasmine Wilson, both of whom are also still just juniors. Even if an official 2020 cross country season does not happen, all three will still be back in 2021 to chase a second consecutive state title.
Leah Stephens (Our Lady of Good Counsel)
Last fall, Stephens was a key member of a young and talented Holy Cross team, consistently running under 21 minutes and placing third at the Maryland Private School state championships. Now at Good Counsel, Stephens has taken a sophomore step towards stardom.
The breakout performance came at the VA Elite XC Invitational on a fast course where many Maryland runners clocked personal bests this fall. Stephens ran 18:47, good for second place in the gold race. Among Maryland athletes, only Juliette Whittaker, Katherine Strong and Cooper Brotherton ran faster this season (all at the VA Elite XC Invitational). The rest of the season featured more impressive performances, including a top-100 finish at the Running Lane National Championships in November. Stephens (a sophomore) and Strong (a junior) will likely have many meetings as fellow Montgomery County private school runners over the course of the next year and a half.