Running ahead of the pack at the Howard County Championships was not a new experience for William Jones, not long after running a solo 4:18 1600 at a county league meet. (Photo by Craig Amoss)
In "normal" outdoor track seasons, dual meets are sometimes little more than the inconsequential competitions between the more important invites and championships. They are a forum for practicing racing tactics, trying new events or running a competitive workout. Even when taken seriously, dual meets often don't produce the fastest times; the fields are smaller and generally less competitive, and the athletes often aren't quite in top shape like they will be come May.
This year, things are quite obviously different. A dearth of invite and championship (until recently) opportunities meant that these small league meets, often against just one or two other schools, were the only places for athletes to compete and shoot for new personal bests. This also often meant that doing so required one to compete alone, well ahead of the field, without the adrenaline of the full crowd, a title on the line or another competitor right on their tail.
These boys have made the most out of their opportunities in small meets this season, recording major personal bests, often without anyone to push them but themselves.
Aaron Charles - Paul Laurence Dunbar High School
As it turns out, Charles' runner-up finish in the 55 meter dash at the 2020 1A state meet was just a precursor to a serious junior-year breakout. Charles dropped a 10.65 personal best at a Baltimore City league meet on April 21, and nobody has touched that mark since. Charles recently won city titles in the 100 and 200 meter dashes.
Lucas Boiteux - Walter Johnson High School
The Walter Johnson boys have been on a roll lately, and Boiteux's junior breakout is a big reason why. In their most recent meet against Walt Whitman, he won both the 100 and 200, clocking a MD #11 time of 22.11 in the latter.
Donovan Brown - Quince Orchard High School
By default, Brown's hand-timed marks do not show up on the state leaderboard, but if you include hand times, nobody has run faster in the 400 this year than the Quince Orchard junior. A transfer from nearby Watkins Mill High School, Brown has been a dual-meet horse, winning every race of the year from the 100 through the 400 and clocking multiple sub-49 performances.
Aiden Neal - Manchester Valley High School
Perhaps nobody personifies the Year of the Breakout more than the Manchester Valley junior, who is throwing down solo performances in dual meets the likes of which Maryland has never seen. All of his personal bests - MD #2 800 (1:52.98), MD #2 1600 (4:14.54) and MD #2 3200 (9:12.11) - were run in small Carroll County meets.
William Jones - Mt. Hebron High School
In terms of local competition at dual meets, Howard County has been stronger than most leagues this spring. However, on May 15, Jones found himself In a completely solo race. No matter - Jones went out and clocked a 4:18.81 personal best. A DQ at last week's county championships may have cost him another personal best - at least for the time being.
Finn Walsh - Kent Island High School
Walsh has only recently made his way back onto the Maryland state leaderboards; in the span of one week, Walsh clocked personal bests in the 800 (1:55.90), 1600 (4:17.60) and 3200 (9:24.40).
Shimon Simpson - Harford Technical High School
Nobody in Harford County has been able to take down the Harford Tech senior this year. In fact, nobody has come particularly close. That hasn't stopped Simpson - the 2A runner-up in the 55 meter hurdles last winter - from clocking a personal-best 14.78 time that currently ranks sixth in the state.
Edwin Hall - Henry E. Lackey High School
Hall has done a little bit of everything this spring for the Chargers. The sophomore won Charles County titles in the 300 meter hurdles and the 800, and did not lose a single race in either event this year. His 41.14 mark from May 11 would have been good enough to lead all sophomores in Maryland, and then he went and bested that with a 40.53 time at the county meet.
Gavin Shaffer - Dulaney High School
The latest in a growing line of elite high jumpers out of Dulaney, Shaffer only took up the high jump this year. The early results? Promising might actually be an understatement, as performances of 6'4 and 6'5 will attest. Only North Point's Morey Campbell has cleared a better height this year.
Aaron Ray - Loyola-Blakefield High School
The University of Pennsylvania commit made a huge leap in a dual meet against McDonogh on May 5, raising his personal best and MD #1 mark up to 23'10.50. That is still the best mark in the state this spring, and he backed it up with a victorious, 23'6.50 jump at the Henderson Invitational.
Tyree Newman - Frederick Douglass-PG High School
Newman has been PG County's top jumper so far this spring, coming out firing on May 22 with a huge, 44'10 personal-best effort in the triple jump. His previous personal best? 41'3.25, set back during the last official track season on January 2, 2020. The mark currently has him sitting at the fifth spot on the state leaderboard.
Bryce Purnell - Snow Hill High School
Purnell has stood head and shoulders - and maybe torso, too - above the rest of the Bayside Conference so far this spring. His 49'8 personal best in the shot put is not only a MD #5 mark, but only one other Eastern Shore thrower has even come within ten feet of the mark so far.
Aiden Walker - Huntingtown High School
If Walker's talent wasn't evident as a freshman in 2019 when he threw a 144'4 personal best at the state meet, it shouldn't be too hard to see now. His 167'6.50 personal best currently narrowly edges Liam Lovering and Mason Breeze for the top spot on Maryland's discus leaderboard. Only teammate and fellow junior Adam Szatanek has even approached Walker's marks so far this year in Calvert County.