In late April, Severna Park track and field senior Emily Knight, an accomplished sprinter, had a request for Falcons head coach Josh Alcombright.
“I just asked my coach if I could try [the mile] because I wanted to see what I could run,” said Knight. “He ended up putting me in it.”
Four weeks later, it turned out Knight’s curiosity was well-founded: on May 25, she ran the fastest mile at the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association state championship meet at Morgan State, becoming the 4A state champion in the 1600-meter run in just her fourth-ever competitive metric mile race.
Knight’s performance was one highlight of a superb weekend for Severna Park and Broadneck athletes, who excelled in an array of events and did their programs proud to close the season.
A seasoned sprinter who has indoor state titles in the 500 and 800, Knight ran a meet-best 1600 time (across 1A, 2A, 3A and 4A classifications) of 5:02.45. Knight was all-but impossibly far behind both Howard’s Amanda Eliker and Walter Johnson’s Ella Gaul with 150 meters to go in the race, but she used her sprint training to pass both runners, out-leg Eliker down the home stretch and win by four-tenths of a second, falling to her knees in exhaustion as she crossed the finish line.
She capped her season and high school career with individual 1600 victories at the county, region and state championship meets, saying she figured after counties that she might have the ability to win at states.
“I thought I probably had a shot,” she said. “I didn’t really feel any pressure. I knew my coach was going to be happy either way. As long as I try my hardest and I’m having fun, he’ll be happy with what I do. I wasn’t really feeling any pressure. I just wanted to go out there and have fun for my last high school states.”
If one state title is fun, two is even more so; Knight also was the lead leg for the Falcons’ 4x800 relay team that included Brenna Mullaney, Alyssa Combs and Sophie Zell. The foursome clocked a 9:28.19 to win the state championship over Walter Johnson’s runner-up team by more than 10 seconds.
Knight, Mullaney, Combs and Zell weren’t the only Falcons earning state-championship medals in the 4x800 as Severna Park’s boys won a tight 4x800 race as well. Carson Sloat, Alex Chaisson, Jack Muldoon and Josh Mercado clocked a 4x800 relay time of 8:02.14 to edge out Paint Branch’s team (8:02.82) for a state crown of their own, with Mercado running a blistering final leg to overcome his opponent from Paint Branch and seal the win.
Sarah Adams was a state champion for Severna Park in pole vault. The senior closed out her high school career by winning with a personal-record vault height of 11 feet. She was one of only three competitors to clear 10 feet, 6 inches, her previous personal best, and she cleared 11 feet on her second attempt to ultimately secure the state crown. She’s a first-time state champ in pole vault after finishing as runner-up at states twice, once in indoor and once outdoors.
“It is really cool and I couldn’t have done it without my amazing coaches, supportive friends and family, and the team as a whole,” said Adams. “I knew going into this meet that I had a chance to win. I worked really hard to get where I am, but I definitely couldn’t have done it without my team…I’m so proud of everyone here, especially the seniors, who I’m going to miss so much next year. The Severna Park track program is so special and we are all a big family and I’m so happy that I get to spend every day with them.”
On Friday, May 24, Broadneck’s Mollie Fenn produced one of the amazing results of the weekend in winning the 3200-meter 4A state championship. Just a freshman, Fenn ran a sub-11-minute time (10:59.35) to win the race by six seconds over Eliker.
Fenn said her typical 3200-meter race plan became immediately inapplicable once the gun went off.
“It was definitely a different race than I was used to running. It was a totally different strategy,” said Fenn. “In the past 3200s I’ve done, I try to lead with the pack for the first mile and then pick up the pace and get a lead, and that’s usually been my strategy, but [this] was not at all like that. The pace was pushed right away. It was stiff competition from the beginning. I had [Walter Johnson’s] Jenna Goldberg right on my hip for the entire race. It helped having someone next to me and pushing me. Usually I make my move about a mile in, and this time I was not away until 800 meters left. I was not really expecting it, but it pushed my limits and my boundaries a little, so it really helped me get the time. I wasn’t sure if I was going to break 11 this season, but with good competition and a good team, it really helped.”
The county had a heavy presence in the girls 3200 as Broadneck teammate Anna Janke placed fourth and Zell placed fifth. Severna Park’s Grace Cambon finished ninth.
Qualifying for states is in itself a significant accomplishment, and Severna Park had many subsequent successes to celebrate as the boys finished third out of 34 teams and the girls tied for sixth out of 33 teams.
On the boys side, Chaisson was fractions of a second off a state title in the 800, earning second with a time of 1:54.74, just behind race winner Drew Dailey of Dulaney (1:54.30). Sloat finished ninth in the 800 final. Garrison Clark placed second in the 3200 and sixth in the 1600. JoJo Kelliher placed third in high jump, clearing 6 feet, 2 inches. Matthew Tagle competed in pole vault, clearing 11 feet to place seventh. Andrew Weinstein qualified in long jump and finished 10th. Nathan Vandemeulebroecke and freshman Nick Benedict qualified for 3200-meter finals and finished 12th and 14th, respectively.
For the girls, Zell placed third in the 800; Mullaney was 10th and Knight was 11th. Adams competed in 300-meter hurdles and finished 10th. Knight, Zell, Olivia Wright and Mullaney ran the 4x400 and finished 11th. The Falcons’ 4x200 team of Janice Chukwu, Shania Johnson, Claire Kintzley and Adams competed and finished 14th. Kintzley finished 10th in triple jump.
For the Broadneck girls, the meet was highlighted by Fenn’s performance along with teammate Anna Janke. Janke and Fenn finished fourth and fifth, respectively, in the 1600 race won by Knight. Janke finished fourth in the 3200 won by Fenn. Janke also competed in the 800 and finished 15th. The 4x800 team of Jasmine Jones, Madeleine Hurley, Grace Denius and Madison Palmer placed eighth. Sienna Rhee, Amanda Nash and Tori Ochoa all competed in pole vault, finishing 10th, 11th and 13th, respectively. Erica Jacobson competed in discus, placing 11th.
On the boys side, Broadneck’s Joe Simpson placed third in shot put.
Other state champions from Anne Arundel County included Meade’s Preston Duffield, who won the 4A shot put title with a 55 foot, 1 inch throw; and South River’s Corey Troxler, who won the 4A pole vault with a vault of 14 feet, 6 inches.
Knight expressed sentiments similar to Adams in describing the impact the Severna Park track and field team has had on her.
“I don’t even have words to describe it,” Knight said. “I just feel so lucky to have such a good team, such good teammates and coaches. They made us feel like a family. Everyone is so supportive of each other. We’ll be doing a cool-down and everyone is motivating each other. No matter how everyone does in the race, regardless of whether you don’t do as well as you want to, everyone is happy for each other. It’s so nice having coaches that are so supportive of us. I don’t know how I’m going to find anything better than what we have.”
Janke likewise expressed pride in representing Broadneck at states, where she and Fenn experienced individual successes thanks to an ethos of teamwork.
“Our team in general and who’s a part of it, everyone’s super positive,” said Janke. “We’re always working as a team. It’s never fighting against our own teammates. We’re happy with everyone’s place. It’s always working together, and that’s the biggest part of where we are now.”