Athlete to Watch
Natalie Baird, Park View, Senior
Last year, the Park View senior All-Met set personal bests of 159 feet 4 inches in the discus and 43 feet 1.25 inches in the shot put, and sparked the Loudoun County school to its first Virginia AA title. Baird, who has won multiple individual state titles, set state meet records and earned all-American honors, signed with William & Mary last month.
Around the Area
Montgomery County has enjoyed a wealth of distance talent the past few years, and two young sprinters are joining the fray. Churchill sophomore Katie Wolf, who won the 200- and 400-meter titles at last year's county championship, likely will go head-to-head this year with Wootton freshman Olivia Ekpone. This past indoor season, Ekpone sparked Wootton to the county championship before earning all-American honors in three different events at Nike Indoor Nationals. Wolf and Ekpone are teammates during the summer with their club team, the Maryland Titans.
Since its oldest high school opened in 1954, Loudoun County has never sanctioned indoor track. But the lack of organized winter practices and meets didn't stop Park View from winning its first Virginia AA outdoor championship last spring. Can it win another? The Patriots graduated just one scorer from last year's championship team. And with leadership from seniors Julia Anyaugo and Baird, combined with the addition of several former soccer players, the Patriots look ripe to capture their second straight Dulles District, Region II and AA titles.
Anacosti a, which had just nine girls compete at last year's D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association championships, upset Dunbar for the city title. However, Dunbar rebounded by winning the indoor championship over Anacostia in February. Can the Indians repeat this spring? They stand a chance with the return of Lasheena Nobles, who won the 100 hurdles last year and scored in three other events.
National Cathedral School graduated its top scorer from last year's Independent School League championship team, but has the senior leadership and range to win again. Gabriella DiMarco is one of the league's top returners in the hurdles and Becky Durling leads a strong distance contingent. The Eagles will receive plenty of competition from a deep Potomac School squad led by sophomore Anneka Wilson. Sidwell Friends, which returns all of its scorers from last year's meet -- including 200 and 400 meters champion Lola Adetu -- also will challenge.
No team from Northern Virginia has won the AAA outdoor championship since Gar-Field in 2000. With so many formidable teams in the Eastern Region -- it has produced every state champion since 2001 -- it is unlikely that an area school will end the drought. Osbourn Park, with its overall depth and strong sprint relay teams headlined by twins Brittany and Bethany Hyter, and Westfield, with distance ace Tasia Potasinski, offer the best hope. Lake Braddock, led by standout hurdler and jumper Melanie Akwule, also should contend.
-- Carl Little