Bethesda-Chevy Chase senior Beth Catherwood came in from the cold to win titles in the 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs at Monday night's Montgomery County Championships at the Prince George's County Sports and learning complex.
While most of her teammates train in the school hallways, Catherwood has spent her first indoor track season steadfastly running outside in frigid temperatures. That rigorous regimen has helped the 2A cross-country state champion build the confidence needed to knock off younger but more experienced competitors. She won the 3,200 in a personal-record 11 minutes, 58.50 seconds over Poolesville junior Janelle Thompson (12:05.80) and captured the 1,600 in 5:24.30 by out-sprinting Walter Johnson junior Ashley St. Denis (5:26.53).
"Running outside makes you mentally tough, and knowing in the back of my mind I have that training gives me confidence," said Catherwood, who also ran the anchor leg on the 3,200-meter relay that placed second to Walter Johnson. "I came in thinking [I could win] the mile, but with my hamstrings sore, I wasn't sure [about the two-mile]."
St. Denis, who was also battling a sore hamstring, said she wasn't surprised by Catherwood's performance.
"After the [3,200 relay], I thought, 'Oh, Beth is probably going to whiz by me.' I was hoping it wouldn't come down to a sprint, but sure enough, it did --- and she out-sprinted me."
Defending boys' champion Gaithersburg edged Paint Branch 90.5-87.5 as senior Brian Porter won the 55 dash (6.49), senior Eric Pauley dominated the 1,600 (4:28.28) and junior John Welbon cleared 6 feet 6 inches for the high jump title. The Trojans have now won a county-best seven boys' titles. Most valuable performer honors went to Paint Branch senior Edwin Campbell for winning the 300 dash (35.72) and powering the winning 800 relay (1:32.42) as well as the 1,600 relay team, which defended its title in a meet-record 3:31.29.
Walter Johnson won the girls' title, 74-52, over Blake thanks in large part to senior Laura Shaw, who was named the meet's most valuable performer after winning the 55-meter hurdles (8.59) and placing second in the 55- and 300-meter dashes.
The Wildcats defended their title in the girls' 1,600 relay in 4:08.79, more than a second better than the meet record they set last year. Poolesville also kept its crown in the girls' 800 relay, coming within a second of beating its meet record of 1:47.50 set last year.
Richard Montgomery sophomore Sharifa Love turned in an eye-opening win in the 300 (41.66 seconds) and was runner-up in the 500 by just more than four-tenths of a second to Blake sophomore Kellie Dunston (1:19.03).
Blake junior Aharon Conerly ran a personal-record 1:07.62 to win the 500, but while his challenger was certainly familiar, it wasn't who he was expecting. His brother, Paint Branch senior Azariah Conerly, made a surge to finish second in 1:09.33, while the favored Campbell placed fifth (1:10.32).
"Edwin is my main competition in Montgomery County, and I thought for sure he would move up, but he didn't," said Aharon Conerly, who also led Blake's runner-up times in the 4x200 and 4x400 relays. "I was nervous at the beginning of the race and I didn't stay down. Usually I try to come out low and strong, but I popped right up. Luckily, it worked out."
A Fever Pitch
Since losing its first game of the season to Sherwood, Wootton, the defending Maryland Scholastic Hockey League champion, has won six straight.
Senior Jared Kersner, who had a 101 degree fever against Sherwood but still managed to score two goals, has been the driving force for the Warriors. In seven games, Kersner has 33 goals and seven assists, including a 10-goal, two-assist effort in Wootton's 14-4 win over Whitman on Jan. 9. The 5-foot-9, 180-pound winger exercises equal parts patience and persistence when controlling the puck.
"He's a hard-nosed player; if he can run you over and score a goal, he'd rather do that than go around you and score a goal," Wootton Coach Dave Evans said. "He enjoys the physical aspect of the game, and I respect that. It certainly makes [him] tougher to stop. He can dance around you, but if he has to, he can run over you."
Kersner is not the only scoring threat for Wootton (6-1). In Wootton's last game, against Springbrook, 12 players recorded points.
Wootton's goaltender, senior Mark Sevier, was the team's most valuable player last season, and is playing just as well this year, giving up just 12 goals during the team's six-game winning streak.
"This guy is the focal point of the locker room, he's a great leader," Evans said. "He's one of those guys that everyone has total respect for."
On a Roll
Like Wootton, Walter Johnson lost its first game of the season to Sherwood. And like the Warriors, Walter Johnson has won its last five games, including a 9-5 win over Springbrook last Friday.
Against Springbrook, sophomore winger Arie Stock had a hat trick and sophomore defenseman Josh Cohen scored two goals.
Both Cohen and Stock are part of Walter Johnson's crop of young, talented players, which has first-year coach Bobby Poulin excited about the program's future. The varsity team features one freshman and seven sophomores and the program fielded a junior varsity team for the first time this year.
"The strength of our team is the younger guys," Poulin said. "We have a lot of tenth graders and under that are really good hockey players. Hopefully, it'll mean we'll get to Sherwood status at one point. Everyone seems to think that Sherwood is a Tier I team, and one of my long term goals for the club is to move to Tier I."
The bulk of the young talent is concentrated on defense, which fits Poulin's coaching style. The team's lone freshman, Isaac Snyder, has been paired with senior Phillip Chalker, and the pair has been playing well on defense.
"The Super Bowl is a perfect example [that] defense wins championships," Poulin said. "If the other team doesn't score while you're on the ice, that means you are playing well defensively."