The exuberance of Friendly's unheralded 4x200 team was nearly its undoing in Monday's Maryland 3A/2A championships at the Prince George's Sports & Learning Complex, as anchor Shane Grinder was warned for raising his hands in victory as he crossed the finish line in the Patriots' win over defending champion Paint Branch.
"The [finish line official] came up and said, 'I know you're all happy, but don't celebrate,' " Grinder said. "I was just too excited, I didn't know which hand to raise, so I raised them both."
The winning time (1 minute 32.24 seconds) was nine-tenths of a second ahead of Paint Branch and two-hundredths of a second off the state meet record set last year by the Panthers, the team Friendly had been aiming for all season.
"I'm not trying to brag, but we were tired of hearing 'Paint Branch this, and Paint Branch that,' " said senior Chip Weeks, who gave the Patriots a strong lead on the first leg. "We weren't even the top seed, and we crushed them."
Friendly entered as the third seed, a position Coach Bobby Grinder found unfair considering the 3A/2A East Region had to qualify on the Fifth Regiment Armory's antiquated floor while Paint Branch and Blake ran in the West Region at Hagerstown Community College. However, the team of Weeks, Grinder, Donald Davenport and Davon Dixon has been on a mission all year to put Friendly on the map in sprinter-rich Prince George's County, and the atmosphere of the state meet was all it needed.
"The adrenaline of the state meet definitely helped us," Shane Grinder said. "Without being pushed, that was our best race of the year. If they were closer, it would have been an even better time."
Weeks also won the 55 dash (6.53) despite feeling fatigue from not being able to train during the snow layoff. Although many athletes were able to train on their own or with their parents, Weeks and Shane Grinder both live with Coach Grinder and could have no track-related contact with him.
"In the [preliminaries], I was dizzy, so you know I was out of shape," Weeks said.
The Patriots hoped to cap the meet by upsetting Paint Branch again in the 4x400 but settled for third (3:31.40) behind Paint Branch (3:30.07) and Blake (3:31.18). Friendly finished the meet in fifth -- its best finish since a runner-up finish in 1985 -- with 26 points, behind Paint Branch (60), Annapolis (46), McDonough ((32) and Mount Hebron (30).
Douglass senior Shani Boone led the Eagles to second place in the girls' team standings, just five points behind Milford Mill, for their best finish since winning in 1998. Boone ran her personal record (hand-timed 39.80) in the 300 to place second by a tenth of a second to Milford Mill's Novia Brown.
"I could have run better. I wanted to win, because that's my race," said Boone, who had run a nationally ranked 40.23 runner-up time at the Prince George's County championships.
However, Boone then placed third (7.34) in the 55 dash -- an event that is certainly not her forte -- and was on the 4x200 relay that beat Milford Mill by nearly a second in 1:46..64.
Boone's resiliency was no surprise for first-year coach Rick Johnson, who said Boone has raw talent but has had to work hard on the fundamentals of track. She was running the 300 in the 44-second range last year but broke out in early January in the Hispanic Games at the New York Armory. In the 200, she made the finals out of a slower heat and placed sixth in 25.41.
"She was a sleeper, they didn't even know what school she was from. She's really dedicated, she's a hard worker, and she's one of the outstanding runners" in the county, Johnson said.