Old Mill track and field Coach Janet Liimatta brought together her six best boys' 400-meter runners for an emotional meeting just minutes before the Patriots were scheduled to check in for the 4x400-meter relay at the Maryland 4A outdoor track and field championships at Morgan State University's Hughes Stadium.
Old Mill trailed Suitland by 2.5 points, and its hopes for a championship depended on the final race of the day, the 4x400-meter relay, a race in which the Patriots had never beaten Suitland.
"It was very emotional," Old Mill senior Anthony Littlejohn said. "We were all almost crying."
In the end, Littlejohn, Matt Taby, Kyle Rauser and Darnell Dixon decided to run in the relay, and the quartet pulled off an improbable result. Needing to finish two spots in front of Suitland, Dixon ran a come-from-behind leg to pass Suitland, then held off a charge from Eleanor Roosevelt to win the race.
Because Eleanor Roosevelt had moved to second place, it took two points from Suitland and allowed Old Mill to clinch its first state championship since 1991 and fifth in history.
The team dedicated the win to David Price and Steve Holmes, the two runners who stepped aside to allow the Patriots to field their best four for the relay.
"They deserve as much credit as we do," Rauser said. "We really wanted this team victory, and we were going to do whatever we could."
Rauser and Littlejohn had key one-two performances in the 800, and Littlejohn also finished second in the 1,600 against Gaithersburg's Zach Martinez.
Other top performers included Arundel senior Bryan Jones, who completed his successful season with wins in the 110 hurdles (14.31) and 300 hurdles (38.45), and Broadneck All-Met Lauren Centrowitz, whose senior year ended with wins in the 800 (2 minutes 13.73 seconds) and 1,600 (4:55.75).
Annapolis's boys finished second in the 3A meet, led by Will Eden's win in the 3,200 and Eric Herndon's win in the triple jump. Southern's boys were second in 2A, led by senior A.J. Lee's wins in 200 and long jump.