Jennine Strange didn't think Severna Park could win the 3,200-meter relay until about three minutes before it happened.
Strange, the anchor leg on the Falcons' relay, took the baton and started only a step behind a runner for the favored defending state champion C. Milton Wright. She looked at the runner ahead of her, Wright's Kelly Buck, and decided Severna Park could win after all.
"Honestly, I had my doubts about us," said Strange, the 400-meter state champion last year. "I knew we were good, but I didn't think we were that good. I didn't think about winning until I started to run."
And when Strange started running, she ran as well as she ever had. Because Strange caught up with Buck with about 300 meters left in the race, she and her three relay teammates -- Liya Kasimova, Katie Turner and Casey-Shea Stephens -- finished with a season-best time of 9 minutes 34.02 seconds, almost three seconds faster than Wright. The Falcons' time in the race was the fastest of any state champion in any classification.
"Jennine basically won the race by herself," said Kasimova, a Severna Park freshman. "I mean, we all ran pretty well, but she ran great. She just flew, and we all knew, 'Okay, Jennine has this one.' "
Strange took control on her final lap, passing Buck on the first turn to give Severna Park its first lead of the race. The two runners raced almost side by side for 200 more meters. Then, with 100 meters left, Strange broke into a sprint and left Buck gasping behind her.
"I was running for a state title, so it's not like I was going to hold anything back," Strange said. "It was an amazing race. Even after it was over, it took a while to figure out that we had really won. I mean, all of us were kind of shocked and surprised."