The high school season ended last month, but Long Reach rising senior All-Met Tiffani Long continues to post impressive showings in the long jump.
Long's latest achievement came last week at the USA Junior Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Carson, Calif., where she jumped 19 feet to finish sixth in a field of 13 of the country's top high school athletes. Neidra Covington from Gulfport, Fla., won with a leap of 20 feet 1/4 inch.
Long's jump came less than a week after she earned all-American honors at the Nike National Track and Field Championships in Greensboro, N.C., where she took second in the event with 19-41/4.
"I'm always hoping to get first place because my dad taught me that when you jump, you are jumping against the measuring tape, not another person," said Long, who won county and 3A East Region titles before jumping 19 feet to win the title at the Maryland 3A meet last month. "My goal after the county championships was to jump 19 feet, so now my goal is to jump 20 feet."
Long's emergence in the long jump stems from a decision she made before her freshman year. That's when Long, who grew up playing point guard, traded her high-top sneakers for track spikes because she felt her 5-3 frame was better suited for the track than the basketball court.
"I really don't even think about basketball that much anymore," Long said. "I got into long jumping because I wanted to try a new thing, but now I'm glad that I made the right decision to stick with it."
Former Oakland Mills standouts Kyle Farmer and Stefan Pastor closed their collegiate careers as all-Americans and helped lead the University of Florida's outdoor track team to second place at the NCAA Championships in Sacramento earlier this month.
Farmer placed eighth in the 100-meter dash in 10.45 seconds before taking seventh in the 200-meter dash in 20.88 seconds. Pastor teamed with Bernard Middleton, Reggie Witherspoon and Kerron Clement to finish fourth in the 4x400-meter relay in 3 minutes 1.36 seconds, the third-fastest time in school history.
"To finish as an all-American is a great way to end my career," Farmer said. "But it would have been better to leave with a national championship ring."
Shane Stroup, who graduated from River Hill in 2002, concluded his junior year for the Gators by placing fifth in the 1,500 in a school-record 3:38.37 after he entered the final lap in 11th place. The Gators finished with 49 points, 11 behind champion Arkansas.
"My strategy was to just hang in the race and then make a move at the end," said Stroup. "I didn't expect to get that far behind, but everything ended up working out."
Strokes of Genius
Former Howard High swimmer Chris Pearson has been named ESPN The Magazine academic all-American of the year in the men's at-large college division by the College Sports Information Directors Association after the 26-time all-American graduated from Carnegie Mellon earlier this month with a 3.87 grade-point average.
Pearson, who grew up swimming in the Columbia Neighborhood Swimming League and continued his high school career for Howard and the Columbia Clippers, gave his best performance in the pool this past winter. He won championships in the 200-meter butterfly and his second consecutive 200-meter freestyle to lead his team to sixth place at the NCAA Division III national championships.
"I never expected this at all, but its a nice way to go out," said Pearson. "It means a lot to me to win this award because there are so many great athletes in college."
Pearson was also the first Carnegie Mellon student-athlete to win an NCAA postgraduate scholarship of $7,500, which he will use next fall to earn his master's degree in electrical and computer engineering at the university.
Local Team Wins Title
The Soccer Association of Columbia's United Premier, an under-12 girls' soccer team composed mostly of players from Howard County, was the organization's only team -- boys or girls -- in any age group to win the Maryland State Cup earlier this month at the Maryland SoccerPlex in Germantown.
After posting three one-goal wins in the single-elimination tournament, featuring 20 teams, United Premier won the title with a 5-3 victory in penalty kicks over the Baltimore Bays. The teams played to a 1-1 tie after 40 minutes of regulation and two 10-minute periods of sudden-death overtime. United Premier advanced to the U.S. Youth Soccer Championships Region I tournament in Virginia Beach, which begins today and concludes on Tuesday.
United Premier, which won the regular season title in the Washington Area Girls Soccer League Division I with a record of 7-0-2, was perfect in penalty kicks against the Bays. Alexa Narron, Julianne Giles, Michelle Sentinella and Amanda Novy all made their shots before Kryssi Martinek clinched the match.
"I think winning our league really prepared our team because it was tougher to win our league than the state tournament," said Coach Kevin Axenfeld, whose team will switch affiliations next season and represent the Laurel Soccer Club. "We were confident going in that we were going to win."