La Plata junior Robert Watley had always treated the 300-meter dash as more of a run than a sprint. But after speaking to good friend Corryl Boyd, who set a Maryland 3A meet record in the 300 on Thursday for Westlake, Watley changed his mind.
Watley said he typically doesn't start sprinting until he nears the final turn, passing everybody on the last stretch. That had won him the SMAC and 3A/2A Maryland region titles, but he wasn't sure how it would hold up in Friday's Maryland 3A/2A indoor track championships at Prince George's Sports & Learning Complex in Landover.
Watley's new strategy paid off as he won the event with a career-best time of 35.01 seconds, 0.93 seconds ahead of Reservoir's Quentin James. "It was scary deciding to sprint it because at the end of the race you're really hurting," said Watley, who ran 38.01 at regionals. "But I got to the line and thought, 'I've got to do this.' "
La Plata's boys were eight points ahead of Middletown after 10 of the 13 events, but Middletown had a second-place finisher in the high jump and a first- and second-place finisher in the pole vault to tie at 35. It's the first tie for the championship since 1981.
La Plata Coach Richard Williams appealed the 55-meter hurdles and 3,200-meter run to tournament officials, saying his team scored 40 points, but the appeal was denied.
Williams jokingly said he wanted to settle the score by running Watley's event, the 300 meters, again. A coin flip decided which team would take home the trophy, and Williams incorrectly chose heads.
"I wanted to use a quarter, but they used a dime," Williams said. "I told them by the laws of physics that a quarter is more likely to have a 50/50 chance. The dime didn't even turn in the air, and it hit a rail, biasing the toss."
Huntingtown juniors Zach Ray and T.J. Ricchiuto finished first and second, respectively, in the 55-meter hurdles. They took first and second in the SMAC and 3A/2A Central Region meets. Before their run the two always say a prayer that they will be the top two, then say, "I'll see you at the finish line."
"I can always feel him on my right shoulder," said Ray, who set a 3A/2A record with his time of 7.45. "It's good to see another guy in your uniform."