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Walter Johnson boys win first Maryland 4A track and field title; Howard girls also take crown

Walter Johnson celebrates its Maryland 4A track and field championship Friday in Landover. (Kelyn Soong) (none)

Senior Henry Sheppard said he surprised himself by winning the discus at the Maryland 4A track and field championship in Landover on Friday.

His team, Walter Johnson, may have surprised others with its overall victory, the first in program history.

In addition to Sheppard’s discus (149 feet 9 inches), junior Andrew Schell won the 3,200 meters (9 minutes 32.55 seconds), senior Aaron Jones won the shot put (50-08) and the Wildcats claimed the 4x100 and 4x200 to score 78 points, beating Howard and Severna Park (58 points each)

Arun Sen, Quentin Williams, Fernando Ibarra and Lucas Boiteux won the 4x100 in 43.00 seconds, and the same group won the 4x200 in 1:28.70 for the Wildcats.

“I think a lot of us exceeded our own expectations with the 4x100, 4x200, winning girls’ 4x800 and, you know, taking the field events home and my win with the discus,” Sheppard said. “So I don’t think I saw that one coming.”

On the girls’ side, Howard took first behind strong relay performances across the board, including a 4x200 victory (1:44.64) by Michaela Greene, Olivia Hammond, Dakota West and Kiara Murray. The Lions didn’t win any individual events but scored in 13 of the 18 events, showing the value of their depth.

“It really surprised me, the level of depth we have on the girls’ side, because a lot of them did not start running until probably around January,” Howard sprint coach Erik Jenks said.

Senior Ibrahim Khariat won the high jump for the second-place Howard boys.

For many local athletes, the championships were the first opportunity to compete at the state level in over a year, and restricted qualification rules left many talented athletes sidelined. As a result, team leaders shouldered more than just expectations; they also worked with the rest of the team to maintain motivation and help prepare freshmen for the coming seasons.

“Especially because I’m not exactly the strongest on the team physically, I’ve had to put a lot of work in,” Sheppard said. “So I spent a lot of time over the last year putting together videos of other throwers, watching technique, making playlists and, you know, sharing that with the team, trying to help them as best I can, doing what a teammate should do.”

Said Tom Martin, one of Walter Johnson’s coaches: “He’s worked out every day since sophomore year. I mean, you know, that’s the kind of stuff you want to see get rewarded.”

Another standout senior was Anissa Bernard, who won the 300-meter hurdles (46.46 seconds) and triple jump (38-3.50) for the C.H. Flowers girls, who finished third. Her performance was a microcosm of this year for many: persistence through frustration.

“For my 300-meter hurdles, I did get first place, although I feel like I could have done way better,” Bernard said. “I hit probably like two hurdles … But then I was like: ‘You have to go. You didn’t come all this way just to give up in the middle of a race.’ ”

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