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Jan. 19, 2008

Montgomery County Invitational signifies work to be done for indoor track

by Lucas Alvarado-Farrar, Online Features Editor
PG County Sports Complex, Jan. 12 -

Coming off a stunning outdoor season last year, the Blair sprint squad had their jets cooled in the Montgomery County Invitational track meet, one of the most important indoor meets in the region. While the relay teams failed to live up to their ambitions, many personal records were set at this key meet, an excellent indicator for regional and even state finishes. "You can really run a personal best at this meet because you get up for it and know all the best runners are going to be here," said assistant coach Mike Fleming.
Junior Jonathan Haughton sprints in the 400 meter relay.

<i>Photo courtesy of Nilan Schnure</i>
Junior Jonathan Haughton sprints in the 400 meter relay. Photo courtesy of Nilan Schnure

The highlight of the night came from senior captain Johanna Gretschel who placed third in the girls' 1600m race. Gretschel started the race at a pace slightly faster than usual, which put her in second, her seeded finish, for most of the race. As she came around the bend for the final 100m, she accidentally spiked the girl behind her, causing Gretschel to break stride while giving her nearest competitor, Becca Kassabian, some fire. Kassabian sprinted ahead of her to the finish, but Gretschel still pulled off an indoor personal record, finishing in 5:20.44, only one 1.22 seconds behind first place finisher, Britt Eckerstrom from Northwest.

After running the grueling mile race, Gretschel jumped back in a few hours later and placed fourth in the girl's 800m run despite finishing third in her heat. She felt as though both of these races taught her valuable lessons. "They were learning experiences for me. If I had started to kick earlier I could have placed higher, but that's something I'll take with me to my next race" said Gretschel.

Another personal record was set Saturday evening by senior Nilan Schnure who placed sixth in the boy's 800m run. Schnure ran an impeccable race, starting off in the middle of the pack and picking off runners one-by-one as he flew around the 200m track. Although at points looking as though he might break two minutes, he still managed to drop two seconds off his previous indoor record.

Later in the night the boys 400m relay team (Schnure, senior Enuma Nzesi, junior Chris Grindley, junior Jonathan Haughton) sped their way into first in the county and sixth overall. Despite the absence of their fastest 400m runner, senior captain Lewis Varella, the squad managed to maintain last year's tenth place finish time from states. "It was a bit hectic with Lewis not running, but we still did a decent job. The teams that beat us we could potentially beat," said Schnure.

A different key sprint squad, the boys 200m relay team (Haughton, Enuma Nzesi, Grindley, senior Mohamed Mansaray) blazed to a sixth overall finish at the meet and second in the county. After putting together an impressive effort and maintaining second through their heat, the team's rhythm got off-track during an unexpected twist in the final leg. While Mansaray was bearing down on the finish line another runner elbowed and kicked him, causing Mansaray to break his focus and speedy stride with a split second look at the perpetrator. "I'm positive we could have done better, especially since Mohamed was hurt," said Nzesi.
Junior Chris Grindley (left) dashes past his opponents.

<i>Photo courtesy of Nilan Schnure.</i>
Junior Chris Grindley (left) dashes past his opponents. Photo courtesy of Nilan Schnure.

Although those were the best finishes of the night, junior Rutvij Pandya, junior Greg Vogel and junior Jonathan Haughton also put together notable individual races and the girls 200m relay team (junior Amber Seals, sophomore Ani Nzesi, sophomore Ima Nzesi, senior Dorcas Olawuni) looked strong as well. Both Pandya and Vogel set personal bests in the mile finishing at 4:43.77 and 4:50.83 respectively. "I'd have to point out Rutvij, that was his best since spring season," said assistant coach Fleming. Haughton pumped out a well run 400m race, finishing in 51.87 seconds. The girls 200m relay squad put up a time of 1:53.84, good for twenty-sixth overall.

Despite the high placing, the coaches disagreed on the success of the meet. According to Fleming, "all the runners performed at a level they should be at this time of the season." But head coach Ralph Penn was somewhat disappointed by the results. "We need to show up to practice," he said. "I would like to think we can go far at states, but it all depends on how healthy we stay."

Some runners were more optimistic, believing that they could place very well not just at counties and regionals but also at states. "I know we're going to dominate, but if Lewis doesn't come back we're going to have to step it up" said Nzesi. Haughton agreed, "I see us finishing first in both counties and regionals [for 400m and 200m boys' relay]."

The Blazers' next meet will be the Montgomery County Championship meet on Tues., Jan. 22, at the PG County Sports Complex.

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  • Sorghum on January 21, 2008 at 4:27 PM
    We are the runners, runners are we.
    Ha, Ha, Ha Ha. Hee, hee, hee hee.
  • e) None of the above on January 21, 2008 at 7:41 PM
    Rutvij and Nilan both ran personal bests for indoor. Rutvij has run 4:40 and Nilan ran 2:01 last spring.
  • Smokin Ace on February 8, 2008 at 12:52 PM
    we puttin blair on the map, YA DIGG
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