Northwest High School senior sprinter/jumper Taylor Wright has been in the spotlight since she burst onto the high school track scene as a freshman standout in 2015-16, helping the Jaguars win their first indoor track county title that winter since 2013. The state’s top high jumper (six feet) and triple jumper (39 feet, three inches), according to athletic.net, Wright won both events as well as the 55-meter dash to lead Northwest’s girls to their fourth consecutive Montgomery County Indoor Track and Field Championship title on Jan. 16.
But while much well-deserved attention is paid to Wright’s remarkable individual accomplishments—she broke her own school record in the high jump this winter—Northwest’s longevity atop the county and in the state’s upper echelon wouldn’t be possible without “all the little things,” longtime coach Robert Youngblood said.
Senior Cori Brown, who Youngblood said has stepped into a more prominent leadership role this winter, picked up top four finishes in three individual events at the county competition—300 dash (second), long jump (third) and 55m dash (fourth). She also ran in the 800m and 1,600m relays that both finished second; Wright anchored the 800m relay.
Junior Alice Adarkwa also scored in three events. In addition to leading off the 800m relay, she posted a personal best result to pick up second in the high jump (5-02) and finished seventh in the 55 dash.
“We had the strong performance by Taylor at counties, but what people didn’t notice is that Cori Brown had an exceptional meet, too; she did amazing,” Youngblood said. “And then you have (Adarkwa); no one had seen her in the high jump and then she goes and finishes second in the county, is in the finals of the 55 and is on the 800m relay. That’s what the success of the program is all about, the little things. The people, like Cori, who fill in at every position.”
The county championship was a stepping stone ahead of the Class 4A West Region championship, scheduled for Feb. 7, during which Northwest hopes to set itself up to win the program’s first state title since 2011. The Jaguars, who took third at the season-ending meet last winter and second the year before, have not finished outside the state’s top five since their 10th-place result in 2014.
“We have to be focused and understand that this is a qualifier for states and that we have to get (certain) events into states; not one or two people, (certain) events,” Youngblood said. “And then we’ll see how states plays out. Anything can happen at states.”
Senior pole vaulter Whitney Snyder should also boost Northwest’s score at the region and state meets—the event isn’t contested at the county competition. Since fully dedicating herself to the discipline this past year—she attends offsite practices with an individual coach before school—Snyder has continually increased her own school record at almost every meet, Youngblood said. Her 10-foot jump ranks in the state’s top nine, and she recently just missed 11 feet, which was the state’s top jump (by defending state champion and Urbana High senior Payton Bohrer) as of Jan. 28.
“Everyone is looking at (Snyder) as a girl to look up to,” Youngblood said. “She went from average to, ‘Who is this girl?’ She’s been pole vaulting on and off (since she was a freshman) but she had a conversation with me during the summer about what it would take to get to the next level. … All the work she’s put in, that’s why she is where she is.”
Though the Northwest boys fell short of winning counties for the fifth consecutive year, finishing runner-up to a loaded Paint Branch squad, the Jaguars still have their sights set on winning a sixth straight state championship. And they certainly have the tools to accomplish such a feat with athletes the caliber of Clarence Foot-Talley and Anthony Woods, among a slew of other capable multiple event scorers.
Foote-Talley won three individual events—high jump, long jump and triple jump—at the county meet. Woods, who won the 55m dash county title, also picked up fourth place in the 300m dash and second in the long jump. Other top scorers included Bryce Middleton, who tallied top-five finishes in the high jump and triple jump, Nahom Ftwi, who took fifth and sixth place, respectively, in the 1,600m and 800m runs.
“The boys have had a couple of setbacks, a couple athletes weren’t allowed to participate at counties (due to disciplinary action); we had to straighten a few things out,” Youngblood said. “But we still finished second in the county, so we’ll see what we can do, come regionals.”