The Northwest High School boys’ track and field team scored in 13 of 18 events—winning three of them and finishing at least one athlete in the top three of three more—at the Class 4A state championship hosted by Morgan State University May 23-25. But the intangibles were just as integral to the Jaguars’ fourth consecutive state title, which tied Howard County’s Oakland Mills’ state record set from 1993-96, as the actual results.
Every single point matters when it comes to winning a state championship, and sometimes the highest scoring lineup can require athletes to sacrifice their own individual results—or step outside their comfort zones—for the good of the team, Coach Robert Youngblood said. The Jaguars’ commitment to each other helped them to a 79-60 advantage over Baltimore County’s Dulaney.
“You have to talk about the commitment of this team,” Youngblood said. “When we sat at the top of Sugarloaf Mountain to talk about what they wanted (for this team), they were willing to give up themselves. You talk about what (senior) AJ Woods did (at states) and no one realizes that he gave up a spot in the long jump so he could run the (400-meter relay) and help the team.”
Woods picked up 14 individual points with second- and third-place finishes in the 100m and 200m dash events and then another 10 points anchoring Northwest’s winning 400m relay. His fourth-place performance at the Class 4A West Region meet would have been good for fifth at states, but Woods told Youngblood that he wanted to compete in whichever events he could contribute the most points toward the team total.
Likewise, senior Isaiah Bishop, a 6-foot2, 213-pound Monmouth University football recruit, known mostly for throwing events—he finished second in shot put at the region meet and fifth at states—stepped in to anchor Northwest’s fourth-place 800m relay and ran the second leg of the Jaguars’ 400m relay.
“(Bishop) is going to play linebacker for Monmouth and here he is, running a 200m sprint to score whatever points we can get,” Youngblood said. “People are like, ‘How can you have a (213-pound linebacker) running a 200?’ But Isaiah Bishop just has so much heart.”
Northwest’s state title run also featured some historic performances. Senior Clarence Foote-Talley, who won the long jump, finished second in the high jump and ran the third leg of the 400m relay, broke his own state meet record three times in the triple jump en route to clinching the gold medal. His leap of 51 feet, 10.5 inches was the longest of any high school boy this spring (as of June 3), according to MileSplit, and stands atop the county’s all-time leaderboard, per mocorunning.com.
The Jaguars’ margin of victory was even more impressive given that they entered the meet without their top discus thrower and missed out on expected points in the 110m hurdles. DeAndre Jules, who finished seventh in the shot put, was disqualified during the regional competition—his season-best throw would’ve been good for second place, and eight points, at the state meet. Senior Endalk Makonnen, who finished fourth in the 110m hurdles at regionals, was disqualified in the event’s preliminary round at states; his season-best time would’ve put him in fourth place. But the Jaguars rallied and knew they’d have to figure out how to pick up the slack for lost points.
Senior Peter Mensah posted a personal record time of 51.23 to score two points in the 400m dash and ran the third leg of the 800m relay. Junior Isiah Williams posted a personal best (10’6) en route to eighth place, and a point, in the pole vault. Other scorers included freshman Darius Lorfils (fourth, high jump), junior Bryce Middleton (sixth, high jump), senior Gottlieb Ayedze (fifth, discus) and senior Yannick Gouanette, who finished seventh in the long jump and was member of both the 400m and 800m relays.
Though Northwest’s girls fell short of winning a second straight championship—they finished second to Urbana—the Jaguars enjoyed some highlighted performances of their own. Senior Taylor Wright capped off an illustrious high school tenure by becoming the first track athlete from Montgomery County to win four individual state titles in a single meet. One of the county’s all-time best jumper and sprinter, she won the 100m and 200m dash events, high jump and triple jump. She’s ranked No. 1 in Maryland in both the high jump and triple jump, according to MileSplit, with jumps of 5’10 and 41’5.5, respectively.
Senior Cori Brown, who Youngblood said “took it upon herself to become an instrumental leader throughout the season” won the long jump with a county-best 18-01.00. She also led off Northwest’s third-place 800m relay and would have had more chances to score in the 400m and 1,600m relays but the Jaguars were disqualified from both at regionals.
“What Taylor did was extraordinary,” Youngblood said. “She’s a next-tier athlete that will be competing in college. And I’d say only about 85 to 95 percent of the athletes on your team, high school is as far as they go. Taylor is part of that upper rchelon; she has the physical tools and determination to take it to another level. And I wouldn’t be surprised if, down the line, she’s pushing for an Olympic spot. She has that kind of skill set.”