The Northwest High School boys’ outdoor track and field team won its third state title since 2013—and second straight—Saturday at Morgan State University. After winning last year’s season-ending championship by only two points, the Jaguars finished with a 64.50-39 advantage over Baltimore’s Digital Harbor, in second place. The victory marked their seventh track title—including indoor—in five years.
Northwest’s girls, who were once again in state title contention entering the last few events, ultimately finished runner-up, by only nine points, to defending champion Charles H. Flowers of Prince George’s County.
Though the Jaguars were eying a historic state sweep, Northwest can certainly take great pride in the uniquely joint success of its overall track program.
“(Winning another state title) means a lot to the kids. There were a lot of past veterans who came back to watch,” coach Robert Youngblood said. “And it just says a lot that where a lot of other schools have one team do well, we have both teams doing well.”
Northwest’s state title run perfectly exemplified the foundation of what has turned this program into a virtual state track empire. Out of 18 events, the Jaguars won only three: two relays and one individual title—Divinus Muteba in high jump. But they had at least one athlete score in nine events and two scorers in three events. Northwest’s depth and versatility is much more valuable than relying on merely one or two superstars, Youngblood said.
It’s solid performances from guys like senior Ngoy Jeriel Yamatishi, juniors Chase Osborne and Khaloni Mganga and sophomores Athony Woods and Rha Overstreet, who might not be a household names, that make the difference, Youngblood said.
Mganga, who anchored the winning 800-meter relay Saturday that was led off by Woods, scored in the 100 dash, 200 dash and 1,600 relay. He “easily could have been in the 400 dash and would’ve been top three,” but sacrificed his own stats to ensure a stronger relay, Youngblood said—the 400 dash and 800 relay were back-to-back events.
Yamatishi, who ran in both winning relays—the 800 and 3,200—also finished fourth in both the 800 run and 1,600 relay; in addition to his roles in the 1,600 and 3,200 relays, Osborne placed second in the 800 run. Woods, who also led off the fourth-place 400 relay, scored in the 200 dash and Overstreet, who competed in the Varsity B county championships, finished sixth in the discus throw. Other scorers included Robert Gicheru in the high jump and Barr Farri, Tray Dawkins, Aaron Tucker, Elton Quansah and Jose Infante-Rosale in the relays.
The Jaguars girls are a blend of star power and depth, Youngblood said. The usual suspects took care of business: Junior Editta Pessima won the 100 and 300 hurdles and ran in two top 5 relays, sophomore Taylor Wright won the high jump and finished second in 11 dash, 200 dash and 400 relay, classmate Cori Brown scored in three events and senior Stephanie Bateky picked up points in two.
But there were many unsung heroes—at least from an outsider’s perspective—who enabled Northwest to improve upon last year’s third-place finish and stay in contention Saturday.
Junior Yaye Sy, who is the Jaguars second-best hurdler and just missed out on qualifying for states in both events—she finished fifth at regionals—filled in last-minute for Bateky in the third-place 400 relay so the versatile jumper could focus on her field events. And freshman Annabel Dulaney stepped in to the third leg of the fifth-place 1,600 relay to help keep senior Ashley Santini fresh for the long and triple jumps. Santini, who Youngblood said “came into her own this year,” scored in both events.
“Those are the pieces that make the program,” Youngblood said. “You hear about the Taylor Wrights and the Cori Browns, but because of the program, the girls believe in each other and are able to step up.”
Other scorers on the girls’ side were Precious Battle and Chinomoso Njelita in the shot put and Lananda Correia, Sofia Zarate and Helena Lee in the relays.
“Only one team went up to claim two trophies (on Saturday),” Youngblood said, “and that was Northwest.”