A lot has gone the Northwest High School boys’ indoor track and field team’s way in recent years, but it was the Jaguars’ strength of character on display when things began to unravel at the Class 4A Maryland State Championship held Feb. 20 at the Prince George’s Sports and Learning Complex. Trailing with just one more race to go—the 1,600-meter relay—Northwest brushed aside obstacle after obstacle to clinch its unprecedented fifth consecutive state title with a 52-43 advantage over Prince George’s County’s Henry A. Wise. Baltimore County’s Delaney, in position to win the title, finished third with 41.50 points.
“Things were just going backwards,” Northwest Coach Robert Youngblood said. “Our (3,200-meter) relay was disqualified and (senior Khaloni Mganga) was disqualified—an official made a judgement call—in the 300 dash at regionals, where he had the second fastest time in the state. But the way these guys came together—they were not going to let (this title) get taken from them.”
It was senior Chase Osborne’s win—by .08 seconds in the 800 run that provided the spark that drove Northwest to its historic victory, senior Daniel Goodman said. But after pushing himself to his limits in collecting those vital 10 points, Osborne wouldn’t have enough time to recover for the meet-finale 1,600 relay, which he was slated to anchor.
“I think we had eight guys start warming up and getting ready to run that 4×4 (for Osborne),” Goodman said.
Ultimately—after a team meeting—it was senior distance runner Daniel Rogers who stepped in to join Mganga and juniors Peter Mensah and Alexander Moore; as the anchor, Rogers ran one of the fastest splits in an event he had never contested, to help Northwest solidify its championship with a second-place finish in the relay. And the Jaguars’ time of 3 minutes, 27.47 seconds broke an eight-year program record.
The boys were also inspired by their female counterparts, Youngblood said. With only two athletes competing in individual events, and one relay, the Jaguar girls led with two events before finishing in third place, just seven points out of first. Walter Johnson won the title with 53 points, ahead of Severna Park in second with 49 points; the Jaguars finished with 46 points.
Though Northwest prides itself on being an overall program, one big family, and not two separate teams, the boys’ and girls’ sides took two completely different paths to state success. Whereas the girls benefit from a few true superstars—birthday girl Taylor Wright won the 300 dash and high jump and finished second in the 55 dash by .001 seconds and Editta Pessima won the 55 hurdles and finished fourth in the high jump—the boys are propelled by depth.
Fourteen boys qualified for and competed at the state meet for Northwest, and though the Jaguars only won two events—Mganga in the 55 dash and Osborne in the 800 run—they scored in eight. Plus, with three athletes in the top 8 of the high jump—Divinus Muteba (second), Clarence Foote-Talley (seventh) and Tray Dawkins (eighth)—Northwest picked up more points (11) than the team that won the event.
Other individual scorers for Northwest included Moore (seventh in the 500 run), DeAndre Jules (sixth in shot put) and Dawkins (fifth in 55 hurdles). Mganga and Dawkins teamed with Barr Farri and Mensah for fifth in the 800-meter relay, and Wright and Pessima picked up fifth in the 800 relay alongside Cori Brown and Alice Adarkwa.
“Each point is very crucial,” Mganga said. “I think (this title) just shows how hard we’ve worked throughout the season to get to this point.”