Most high school sports team’s seasons culminate with a state championship. And in years past, the Urbana High School girls’ outdoor track and field team would have taken some time off to recuperate from a grueling nearly month-long postseason, especially after winning its first-ever Class 4A title this spring. But with a school record nine athletes qualified for New Balance Outdoor Nationals—in six relays and three individual events—and the Hawks decided to keep forging ahead.
Though Urbana Coach CJ Ecalono was not permitted to hold official team practices—per Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association rules, coaches are not allowed to coach a team representing the coach’s school beyond the sports season—he set the girls up with some suggested workouts and left them to their own devices.
“We’re talking another three weeks of training (after states), which is not typically what you do,” Ecalono said. “But they are so self-motivated, they went out there on their own, met up after school or in the morning; even the seniors who were at the beach for senior week got their workouts done. In years past I never could’ve (just sent workouts), but this group, specifically this year, is so self-motivated.”
Added recently graduated Susannah Auderset: “It’s challenging without (the whole team) there, it’s hard to push yourself. But we all met (to train together) and pushed each other and pushed ourselves.”
New Balance Outdoor Nationals, hosted by North Carolina A&T State University June 13 to 16, perennially features the country’s top high school talent. The Hawks reaped the benefits of their hard work, holding their own against the best of the best and setting three new program records along the way.
On June 15, recent graduate Lily Morrell, rising seniors Riley Johnson and Piper Jons, and rising sophomore Ella Auderset set a new team mark (1 minute, 42.54 seconds)—and posted the state’s ninth-fastest time—to earn a top 30 finish among more than 50 squads in the 800-meter relay championship race. On the same day, Jons, Morrell, rising sophomore Karly McDonnell and Susannah Auderset snapped a school record in the 1,600 sprint medley relay championship with a time of 4:11.17, good for 22nd. On June 16, Karly and Emily McDonnell, Johnson and recent graduate Mary Miller ran a program-best 12:48.67 in the emerging elite distance medley for another top 30 finish.
Urbana competed in three more relays, finishing 26th of more than 50 teams in the 1,600m relay championship (Jons, Karly McDonnell, Susannah and Ella Auderset) and in the top 35 of the emerging elite 1,600m relay (Johnson, Emily McDonnell, Morrell, Michaela Garvey) and emerging elite 3,200m relay (Emily and Karly McDonnell, Garvey and Susannah Auderset).
Ella Auderset tallied two top 20 finishes in the emerging elite 400m run and 800m run championship; Morrell also qualified and finished in the top 40 of the emerging elite 400m hurdles.
“In the past, we’ve had one or two relays qualified but we had (nine) people down there and it was an amazing experience to finish off our season and a good end of high school (for me),” Susannah Auderset said. “It’s amazing to watch and point out all the runners you hear about, who are hitting all these fast times. The competition is shocking at first, because our relays that performed well in regionals and states, aren’t up at the top at nationals. But it was a chance for us to push ourselves and get fired up.”
The Hawk boys were also represented in North Carolina. Benjamin Warrick, Evan Schwab, Myron Holland and Timothy Ogunsola finished in the top 30 of the emerging elite 800m relay and Holland, Schwab, Ryan Beach and Jack Eskay picked up 25th in the emerging elite 800m sprint relay.
Urbana’s girls broke a total of 11 school records in 2019, including Mary Miller’s 18:50.18 en route to winning the 5,000m run at the DMV Meet of the Elite on June 1 and Jons’ 25.28 in the 200m dash on the same day. Though the Hawks graduated several top scorers this spring, a solid core is slated to return in 2020, and they have their sights on even larger achievements.
“We’re losing a lot of seniors, but the people who went to nationals and are coming back, we have even greater goals for next year,” Ella Auderset said. “One of the big things is we get these backpacks so when we go back for indoor track and cross country, (our teammates) see these backpacks and it sets an example of what they can do if they really work hard. And I think that makes our program as a whole work harder.”