Senior Rebounds From Injury to Bolster Defending State Champion Girls’ Track RLineup
A year ago, Lydia Robling, who races everything from the 55-meter dash to the 800 run, was wrestling with doctors’ projections that she might never again be able to compete in anything shorter than the 400 dash. A hip injury, which was eventually diagnosed as snapping hip syndrome, threatened to keep her from sprinting, something that requires an explosiveness she wouldn’t need in longer distances. But this winter, as Robling nears a year of diligent rehabilitation (she continues to work on hip mobility and sticks to a strict weight room program set up by her physical therapist), Hawks coach CJ Ecalono said she’s not only back to sprinting, but has returned to the high jump, an event she contested as a freshman and sophomore before the hip pain began.
Robling’s 7.71-second performance in the 55 dash at the Liberty Christmas Invitational hosted by Liberty University (Lynchburg, Virginia) on Dec. 14 was just .06 off her personal best, which she ran en route to a fifth-place finish at the 2018 Central Maryland Conference Championships. In Lynchburg, Robling also posted personal records in both the 300 dash (42.77) and high jump (4 feet, 10 inches). And on Dec. 6, she won the 500 run, helping Urbana to the title at the HCC/Terry Baker Invitational at Hagerstown Community College.
Robling’s return to the track is quite timely as the Hawks have some points to make up if they’re going to defend their indoor and outdoor state championships this winter and spring.
“But that’s not really our goal,” Ecalono said. “Our goal is to go out there and have fun. We have a huge target on our back now. And I’ve learned over the years that (all you can do is your best and) whatever happens, happens.”
Though Urbana won states by 33 points last winter, the Hawks lost 31 points in individual scoring with the graduation of their pole vaulting trio, which finished first, second and fifth, as well as two of the state’s best distance runners. But that’s where Urbana’s depth and versatility come into play. Led by junior middle distance/ distance runner Ella Auderset, who entered this season holding six program records, sprinter/jumper Piper Jons, whose personal-best 42.09 in her win in the 300 at the HCC/Terry Baker Invitational was Urbana’s second-fastest of all time behind Auderset, senior hurdler/jumper/throwers Ezri and Oni Scott, and middle distance/ distance runners Karly and Emily McDonnell, the Hawks have all the tools necessary to contend for more championships this winter. The challenge, Ecalono said, will be finding the best scoring combinations. And that might mean taking some girls out of the best events for the good of the team. Fortunately for Ecalono and Urbana, this team is incredibly unselfish, he said.
“(Winning a championship) is more about getting points than winning an event and the girls know we have a decision to make,” Ecalono said. “Almost every single girl on this team is going to have to swallow her pride. With our versatility, some girls might not run in one event they’d hoped to run, but they’ll have to pridefully run whatever event we need; go out there and put up points for the team in another event.”
Hawks Ice Hockey Kicks Off Conference Title Defense With 6-1 Record
With nine returning players who saw significant playing time during last winter’s run to Urbana’s first Maryland Student Hockey League Monocacy Valley Conference championship title since 2011, the Hawks are poised to contend for the title again in 2020. Urbana also has its sights set on improving upon last year’s disappointing—and unexpected—first-round exit in the state championship. The Hawks have not missed the 16-team, season-ending competition in more than a decade.
Despite missing three of its top players due to club hockey obligations, Urbana avenged its only conference loss of the season with a 1-0 victory over Frederick County’s co-op team on Dec. 20. Senior Andrew Landry, who 10th-year coach Toby Heusser said has the ability to fill in wherever he is needed on both offense and defense, scored the game’s only goal. It was also Landry who scored the game winner in last year’s conference championship.
As defending conference champions, the Hawks entered 2019-20 knowing everyone in the league would be coming after them, said Heusser, who last year was honored as the state’s Coach of the Year. Urbana has stressed the importance of remaining focused and working hard during practices, and not taking any team for granted, Heusser said.
Communication and cohesion, senior forward Chris Rerko said, has also been vital to the Hawks’ quick start to 2020. As of Dec. 23, Urbana was 7-3 overall, 6-1 against conference opponents.
Whereas some of the more successful teams are carried by one, maybe two top players, Urbana is able to rely on standout performances from four or five on any given day. And the Hawks boast strength in all areas of the ice.
Junior forward Corey Heflin, who is second in the league with 23 points (12 goals, 11 assists), Rerko, who is third in the league with 17 points (nine, eight), senior forward Andrew Landry (5, 50) and junior forward Tommy Coffey, who is fourth in the league with 2.14 points per game (seven, eight), lead an offense that has scored 51 goals in 10 games and has outscored its conference opponents 40-20.
Led by senior Tony Shi, who Heusser deemed a lockdown defenseman, and junior John Rempe, who plays for Team MD 18U AAA, Urbana’s defense—backed by goalkeepers Joseph Zibragos (2.8 goals against average) and Brody Channell (3.71 GAA)—has not only done well to keep opponents off the scoreboard, but provides more freedom for the Hawks’ attack.
“Coach Heusser’s style of pairing experienced players with developing team members has helped the team to bond and create on-ice chemistry,” Landry said. “There’s no one ‘star,’ as we are One Team, One Urbana. Everyone has potential, everyone contributes, and everyone gives it their all.”
Senior Wrestler Steps Into More Prominent Role as Hawks Eye State Title
They say patience is a virtue. Just ask Hawks senior Wyatt Scates. After three years in a supporting role, the 145-pounder has “earned a spot at the table” this winter, Urbana coach Justin Krop said. Not only has Scates, whom Krop described as very slick and very athletic, broken into the Hawks’ starting lineup this season, but he’s been named a team captain as well.
“(Scates’) leadership comes from patience, understanding and embracing his role on the team,” Krop said. “He was on JV his first two seasons and (his journey) just shows that if you’re patient, embrace your role and are willing to (do what you need to do) to make others better, eventually it’ll be your turn. It’s a great message especially for our freshman and sophomores that if you continue to work hard and be an active member, a positive part of the team, you can have the chance to not only become a starter, but you can be a captain.”
Scates, who is strongest on his feet, has tremendous pin power, Krop said, which will especially come in handy for dual meets. As he continues to work on his mindset and approach when he’s on the ground, “the sky is the limit to where he can go this season,” Krop said.
The same could be said for Urbana in general this winter. With virtually their entire lineup back from a year ago—with, of course, big shoes to fill at 195 pounds after the graduation of four-time Frederick County and two-time state champion Kevin Makosy—the 2018 dual meet state champion Hawks are in good position to contend for their second championship in three years, third overall.
Paving the way for Urbana are senior captain Austin Rohn and junior captain Colin Acton. Though Rohn, who won county and regional titles last season before finishing fifth at states, has only been wrestling for three years, his work ethic has helped him close the gap against more experienced wrestlers. And he has his eye on finishing the season atop the podium, both individually and as a team.
“(Rohn’s) biggest weapon is his gas tank,” Krop said. “He’s in tremendous condition and is aggressive. He’s able to wrestle at a high pace (the whole bout).”
Acton, another returning state qualifier who won his first county championship last winter and finished runner-up at regionals, has a notorious cradle that everyone in the state knows about—but still struggles to stop. He’s also becoming more technical and aggressive on his feet, Krop said, an added dimension that could catapult Acton into the state’s upper echelon.