Howard County Times 2023-24 girls indoor track and field All-County: Lauren Virmani named Athlete of the Year

May 1—River Hill sophomore Lauren Virmani began distance running at a young age with Bullseye Running.

Her early start helped set the foundation for a high track IQ. Virmani's knowledge extends beyond race experience, learning from various coaches, her dad and watching others.

She's observed different technical nuances from some runners who start fast and maintain pace, to others who have a fast kick at the end. Understanding those technical nuances is beneficial as she often uses that understanding to strategically outpace an opponent.

Her vast knowledge helped facilitate continual growth. At counties, she won the mile (5 minutes, 11.24 seconds) and two-mile (11:20.30), and finished third in the 800. She was the runner-up in the two-mile at 3A East Regionals, placed third in the mile and finished fifth in the 800.

Trusting her training, Virmani shined on the season's biggest stage. She set new personal record times in the mile (5:05.31) and two-mile (11:07.93) as the runner-up in both events. The sophomore also ran the opening leg of the 3A classification record-breaking state champion 4×800 relay team (9:35.39).

For her accomplishments, Virmani is the 2023-24 Howard County Times girls indoor track and field Athlete of the Year.

"Working with my teammates, all of us in general PRing so much, just getting so much faster throughout the entire season from start to end," Virmani said of what she's most proud of. "If you look at our times, they're a lot faster from the first time I ran a mile to this most recent state mile."

Virmani's dedication immediately stood out when River Hill coach Ammera Schmidt met her and her sister, Marella, for the first time before last indoor season. Playing soccer in the fall, the sisters didn't have a fluid transition into track. However, that challenge doesn't dissuade the distance running tandem, priding themselves on being dedicated.

"Lauren's track IQ is super fine-tuned," Schmidt said. "It doesn't matter what I say to her or ask her to do. She's going to do it and do it to the best of her ability. She's going to do it without complaining. She is the most dedicated person I think that I've ever had the opportunity to coach."

Whether after practice, on the weekends or before school, the sisters always find a way to complete their offseason track workouts. Those help keep them in shape and maintain their track speed. They also showcase the sister's healthy competition, competing in many of the same events and bringing out the best in one another.

"It's amazing being able to work with her," Lauren said. "If one day I'm feeling better I'll be pushing the pace. Neither of us wants to lose to each other, so we're always right next to each other, even in the races. If I push the pace a little, she's right on my tail the whole time. If she pushes the pace, I try and stay with her the whole time and definitely pushes both of us to go a lot faster."

Only a sophomore, Virmani isn't satisfied. She's excited to keep pushing and improving her times, leaning on that unique track IQ.

"It's extremely rare," Schmidt said. "Often you'll get an athlete that has the natural ability, but they don't know race or running IQ. They don't know when they need to push or when they need to pull back or just hang with the pack. You have the others that have the ability to distinguish the techniques in it but don't necessarily have the natural ability. She has both of them put together."

All-County first team

Valerie Ashamu, Oakland Mills, senior

Ashamu swept the high jump title at counties, regionals and states, clearing 5 feet, 4 inches at both regionals and states. She won her first career indoor gold medal after finishing as the runner-up in high jump at states as a junior.

Caitlin Fritz, Centennial, junior

Fritz set a personal record time in the mile at counties (5:23.13), placing fourth. At regionals, the junior won the mile (5:24.56) and set a personal record in the 800 (2:28.98), placing sixth. She closed out her season placing seventh in the mile at states.

Alicia Hall, Oakland Mills, junior

Hall excelled at the Howard County championships in the triple jump with a distance of 39 feet, breaking both a county and meet record. With just one jumping event in the postseason, Hall placed third in the high jump at regionals and fifth in the event at states.

Kendall Hall, Long Reach, sophomore

The sophomore shined at counties and regionals, winning both the 300 and 500 at both meets, improving on her 300 time (41.13) from counties to regionals. Hall continued her success at states with a runner-up finish in the 300 and placing sixth in the 500.

Riley Herdson, Centennial, junior

Herdson swept the 800 at counties, regionals and states, winning her first indoor gold medal at states. She progressively improved her time at each meet, finishing in 2:23.04 at counties, 2:19.79 at regionals and 2:19.50 at states.

Abiola Owens, Glenelg, junior

Owens showcased her versatility for the Gladiators competing in the 55-meter hurdles, 4×200 relay and high jump. She won the hurdles at counties (8.76) and then was the runner-up at regionals with a then personal-record time of 8.53 seconds. The junior then set a new personal record at states as the runner-up, finishing in 8.48 seconds.

Sydney Rhodes, Howard, junior

Rhodes dominated her junior season after battling an injury as a sophomore. She won the 55-meter titles at counties, regionals and states, saving her best for last with a personal record time of 7.13 seconds. The junior also placed third in the 300 at counties and was the runner-up at regionals. She also was a member of the county and regional winning 4×200 relay team, that finished as the runner-up at states.

Aniyah Toppin, Long Reach, senior

At counties, Toppin registered a pair of runner-up finishes in the 55 meter and 300, with personal record times of 7.30 and 41.37, respectively. She continued that success at regionals, placing third in the 55 and fourth in the 300. The senior closed out her career earning fourth in the 55 at states and sixth in the 300.

Marella Virmani, River Hill, sophomore

Marella was the runner-up in the 800 at counties and continued her success in the distance events at regionals. She was the runner-up once again in the 800 (2:21.43) and placed fifth in the 1,600 (5:14.79), with personal record times in both events. The sophomore set a new personal record at states (2:20.21) finishing fourth and was also a member of the 3A classification record-breaking 4×800 relay team.

Avery Voeltner, Centennial, senior

Voeltner won the pole vault title at counties, clearing 10 feet. She then set a personal record at regionals, clearing 10 feet, 8 inches, finishing as the runner-up. The veteran one-upped herself at states with a new personal record clearing 10 feet, 9 inches, placing fourth to close out her career.

Katherine Wood, Atholton, senior

Wood capped off her career with her best season winning the county shot put title (34 feet, 0.5 inches). She then finished third at both regionals and states, highlighted by a new personal record (38 feet, 4 inches) in her final high school meet.

All-County second team

Jaidyn Augustine, Marriotts Ridge, sophomore, sprints

Ava Carr, Howard, freshman, sprints/high jump

Kaniyah Ervin, Reservoir, junior, mid-distance/relays

Aniya Headspeth, Centennial, sophomore, mid-distance

Aryann Koroma, Hammond, junior, mid-distance/relays

Frankie Moore, Oakland Mills, senior, distance/relays

Ciara Amon-Nicholls, Long Reach, senior, high jump

Claire Sivitz, Howard, freshman, distance

Shania Staats, Oakland Mills, senior, sprints/mid-distance/jumps/relays