Oakland Mills outdoor track and field teams finish second at state championships

May 24—LANDOVER — Oakland Mills outdoor track and field teams hold themselves to a high standard. Coaches Renato Gonzales and Chris Brewington expect excellence from their athletes in all areas, starting in the classroom.

Both teams came off Class 2A titles at the 2023 state championships. However, this year offered a new challenge as the Scorpions moved up a classification to 3A. They also graduated several standout performers from those state title teams including Shane King, Trevin McHargh and Oluwasemilore Olakunle.

Yet, the Scorpions didn't flinch at Prince George's Sports & Learning Complex. Both the girls and boys teams finished second at the 2024 state championships, with the girls finishing two points behind Arundel (75-73) and the boys 10 points behind Digital Harbor (73-63). The River Hill and Howard girls tied for fourth with 37 points, while the Howard boys placed third (59) and Mt. Hebron finished sixth (37).

Despite the defeat, both Oakland Mills coaches praised the collective hard work from the group.

"We demand excellence and perfection out of them and the girls rose to the occasion especially," Brewington said. "The boys were supposed to be a year away. People said we're too young, graduated everything. We did the math, we returned five or six points from last year and here you are in a state championship with some fight. It's awesome to just be here in the mix of it. Yeah, it sucks to come up short with the expectation being you've got to win. They're young, we'll be back."

Several Scorpions showcased their talents on the grandest stage of the season. On the girls side, senior Shania Staats had a big impact. Staats often can be found asking the coaches for feedback, always striving to get better.

A transfer from Wilde Lake, Staats excelled in her final state championships. She won a third gold medal in the long jump (18 feet, 5 1/2 inches), and won the 100 in 12.07 seconds. While Staats is an accomplished long jumper, she transitioned into sprinting when joining the Scorpions. Brewington told her as soon as she arrived that she was a sprinter and more than just a jumper.

"Being a three-time long jump state champion, feels really great," Staats said. "It definitely felt different, I was a lot more pumped. The marks just kept increasing, so it was really great. I didn't even make it to states in the 100 before, so winning it this year was so amazing."

Codi Malott burst onto the scene as a freshman. She won the 300-meter hurdles with a 45.73 second personal record. Junior Alicia Hall added a triple jump title (38-11 1/4), while Valerie Ashamu closed out her career with a silver medal in high jump. Fellow junior Janelle Codrington also performed well, highlighted by a fourth-place finish and personal record time in the 110-meter hurdles.

While the Scorpions fell just short, Gonzales hopes this can serve as motivation for the returners moving forward.

"Oakland Mills is the standard no matter what class we're in," Gonzales said. "I think we've shown that. Our kids perform at a high level. We have a bunch of high achievers in the classroom and then it leads to the track and the field. That set the tone for these young kids. Their eyes are up here, wanting to achieve at an even higher level.

Gabriel Murray headlines boys results

Gabriel Murray, a junior, entered the state championships coming off county and regional titles in the 300-meter hurdles. He also set a new personal record time from counties to regionals and continued that trend Thursday.

Murray won the 300 hurdles gold medal with a personal and school record time of 37.91 seconds, the second fastest time in Maryland and the fastest by a public-school student-athlete. The junior also earned a silver medal in the 110-meter hurdles. His success at states marks a stark contrast to last year where he struggled.

After battling an injury during indoor season, he came into the outdoor season with a new focus and a full commitment to hurdles. Gonzales described him as a sponge, complementary of his insistence on always wanting to do more.

"I'm just proud of everything and how far I've come, winning states and getting better and better each meet," Murray said. "I'm also proud of finishing second as a team because all these other schools didn't think we'd be this good. Everyone was saying, 'Next year, next year', but we're here right now."

Murray is already anxiously turning the table to next year, motivated by seeing the celebration of the winners. Other young Scorpions also excelled. Sophomore AJ York set a new personal record in winning the high jump, clearing 6-4. Fellow sophomore Jayden DeLeon finished third in the 300, while junior Keshon Tate placed second in the long jump with a personal record (22-6 3/4).

Their performances are a testament to an important concept Brewington has preached: learning how to win.

"This group had to learn how to be champions," Brewington said. "Graduating 16 kids last year who were extremely vital to what we pulled off over the last two-and-a-half years, we took our lumps indoors. They learned. Jayden DeLeon and AJ York grew up during the outdoor season. Isaac Ramsey and Gabriel Murray, they all grew up in front of our eyes this outdoor season.

"They're here because they learned how to be champions in school, on the track, in practice. They brought it every single day. They thought they could just turn it on, because of how easy the guys before made it look. Once they realized that you have to work, they started working every single day."

Howard's Ensor, Centennial's Newsome win multiple state titles

Howard senior Joey Ensor has set the standard this season for distance running. The 2024 state championships were no different as the senior swept the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 titles, highlighted by a 4:13.8 personal record mile time in the 1,600 However, Ensor's most remarkable feat came in the 4×800 relay on Tuesday.

The anchor leg, Ensor and the Lions trailed Chopticon. Yet, the veteran kicked it into high gear and ran a staggering 1:49.63 split to close out the victory.

"I think running that time was probably the best moment of my entire high school career," Ensor said. "Especially doing it in a relay with all your friends, it's just a different feeling. You're spending every day together and me being able to get that win for them, just meant a lot to me."

In the 800, Ensor's final event of his decorated high school career, the normally stoic runner, showcased some emotion. Upon crossing the finish line one last time, he held out his arms far and wide, with a palpable blend of confidence and excitement.

"I was just really proud of myself with all the work I've put in," Ensor said. "I put my team in a good position to finish in the top three at the state meet. So, going out there and showing what I can do, and my full potential just meant a lot to me."

Centennial senior Marlin Newsome also demonstrated his blazing speed in a challenging 3A field. He won the 100-meter gold medal with a new personal record time of 10.45 seconds, the fastest time in Maryland. Newsome trailed earlier in the race but finished strong in a field where six of the seven other runners also earned personal records.

The race was so close that the jumbotron took some time to display the winner. Newsome was admittedly scared during that wait, but was thrilled when he saw his name up top.

"I'm just blessed and grateful," Newsome said. "I put in a lot of work throughout this entire season, so for me to finish my senior year like this, it means a lot. I knew at the start, this is my last chance. This is the last time I'll run a track meet in high school. So, I had to go out there and just put everything together, technique and just focus on my race."

Roughly two hours later, Newsome stepped back on the track for the 200. After Mt. Hebron senior Coleman Hallums beat him in the event at counties, Newsome won the final battle. He earned a second goal medal with a time of 21.5.