One year ago, Mya King of Sparrows Point tripped and fell in both the 100 and 300 hurdles at the Class 1A track and field state championships.
One year ago, Sparrows Point’s Macy Gerbes led the Class 1A state 3,200 meters for six laps before nearly collapsing from heat exhaustion as she staggered toward the finish line, ultimately having to be helped across.
King not only swept the Class 1A state titles in the 100 and 300-meter hurdles on Saturday, but did so while posting new Class 1A records in each race,
On Thursday, Gerbes pulled away over the last two laps and romped to an 18-second victory while winning the Class 1A state 3,200-meter title.
“I’ve made my peace with what happened last year,” King said.
“Before every race this season, I would wonder ‘what if it happens again?’ But I’m so much better this year, so much stronger, so better trained. It wasn’t going to happen again, but it was still constantly in my mind.”
The Class 1A 100-meter hurdles final was the first race on Saturday, the last day of the three-day state championships at Morgan State University.
After King cleared the 10th and final hurdle, her usually intense expression while racing was replaced by a wide smile as she covered the last few yards to the finish line.
No other runner was close to her. King finished in 14.31, breaking the state record she had set just two days earlier in the preliminary heats.
Alliyah Ottley of McDonough was second in 14.69.
“When I got to the seventh hurdle, I thought ‘this race is mine,’” King said. “I didn’t feel anyone around me. I had these thoughts in my head: ‘there are still two more hurdles.’ But I put them out of my head and just thought: ‘Go!’
“I was honestly surprised. I expected the race to be much closer than it was.”
Indeed, the top three qualifiers for the finals had all broken the old state record in the preliminary heats (Taylor Williams of Lackey was third in 14.86).
In the 300 hurdles, King hit a hurdle going into the turn, but kept her feet and still won in a romp with a Class 1A state record time of 43.13.
Ottley was a distant second in 44.91. King’s time was not only a class record, but the fifth-best 300 hurdles time ever run at the state championships.
“Hitting the fourth hurdle scared me so badly,” King said. “I stutter-stepped, to go over the hurdle leading with my left leg, and my trail leg hit the hurdle.
“It shook me because it was in the turn; I had to get my hips squared, finish the turn. It shook my balance a little, but I was able to get my balance back.”
By the last 30-40 meters, King appeared to be running alone.
“After hitting the hurdle, I had to exert more energy to get myself back to where I wanted to be,” King said. “I was shocked there was no one around me; I literally said to myself ‘just have to get over two more hurdles, just two more.’”
In Thursday’s 3,200-meter run, Gerbes was in second place after two laps, in fourth place after three laps and hit the first 1,600 meters in first place with a time of 6:10.
By the fifth lap, Gerbes and Bailee Upole of Northern (Garrett) had separated themselves from the pack, with Upole leading as they entered the seventh lap.
Gerbes surged to take the lead, but Upole regained it on the backstretch. With about 600 meters remaining, however, Gerbes took off and Upole couldn’t follow.
The Pointer sophomore spent the final lap extending her lead and won with a time of 11:52.38. Upole took second in 12:09.44.
Prior to the start of the meet, Gerbes told King she had drank eight bottles of water that day.
“I didn’t want a repeat of last year,” Gerbes said. “But it was easier this year. The sun was just about setting and it wasn’t too hot.”
(The start of the meet had been delayed for nearly an hour from its 4 p.m. start due to thunder.)
“By the seventh lap, we were both trying to give it everything we had,” Gerbes said. “I didn’t want her to out-kick me, so I decided to go.”
The early pace of the race was cautious, with the front pack settling in behind Guinivere Roberts of Carver A&T (who would finish fifth).
“No one was really testing it,” Gerbes said. “They were all following behind the Carver girl. Then coach [Geoff Holland] yelled ‘this is what you’ve been training for’ and I thought: ‘he’s right.’
“I had no idea where Upole was during the last lap. I didn’t know if people were cheering because she was catching up, or cheering for me. So I kept pushing hard.I wanted to look at the video screen to see if anyone was close, but I was too focused.”
Gerbes took the silver in the 1,600 meters on Saturday, as she was unable to catch Brooke Walz of Bohemia Manor. Walz won in 5:17.17 to Gerbes’ 5:21.86.
“I knew her top time this season was 5:11, and I thought, that’s crazy, I’ll never do that,” Gerbes said. “I was just trying to finish in the top three or four. I wanted to stay with Walz, but she got so far ahead.”
Gerbes ended her day on Saturday with a sixth-place finish in the 800 meters. Walz won that race, too, in 2:22.11. Gerbes finished in 2:27.60.
King also earned a bronze medal in the triple jump on Thursday, despite attempting only two of her allotted six jumps. She had a distance of 35-10.75; the winner did 37-0.
King dropped out of the long jump, where she potentially could have medaled, to focus on the 300 hurdles.
Along with Makayla Westry’s seventh-place finish in the shotput, Sparrows Point finished tied for third in the team standings with Boonsboro. Both had 49 points.
Largo won the Class 1A girls team title over Douglass-PG, 90.5 to 74.
Erin Palmer of Patapsco came within a blink or less of earning a fourth gold medal for local athletes when she was edged at the finish line of the Class 3A girls 100 hurdles.
Palmer and Adaobi Tabugbo of Reservoir matched each other stride-for-stride over every hurdle and were still tied coming off of the last hurdle.
They still seemed tied crossing the finish line, but the camera showed Tabugbo’s torso breaking the plane just ahead of Palmer’s.
Tabugbu was clocked at 14.71, and Palmer at 14.72.
Miranda Byrd finished 11th in the long jump for Patapsco with a distance of 16-0.