BALTIMORE — In the face of obstacles, adversity, misfortune and setbacks, the Largo High School girls track and field team persevered.
The Lions culminate its tough season as champions, winning the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MPSSAA) 1A state championship on May 25.
The Lions last captured a state title in 2007 when they competed under the 3A state classification. This year they finished with 90.50 points in front of Frederick Douglass (Upper Marlboro) and Sparrows Point (Baltimore County).
It is Largo’s seventh outdoor track and field state championship under the reign of Head Coach Darryl Hamilton, who has coached the team since 1995.
“We were excited about winning another state title because during the year…We really weren’t a team that was predicted to win the state title,” said Hamilton. “The girls really worked hard and really stayed the course, and really did what they were supposed to do to win the state title. They came together as a team.”
The team was riddled with injuries during the earlier part of the spring season but that did not deter Largo from reaching its ultimate goal. The Lions were able to get healthy and bounced back in perfect timing to make the proper adjustments by the time the regional meet came around, Hamilton said.
“They had a lot of injuries during the first part of the year, and we just weren’t really together as a team,” Hamilton said. “But then all of our people got their injuries together and they started working hard, and ended up being state champions.”
Obtaining another state title trophy, according to Hamilton, was a balanced, collective effort. The momentum grew after a good showing at the county championships and winning the region meet with 161 points on May 16.
“We had throwers, we had jumpers, we had runners, we had relays and we had everything combined to make a state championship team. We just had to put it all together at the certain time,” Hamilton said, also crediting his assistant coaches for their valuable contributions through the season.
The Lions’ strength was in the relay race events where they accrued 23 points and finished top four in three runs, including a first-place finish in the 4×400-meter relay. Seniors Orlandra and Kendra Chambers, junior Alysha Robinson and sophomore Jade Barnes earned the victory with a time of 4:08.84.
Senior Kendal Drewery continued Largo’s successful day by placing first in the long jump with a distance of 17-9 ½ feet, and the triple jump with a distance of 37 feet. Her top finishes gave Largo an additional 20 points to their final score.
Drewery, one of the team’s newcomers to the program, quickly distinguished herself as a key contributor as a standout jumper and relay runner. She arrived from Archbishop Carroll to Largo in late January, linking up with Hamilton, a long-time mentor who has known her since she was eight-years-old.
The Morgan State commit said she transferred to improve herself academically and athletically at Largo. The decision most certainly paid off with her top performances. However, according to Drewery, if she and her teammates weren’t confident in their abilities, a state title run would not have been possible.
“Coming out with a state title in all that we’ve been through, I’m just thankful that we got the opportunity to compete and win,” said Drewery. “We competed against a whole bunch of great athletes and I’m happy that we came out on top.”
Largo was successful in the throwing events as well. Shot putters Sierra James, Shardae Williams and Rea Gray finished second through fourth. Williams and James finished second and third place in the discus throw for a combined 14 points.
Williams, a four-year thrower for Largo, placed second in the discus throw with a measurement of 124-01 and third in the shot put with a throw of 38-00.
“It’s really unreal. I’ve been doing this for a long time, and I really wanted the rings my last year. And when I found out that we actually won, I was really happy,” said Williams, who will also take her talents to Baltimore to continue her career at Morgan State.
Recovering from an ankle injury Williams suffered at the indoor state championship meet caused her to miss most of the outdoor season.
Once she returned, she only had a month’s worth of practice before competing again. She bounced back to compete in two regular season meets, the county championships and the regional finals.
With the help of the throwing coach and time spent in rehabilitation and practice, Williams managed to register strong late-season performances to help lift the Lions to another state title crown.
“It was really hard. I was hurting. It was a lot of tears,” Williams said of the recovery process. “But I told myself that I was going to finish my year off, I was not going to quit. And I made it to states, and I did the best I could do… We all came together, we all joined as a family, and we did what we had to do.”
“It’s really like a team of destiny,” Hamilton said. “We really weren’t picked to do anything, and we didn’t that many events during the year, but they kept working hard and they really shined at the end of the year when they were supposed to.”