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State Championships

Hereford High School, Parkton MD

Saturday, November 8, 2008

 Solomon Haile
Solomon Haile blitzes the field
Lowers the boom on Centro’s meet record, drops it by :18

3A-4A Story and Photos by David Austin, Dyestat Correspondent

America’s got talent.  And his name is Solomon Haile.  He burst onto the national high school track scene earlier this year, with wins in the Nike Indoor and Outdoor 5000m, just months after coming to the US from his native Ethiopia.  After an undefeated and record-setting fall campaign, he came here to the venerated Hereford cross-country course to compete in the Maryland State High School championships.  And compete he did, leading the large-school boys’ race from start to finish and crushing Matthew Centrowitz’s blazing meet record in the process.

The outcome was not entirely foregone, on this beautiful day with the autumn colors at their most brilliant.  The Sherwood senior would be doing battle in the boys’ 4A race with the defending champion, junior Andrew Palmer of Walt Whitman, who has Nike Outdoor cred to his name as well, a win in a highly competitive freshman mile sixteen months ago.  Haile would also be going after the course record, which until earlier this fall had stubbornly stuck at 16 minutes even, despite concerted efforts by a number of top runners.  Atholton’s Graham Bazell had put paid to that barrier with his 15:51 at the Bull Run Invitational just last month, providing a tough target in the best of circumstances, let alone with the added pressure of a state meet.

Although Palmer gave a very spirited defense of his title, Haile (known as Solomon Semunguse to friends and family in Ethiopia) controlled the race from the outset.  He opened conservatively with a 5:10 mile (sixteen seconds off of Bazell’s record pace), with Palmer at his shoulder, and the pair already fourteen seconds up on the field.  But coming out of the Dip—the notorious, eight-story ravine the runners descend and ascend twice each race—Haile lowered the boom, quickly opening an essentially insurmountable gap.  He came through the two mile at 10:30, one second faster than Bazell’s record pace, and then blitzed a 5:13 final mile to take the record down by eight seconds, all the way to 15:43 for this tough, three-mile course.  The 6’2” Haile looked comfortable and in command throughout, thrusting his fist as he neared the finish line and saw that the record and state meet title were his.

In the team competition, Walter Johnson of Bethesda, a program with a long and storied past, took the team title with a mere 48 points and beat second place by a stunning 91 points.

Based on his performance today, Haile would seem to project as a title contender at Foot Locker next month.  Three-time winner Matthew Centrowitz Jr., now a sophomore at Oregon, finished 8th in the 2006 edition of Foot Locker after his big-margin 16:01 win here two years ago.

3A: Addie Tousley had built a comfortable lead over Elyse Borisko (at  left) as she neared the second descent into the Dip at 2.5 miles.
And although Palmer was disappointed to lose his title, he ran an excellent 16:23, thirteen seconds faster than his winning time last year and an incredible 31 seconds up on third place, the similarly-named Antonio Palmer of Gaithersburg.  As Andrew Palmer learned this year with the arrival of Solomon Haile, you can never count on defending because you never know who is going to show up next year.  But it’s worth noting that the next-fastest returning runner for next autumn finished 46 seconds back of Palmer.

The story-line in DyeStat’s coverage of last year’s meet was that all of the front-runners got punished for fast early paces, and none of the leaders heading into the Dip at a mile-and-a-quarter came away with the win.  This year, it was the complete opposite – all of the leaders at the mile mark and heading into the Dip ended up winning their races.  The difference?  They went out conservatively.

 3A: Graham Bazell and teammate Michael Lynch, who would finish 1-2, had a big lead already on their first circuit through the Dip.
The boys’ 3A race provided the perfect example.  Heavy favorite Graham Bazell had a choice of trying to take back his course record, which he saw broken just fifteen minutes before the start of his own race.  But he, too, opened conservatively (at least, compared to his record effort) with a 5:07.  Running one-two with teammate Michael Lynch not far behind, Bazell led the entire way but was clearly aiming for the win rather than the record.  A prudent strategy, one that netted him a win in 16:29, and a team title for his Atholton squad, by 69-74 over Bel Air.  That result, too, provides a striking contrast with last year’s races, when the two of the team competitions were decided by a single point and a third was decided by just four points.The girls’ 3A race was competitive despite the move to Connecticut of Hereford’s course-record-holder and last year’s champion Kristen Malloy.  Back to contend this year was two-time runner-up Elyse Borisko of Howard, who would do battle with favored Addie Tousley of Bethesda-Chevy Chase.  Tousley set the pace and essentially led the whole way, although not by much until the final mile.  At the mile post she clocked 6:13 to Borisko’s 6:14, widened the gap to five seconds at the two mile mark, and came home the winner by 35 seconds in 19:59.

Borisko’s three second-place trophies are plenty to be proud of, and we hope that she is.  It’s been done before.  Remember that at Foot Locker, Reno, Nevada’s Mel Lawrence was 2nd-2nd-2nd-5th in her four years, and did she hang her head?  Well, it’s kinda hard to do that when they’re giving you a Standing O at the awards ceremony.  We hope your fine results feel as good to you, Elyse Borisko.  In team competition, Towson took the title with 55 points to Hereford’s 84.

The girls’ 4A race featured a repeat battle between last year’s 1-2 finishers, senior Teshika Rivers of Eleanor Roosevelt and soph Britt Eckerstrom of Northwest in Germantown.  But a funny thing happened on the way to the Forum: Walter Johnson’s Anna Bosse, also a sophomore, got in the mix, set the pace, and took a close, four-second win over Rivers, 19:38 to 19:42, with Eckerstrom third in 19:57.  The winning team had no runner in the top seven in this race.  CM Wright took the tile with tight pack running, their top runner 8th and their fifth runner 33rd.  Northwest was second, well back with 127 points to Wright’s 93.

In closing, a note about the times.  Except for Haile and Palmer in the boys’ 4A race, the top times were much slower than last year in 3A and 4A.   This year’s temperatures seemed more conducive to fast times—mid 60s rather than high 40s—but the ground was a little spongy (although footing was firm) from recent rains.

Maryland State Meet Index