On Jan. 17, no athlete or relay team from the Maryvale Prep track and field team won a single race at the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland indoor championship meet. Senior Tara Coyne was the team’s lone individual winner of the evening, taking first place in the high jump.
And yet, even before the final races of the night had ended and the team scores were finalized, it was clear which team had been the best in the conference once again.
“I knew the middle of the meet was going to be big for us,” head coach Jason Miller said. “So I knew if we could kick the door down and bust through with a high number of points we would have a shot at coming in first. With the field event points coming in after the updated track events I felt our team was on a roll, and we just continued to keep ahead of [the other] teams.”
The Lions may not have had many individual winners, but seven second-place finishes and points in all 15 events all led to a dominant victory, the team’s fourth IAAM indoor title in the past five years. Coming off a third-place finish last winter (their first time losing since the 2014-15 season), Miller knew his team had what it took to reclaim the top spot in the conference before the season even started.
“I knew last year after we placed third by about 20 points that we had a shot to make a run at it this season,” he recalled. “I thought last year’s team had a terrific year and really set the tone for this season. We had most of the girls coming back and only lost a few to graduation. I started off my meeting this season saying that I thought we were a top-two team in the league and that we had a shot to win, if they wanted to go all in.”
Senior captain Emma Buchanan was one of those returners. She had scored in the 500-meter dash at the indoor conference championships every year going back to her freshman season. This season she cut off nearly two seconds from her personal best, running 1:22.69 at the conference championships, where she placed fourth — her highest individual finish at any IAAM championship.
Buchanan credited her experience in the event and four years of training for her success this season.
“Without [the experience] I would not know how to run the race or how to mentally prepare for it,” Buchanan said. “The first time I ran the 500, I had no idea what I was doing. I feel way more confident in my running today.”
Buchanan was part of an extraordinary group of Maryvale Prep seniors who all scored in at least one event. Miller takes great pride in Buchanan, a four-year senior captain.
“She was on fire this season,” he said. “Her hard work in practices made her one of the top 500-meter runners in the league. She would run a personal best almost every time she raced.”
Junior Grace English will not have the opportunity to become a four-year scorer like Buchanan next season. An injury that ended her sophomore indoor season meant that this year’s conference championship meet was the first time she had the opportunity to score individually for the Lions. She did so by placing eighth in the 500-meter dash, an event she had not run until this season.
“In the beginning, trying a whole new event was out of my comfort zone, but I ended up really enjoying running the 500,” English said. “Switching to an individual event this year allowed me to put a little more pressure on myself to beat my times because I could only rely on myself. My mentality had to change knowing I would not have the aid from my teammates like I would when running in a relay.”
Miller admitted that English exceeded even his expectations coming off of a lost sophomore season. He knows she’ll be a big part of next year’s team that will set out to win its fifth conference title in six years.
“Grace is a quiet girl who works her tail off,” he said. “She never complains and does everything you ask of her and more. … Little does she know, she is a force out there.”
Now having been a part of two separate championship teams, English is already looking forward to a potential title run next year.
“Everyone is motivated to win a championship title each year,” she said. “All of the girls on the team are encouraged to step up and contribute no matter what grade they are in, which really leads to our success. Second place for Maryvale is not an option in our minds.”
That mindset is one that Buchanan helped develop during her four years of running at Maryvale Prep and one she hopes will continue as part of her own legacy after she graduates in the spring.
“I’m proud of all the girls that I have helped and have helped me,” she said. “I can’t wait to see the girls continue to dominate.”
Success during the outdoor track season has been harder to come by for the Maryvale Prep team, something Miller attributes in part to the ever-increasing popularity of lacrosse during the spring, as well as the multi-day format and increased amount of sprint events at outdoor meets.
“The outdoor season is more sprint friendly, and we have a good size team but not the depth as we do in the indoor season,” Miller admitted. “It just means that we have to have more athletes step up and us coaches to think outside the box to get over the outdoor hurdle.”
No matter what happens in the spring, though, he knows the team’s success has put the Maryvale Prep program in the conversation of the best programs in the Baltimore area.
“Four titles in five years means that we have a target on our backs and it’s getting bigger,” Miller said. “… This outdoor season, I want us to take some chances and get us back in the talks of another title.”
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Maryvale Prep