Buffington blasts off, sends Cougars to 1A state track and field championship

·4 min read

May 29—LANDOVER — Curly brown locks flapping in his wake, pain and suffering boiling below the surface, Catoctin's Brody Buffington pushed himself toward the finish line and another record-setting time Saturday at the state track and field championships.

It's unclear how fast Buffington, a star junior sprinter and jumper for the Cougars, might have run if he were 100 percent healthy.

The back was still balking from a pinched nerve. The lower legs were still aching from what he believes might be shin splits. All of the pollen in the air meant his allergies were acting up. And his floppy hair might have been creating enough drag to slow him down by a few hundredths of a second.

"I was thinking about getting a buzz cut," Buffington said.

But all of those factors made his performance all the more remarkable Saturday and helped lift the Catoctin boys to their first state outdoor team championship in Class 1A at the Prince George's Sports and Learning Complex, following their first indoor team championship during the winter season.

"Whatever I can do to help the team," said Buffington, who followed his victory Thursday in the long jump (21 feet, 7 1/2 inches) with expected victories in the 100- and 200-meter dashes.

His winning time in the 100 dash (10.6 seconds) set a new 1A record for event, and his winning time in the 200 (21.54 seconds) shattered the school record in the event.

Buffington alone accounted for 30 of Catoctin's 73 points in the meet, as the Cougars held off second-place Mountain Ridge (51 points) by a comfortable margin.

"The team is the reason I push myself like I do," he said.

Buffington led a contingent of boys champions from Frederick County on the second day of the state meet, which featured athletes from all four classifications after Friday's 4A-3A meet was postponed due to weather.

Frederick's Arthur Core won the 3A 110-meter hurdles in 14.53 seconds. The Cadets also claimed a victory in the 3A 4x100 relay, as the team of Nashon McKinney-Spear, Newton Essiem, Joseph Poleate and Reginald Snowden ran a time of 43.36 seconds.

Meanwhile, the Thomas Johnson team of Christopher Hall, Simon Essono, Leonard Taylor and Sean Snody won the 3A 4x200 relay in 1 minute, 29.16 seconds, while Oakdale's Sam Starrs won the 3A pole vault, as expected, in his final state meet with a winning height of 14 feet, 9 inches.

"It's bittersweet," said Starrs, who claimed his fourth state title in the pole vault (two outdoor, two indoor) and will continue his career at Dartmouth College.

The architect of Catoctin's state team championships, of course, is Dave Lillard, who built the program at Oakdale from scratch into a multi-time indoor and outdoor team champion before heading north to Thurmont.

As always, Lillard demurred and insisted the credit belonged elsewhere when asked about the remarkable rise of the Catoctin program under his leadership, which began in earnest last year with the shortened spring season due to the pandemic.

He even talked his way out of getting the Gatorade bath from his athletes, and as a result, assistant coach Trey Davis, who works with the long and triple jumpers, got the brunt of it.

"It would be more fun for him than me," Lillard said. "That's what I successfully talked them into. It would be much more fun dousing him."

Yet, it's Lillard who convinces top-notch athletes to run and jump and throw for his team.

"I just saw him running up a hill, and I'm like, 'You need to run for us,'" Lillard said of sophomore Furious Trammel, who placed second in the long jump, third in the triple jump, fourth in the 400 dash and ran a leg for the Cougars' eighth-place 4x400 relay team.

"These guys Layne [Stull] and Dylan [Wangness], they were in my class," Lillard said of two members of his state-qualifying 4x100 team. "You talk to them in the hallway. You say, 'Hey, come out.'"

Senior Garrett Sullivan finished second in the discus (128-3) and junior Alex Contreras placed in the 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs to help lead the scoring charge for Catoctin.

"Sometimes all kids need is an invitation," Lillard said. "And they are willing to do it."

Follow Greg Swatek on Twitter: @greg_swatek