Jun. 23—Howard's Nimrit Ahuja was superstitious. Early in her high school career when she was new to running, Ahuja would eat the same breakfast before each race, do her hair the same way, wear the same bracelet.
However, the more experience she gained, the more Ahuja realized the real key to success focused on maintaining consistency in her preparation.
Extensive training and repetition fueled her dominant senior season in which she captured state, regional and county championships in the 800 and 1,600 meters and on the 4x800 relay. She also finished first on the 4x400 relay at regionals and counties and third at states.
She was a key factor in the Lions winning the Howard County championship, the Class 3A East regional championship and 3A state championship. Ahuja, who will run collegiately at Brown University, is the 2022 Howard County Times/Columbia Flier girls outdoor track and field Athlete of the Year.
It is the second consecutive season she won the honor. It also marks her fourth straight season winning the award, also receiving the honor during the cross country and indoor track and field seasons this school year.
"I always tell athletes to think back to successful practices and races, replaying those in your mind, what can we emulate to do over again when it's a future race coming up?" Howard coach Zachary Dickerson said. "I think Nimrit took that to heart and I think she's really trusted herself more over her four years.
"She's obviously in great physical shape, but I think what separates her from other top athletes in the state is how mentally tough she is. You don't see it by looking at her. She's an unassuming, normal looking girl but she's tough as nails and I would not want to be anywhere near her with 400 meters to go in a race because she's probably going to win that."
After breaking five minutes in the mile for the first time at states last season, she did it twice more this year. She ran 4 minutes, 59.68 seconds at regionals and 4:59:92 at states. She was the only girl to break five minutes at the state championships.
"It's exciting," Ahuja said. "I did it for the first time at states last year. So, being able to do it at the same place, it always puts it as a special place for me and I know that everyone there is super talented. It just reaffirmed how the seconds and milliseconds can really make a difference."
This year's postseason came with its own unique set of challenges. At regionals, Ahuja competed in the blistering heat at Reservoir and wasn't slowed. The state championships are normally split into two days of competition, but were consolidated into one day due to the weather. However, Dickerson kept Ahuja in all four events, knowing she could handle the challenge with her extensive training and preparation.
"Figuring out what to eat between races can be challenging," Ahuja said. "Sometimes I have 30 minutes between races. If I just ran the mile and I have the 800 coming up, I don't know if I should eat an actual solid meal or just a granola bar. I don't want to eat too much and have my stomach be full, but I also don't want to eat too little and not have energy. I relied a lot on drinks that have electrolytes in them."
Effectively finding that delicate balance, Ahuja's performance at states helped to make sure the Lions' wouldn't fall short at states. After losing by two points in the indoor state finals, the Lions finished with 104 points, doubling the total of second-place Linganore.
"Finding out that I ran the fastest time in the 800 with my teammate Hannah [Schwab] there was really exciting," Ahuja said. "We were just hugging each other. By the last race, the 4x400, we knew that we already had the state title as a team. It was really exciting to run the 4x400 with no pressure knowing it was my last race and just putting my heart out there."
All-County first team
Jamie Adams, Reservoir, senior
The senior exceled on the biggest stage during states with a pair of individual gold medals in the 100 and 200, also taking the spot in the 4x100 relay and second in the 4x200 relay. She won the 400 but was fifth in the 200 at the Howard County championships.
Janasia Buckner, River Hill, senior
Janasia took home a bronze medal in the 100 at states, finishing in 12.1 seconds. She also took home state silver and bronze medals as a member of the 4x100 and 4x200 relay teams. The senior also earned third place in the 100 at regionals and county championships.
Larasia Buckner, River Hill, junior
Larasia finished third in the 100 hurdles at states, finishing in 15.59 seconds, and was a member of the silver and bronze medal-winning 4x100 and 4x200 relay teams. She broke her previous personal record of 15.81 seconds, which she set during her second-place time at regionals.
Alicia Hall, Oakland Mills, freshman
At states, Hall finished second in the triple jump with a distance of 34-10 1/2 . She earned fourth and fifth place in the high and long jump, respectively. She won second place in all three events at regionals, including personal record in the long jump (16-3. 1/2 ) and triple jump (35-8).
Elizabeth Holcombe, Howard, senior
Holcombe won the 3,200 at the county championships, regionals and states, improving on her time in each competition. Finishing in 11:34.9 on May 10, Holcombe ran nearly 30 seconds faster at states, finishing in 11:06.98.
Camryn Jones-Howard, Wilde Lake, sophomore
Jones-Howard earned a bronze medal at states in the high jump clearing 5-2 and a silver medal in the triple jump at 36-6 3/4 . Jones-Howard also competed on the 4x100 and 4x200 relay teams, which registered top-seven finishes.
Arayana Ladson, Mt. Hebron, sophomore
Ladson won two state championships, winning the 100 hurdles and the long jump. Ladson won the 100 hurdles in 14.67 seconds, and the long jump with a jump of 18-3 3/4 . She also won regional titles in both events.
Aliya Murray, Oakland Mills, junior
Murray finished in the top 10 in the 100, 200 and 400 at states. Her best finishes came in the 100 and 200 where she finished fourth in each. At the county championships, she finished fourth in the 100 and third in both the 200 and 400.
Frankie Moore, Oakland Mills, sophomore
Moore earned a state gold medal in the 1,600, finishing in 5:14:72. She also took home first place in the event at regionals and third place in the county championships. The sophomore finished fourth in the 800 at states.
Liv Ragonese, Centennial, senior
Ragonese earned first place in shot put at the county championships, 3A East regional and states. She also earned a state silver medal in discus after winning the event at both the county and regional championships, with a personal record of 112 feet at regionals.
Ruth Smith, Howard, junior
Smith captured first place in high jump at the Howard County championships, 3A East regional and states. She cleared 5-4 at all three competitions.
Shanise Staats, Wilde Lake, junior
Staats earned fourth in both the 100 hurdles and 300 hurdles at states. Before states, Staats finished first in the 300 hurdles and second in the 100 hurdles at regionals with a personal record time of 12.33.
Chloe Williams, Hammond, junior
Williams earned third at states in the 200, finishing in a personal record 25.74 seconds. She also earned fifth in the 100. At the Class 2A West Regional, she finished third in both the 100 and 200.
All-County second team
Bailey Allmon, Glenelg, senior
Oba Aofolaju, Oakland Mills, junior
Valerie Ashamu, Oakland Mills, sophomore
Sophie Davidson, Reservoir, senior
Kani'a Dozier, Reservoir, junior
Bianca Durant, Howard, freshman
Annabelle Gannon, Glenelg, sophomore
Michaela Greene, Howard, senior
Riley Herdson, Centennial, freshman
Arianna Marshall, Oakland Mills, senior
Kiara Murray, Howard, senior
Ciara Amon-Nicholls, Long Reach, sophomore
Araoluwa Omitowoju, River Hill, senior
Hannah Schwab, Howard, senior