Several Howard County boys post high finishes against nation's best at New Balance Indoor Track and Field Nationals

Mar. 18—After excelling at the state level, several of Howard County's top boys indoor track and field performers took their talents to a national stage.

Several area athletes including Oakland Mills 4x200 relay team, Atholton senior Darian Tarver and Centennial's distance medley relay all competed among the nation's best at the New Balance Indoor Nationals.

The Scorpions 4x200 relay team of Trevin McHargh, Shane King, Xavier Doctor and Abdur Hassan finished third in the championship division with a time of 1 minute, 26.88 seconds, more than a second faster than Oakland Mills' group ran the previous year at nationals..

"It's unbelievable," Oakland Mills coach Christopher Brewington said. "I think as a collective whole, we thought it could happen, but when you lose kids like Judson Lincoln IV and Kanye Holland, it becomes a question of who's going to replace those guys? When they did it and went even faster, it's just unbelievable. It's a testament to their work ethic. Shane and Trevin, the guys who were part of the relay last year just continued to work. Xavier and Abdur continued to work super hard, trying to get to that level. They were chasing that 1:28 from last year."

Tarver finished fifth in the 400 (47.81) after setting a personal record time of 47.68 in his preliminary heat. His preliminary time puts him in elite company as one of the top 400-meter runners in Howard County history, third behind Lincoln IV (46.37) and Kyle Farmer (47.0).

Centennial's DMR team of Sebastian Martinez, Michael Pearson, David Hertzberger and Antonio Camacho-Bucks bettered their own school record and set a Maryland state record time of 10:12.17, also finishing fifth.

Scorpions bounce back

For McHargh, King, Doctor and Hassan, nationals offered an opportunity to bounce back from what happened at states. The Scorpions entered with the top qualifying time, but in the third leg of the relay, Doctor dropped the baton on the transfer from King. That set the Scorpions back and they ultimately finished seventh.

However, Doctor made sure to use that mistake as a learning experience. Doctor is far less experienced compared to King and McHargh in his first season running indoor track. King and McHargh, who were both part of the relay team last season encouraged Doctor in practice leading up to nationals.

Still nervous in the practices before the race, King continued to tell Doctor, "Don't be nervous, this is a normal 4x200 relay, treat it as every other 4x200 and you'll be perfectly fine. Don't bring what happened at states here."

Doctor's nerves eased slightly after a clean transfer in the preliminary race where the Scorpions qualified with the third fastest time. During the finals, Doctor cleanly got the baton, but was then passed by one of the runners from IMG Elite, who won the event. Initially upset in the moment, Doctor quickly learned to be proud of himself and his teammates, thriving against the nation's best.

"We just raced some of the best people in the country," Doctor said. "Once it really set in how we did as a public school and how I ran a 21-something split, in my first indoor track season I started to feel confident. I said. 'This is it right here, this is what happens when everyone focuses.' I felt relief because I dropped the baton at states, but now we bounced back and are third in the nation. It felt great, it felt amazing. I was happy, we all saw our splits and ran fast. We're All-Americans."

Tarver makes history

In just his second season running indoor track, Tarver quickly developed into one of the top runners in Howard County. However, New Balance Nationals presented him with a new challenge. He previously ran in the Rising Stars division in last year's Adidas Nationals, but in his final season, Tarver knew it was time to showcase himself.

"My goal going into nationals was I wanted everyone to know my name and realize that I'm here," Tarver said. "I feel like I did a great job of showing that I'm here and not to be taken lightly."

Entering a national stage, Tarver alters his approach. Racing against more unfamiliar opponents, Tarver's goal at national meets is simple: surprise himself each time he gets off the track. Going into nationals, Tarver was seeded in the 80s with his qualifying time.

Working diligently in practice leading up to nationals, Tarver's coaches knew he was capable of running a time in the 47s. He did exactly that starting with his qualifying time, which ranked sixth among the field. Building confidence from that performance, Tarver once again finished under 48 seconds, cementing a top-five finish. Tarver is now ranked 14th in the nation, a significant jump from where he entered the competition ranked outside the top 100.

"My confidence skyrocketed because it made me realize that everything my coach told me that I could do, it was coming to me and it felt like it was all part of God's plan for my life," Tarver said. "I feel like it just showed right there in that moment. I feel like it's going to continue showing up. When I realized that I got top five, of course I was really happy, but also a part of me is hungry. I feel like I can do better. It was just a really good experience.

"I'm excited for outdoor season, my coach and I call it, "DJ's outdoor season campaign" where I just want to take over and put myself on the map because I've only been running track for two years."

Centennial earns new milestone

The DMR is one of the unique events at nationals, blending a multitude of different distances. It starts with a 1,200, followed by a 400, 800 and concludes with a 1,600.

"We think that with our strong cross country program and middle distance program, the DMR is something that we should be good at and we think we can build a tradition of being a good DMR school year-in and year-out," Martinez said. "Returning half of the relay squad that we had last year, we improved all of our legs. ... We really thought we could be really good and now know we can be competitive on that national level."

Martinez and Camacho-Bucks ran the 1,200 and 1,600 legs, respectively, both with ample experience distance running, also a part of the DMR relay team that competed at nationals last year. Pearson and Hertzberger were new members of the relay this season with Pearson running the 400 and Hertzberger the 800.

With those varying distances, the baton transfer is unique comparative to other races, but remains just as important. Despite that challenge, the Eagles entered the event with high expectations. In qualifying for nationals, Centennial narrowly missed out on the state record.

Coming into the meet, the Eagles were keenly aware of that, but knew all four members of the relay would need to be at their best for them to break the record. They beat Good Counsel's state record time of 10:14 set in 2010.

"It was definitely a great way to cap off running indoors in high school," Martinez said. "Sometimes indoor meets can be a little rough with the lack of facilities and having to travel far to get to places, but the track in Boston is an unbelievable facility. It was great to have so much competition. Every time you turn to the track there's something unbelievable happening. It's definitely something to take inspiration from going into the outdoor season."