The Washington Post

High-speed Highlander­s dominate the base paths

- FROM STAFF REPORTS — Michael Errigo

Odds are Mclean’s baseball team is not going to put up a hefty run total in a single inning. The Highlander­s get the job done by scoring one here, two there — and before you know it, they’ve pulled out another win.

Mclean (13- 6) lacks power, but it has compensate­d with baserunnin­g skills.

Bolstered by what Coach John Dowling calls “the three fastest kids I’ve ever coached” — junior Jakob Luu, senior Griffin Stieg and freshman Gabriel Pegues — the Highlander­s are leaning on their legs.

In 70 stolen base attempts this season, Mclean has been successful 64 times (91.4 percent).

“When we’ve got guys on, we’ve been extremely disruptive on the bases,” Dowling said.

The Highlander­s are physically fit from time spent in the weight room, and they are mentally savvy about taking leads and reading pitchers. Although there’s some luck to having a team full of players who are good base runners, Dowling and longtime assistant Ryan Christoff have emphasized controllin­g the base paths.

Dowling said that he tries to give his players the freedom to steal when they feel confident and that their willingnes­s to take risks has been important to the Highlander­s’ success.

Luu has been thrown out just once in the past two years — on an attempt to steal home from second base on a wild pitch.

Pegues isn’t a regular in the lineup, but he’s one of the first players summoned off the bench, and it’s easy to see why.

“When he comes into games, the game just stops,” Dowling said. “Pitchers take a second look over to first because his lead is so big.”

— Jacob Richman

Track and field

Since arriving on campus in the fall, Magruder’s Colin Abrams has establishe­d himself as one of Montgomery County’s best distance runners.

In the nine races Abrams has participat­ed in this spring — in events ranging from the 400 meters to the 1,600 — the freshman has finished in the top spot eight times. The only time Abrams was beaten was in the 400 last month at the Trojan Invitation­al, where he finished fourth.

Magruder distance coach Sarah Wassner Flynn was presented with an interestin­g puzzle: How could she nurture Abrams’s greatness without causing him to burn out?

“Colin is clearly a generation­al runner,” Wassner Flynn said. “But typically, runners that dominate this early in their career fade from the spotlight as they mature due to overexerti­on and things like that. We don’t want that to happen to Colin.”

Abrams has been running competitiv­ely since he was 10, starting with Montgomery County’s Firebirds Track Club, so it’s even more vital that Wassner Flynn properly manages his workload.

Wassner Flynn’s plan — which includes prohibitin­g Abrams from long-distance training outside of practice — has worked. In addition to his eight wins this season, Abrams’s 800 time of 1 minute 54.71 seconds April 30 at the Gator Track and Field Invitation­al was the best in the nation by a freshman.

“Watching Collin is such a fun experience,” Wassner Flynn said. “He’s such a mature racer in the sense that he knows how to properly manage his pace and just do what it takes to win each race.”

— Tramel Raggs

Lacrosse Soccer

About three minutes into an Anne Arundel County game last week, Northeast attackman RJ Breeden scored on South River goalkeeper Greg Usher to provide his squad early momentum.

“I was really close to having that, too,” Usher said. “So I knew I had to get it on for the rest of the game.”

By the end of South River’s 14-5 win, Usher was on the right side of an unusual stat. In what is believed to be the first game in Maryland public school history in which both goalkeeper­s recorded 20 or more saves, Usher finished with 20 and Northeast senior Blaine Bennett had 23.

“It’s kind of what I do,” said Usher, a senior committed to North Carolina’s University of Mount Olive. “I’ve been doing it ever since I was in the second grade.”

At a tournament at Anne Arundel Community College when he was in second grade, Usher’s team was missing its goalkeeper. Usher, who was a faceoff specialist, was intrigued by the wider mesh on the goalkeeper’s stick and taped a cup over his boxers so he could play the position.

Competing with a broken right thumb in March, Usher recorded one of South River’s best program marks with 29 saves in an 11-10 win over Southern.

“If I get scored on, I try to not let it bother me and just get the next one,” said Usher, whose team is 9-5 entering the 4A playoffs. “If you get a bad mindset going, then the rest of the game is going downhill.” — Kyle Melnick

Last spring, when Meridian captured the Virginia Class 3 title, its success was spurred in part by an incredible sense of urgency. With the pandemic looming over every practice and match, the Mustangs had no choice but to remain in the present. There is a power to such a mind-set, and Coach Frank Spinello figured it would dissipate with time.

“Because we had missed a year leading up, we were making every day count. We didn’t know when it was going to be taken from us,” he said. “And I thought there was going to be a big drop-off from that, but it seems we’ve had the same attitude this year. We’re just grateful to be out there.”

Meridian (9- 0-1) is again a contender. Given a full schedule this spring, the Mustangs have found more time to build chemistry. One of the major catalysts of that process was the Smoky Mountain Cup, a tournament in Tennessee that the team had attended twice before.

“We’re all in one place for a long time,” Spinello said. “That tournament requires us to travel on a bus for eight hours together and then stay in a cabin for three days together. We get a season’s worth of bonding in three days.”

They kicked off the tournament by facing two national powers — Westminste­r (Ga.) and Farragut ( Tenn.) — on back-toback days. They earned a pair of 2- 0 victories, an early sign that this team had the potential to meet the program’s lofty bar for success.

“The way we approached those games and the profession­al attitude we had when we stepped out onto the field not only impressed me but surprised me,” Spinello said.

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