Carroll County's spring sports season concluded with two state team championships and several individual crowns for high school athletes.
A miracle finish earned the Liberty softball team its first state title, while the Lion girls' track and field team added to its championship tradition.
In softball, Liberty trailed McDonough, 2-0, in the bottom of the seventh inning in the Class 2A state championship game at the University of Maryland softball complex. Then the Lions converted a bases-loaded, no-out situation into a title.
A single by Becca Oneto tied the game. Liberty's Sammy Bost then attempted to steal third, but slid past the base. Instead of scrambling back, the junior centerfielder raced home ahead of the trailing third baseman and past the approaching catcher. With no McDonough player covering the plate, Bost slid in with the winning run.
"That was pretty special," said Liberty coach Chris Szocik of the wild ending. "We told the kids all year to play hard to the end of the game. I never thought we were out of it, and the kids believed."
The Lions, who completed the best season in school history with a 21-2 mark, wouldn't have won the title without the performance of pitcher Mackenzie Thompson. The junior right hander struck out 11 McDonough batters while allowing just two hits.
The Lions, who shut out Baltimore County power Lansdowne in the state semifinals, became the first Carroll team to win a state softball championship since Westminster in 2004.
"On the ride home, the kids were beside themselves with joy," said Szocik, who will have five of his nine starters back next spring. "After going through all the hard times, our seniors went from three wins to 21 wins and a state championship."
Athletes on a fast track
Liberty High's girls track and field team continued to build its dynasty at the state championship meet.
The Lions, co-coached by Bob Ward and Brandon Lutz, rallied past Largo of Prince George's County to successfully defend their Class 2A crown at Morgan State's Hughes Stadium.
Although the Lions didn't take first in any event, the Lions got three second-place finishes, from senior Michelle Keller in the high jump and shot put and their 400-meter relay team of Erin Patrice, Jamie Russell, Kara Patrice and Ashley Ross.
Liberty also was boosted by a pair of third-place showings from freshman Sarah Rinehart, in the 800 meters and as the anchor of the 800-meter relay team that included Brittany Arndt, Taylor Stillings and Shelby Caruso.
Winters Mill senior Hannah Oneda made her final races count. The most successful track athlete in recent Carroll history won her third consecutive outdoor titles in the 1,600- and 3,200-meters. Her 3,200 time of 10:52.01 shattered the previous state Class 2A record set by Atholton's Carolyn Forde 30 years ago.
The outdoor meet was a fond farewell for Erika Hurd, who Manchester Valley to a fourth-place team finish in Class 1A. The Mavericks senior won her third straight outdoor high jump title, clearing the bar at 5 feet, 6 inches. Hurd also anchored the gold-medal winning 400-meter relay team, which included Megan Donovan, Arianna Woodley and Natalie Phillips.
North Carroll's Valerie Mizansky, whose Panthers finished seventh in the team standings, won the long jump competition with a leap of 17 feet, 5 inches. She also finished third behind Hurd in the 100-meter final.
Westminster senior Justin Maize was the only county winner in Class 4A competition, taking the high jump title with a leap of 6 feet, 4 inches.
But several county athletes made their mark in the Class 2A and 1A competitions. The Century boys' team, buoyed by junior Julian Woods' second consecutive gold in the 300-meter hurdles, finished third in Class 2A behind Frederick Douglass and Queen Anne's. Despite finishing second in the 110-meter hurdles, Woods tied a state record with a time of 14.33 seconds. The Century junior also placed second in the long jump (22 feet, 7.5 inches) and fifth in the triple-jump event.
The all-senior Winters Mill 3,200-meter relay team of Reilly Cox, Zach Hopkins, Will Weisgerber and Alex Warfield also made its mark, taking the 2A title for the second year in a row.
On the strength of strong performances by seniors Matt Smith and Kody Wilson, North Carroll placed fourth in the Class 1A team standings. Smith won the gold in the 400 meters, while Wilson triumphed in the 800. Smith and Wilson also joined with Scott Jones and Grant Dell on the Panthers' championship 3,200-relay foursome. Both also took home a silver medal, with Wilson the runner-up in the 1,600 meters and Smith second in the triple jump.
Several county athletes were prominent finishers at the state tennis tournament, held at the University of Maryland, College Park. Century senior Paige Olson, who won Carroll County and District VII titles, reached the state semifinals with straight-set wins over North Caroline's Madison Parks and Cierra Plummer of Surrattsville before losing her first match of the season by a 6-1, 6-4 count to Anna Rozenberg of Bethesda-Chevy Chase.
Century's top singles player, who finished third in the state due to a default by her consolation round opponent, ended her final season of high school tennis with a sparkling 26-1 record.
The Liberty girls' doubles team of senior Lauren Williams and junior Grace McCarthy also reached the state semifinals before falling to Walt Whitman's Nicole Gottrett and Nicole Welch, 6-1, 6-2. Williams and McCarthy placed fourth in the state, after losing to the sister act of Anna and Rachel Holehouse from Fallston in the consolation match.