BALTIMORE — Michael Belmaggio claims he doesn’t have much of a kick late in a race, which, in the world of distance running, is sort of like running with a pair of weights strapped to your ankles.
Yet there was Belmaggio on Friday evening at Morgan State’s Hughes Stadium, putting a nice finishing touch on what longtime Linganore distance coach Andres Wright called one of the finest running careers in the history of Linganore High School.
Belmaggio, a senior running in his final state meet, easily won the Class 3A boys 3,200-meter run in 9 minutes, 28.82 seconds. It was his first state title during the outdoor season and his fourth overall, following a cross-country state championship and two indoor state titles in the 3,200.
“It was really sweet,” Belmaggio said of his victory Friday. “I was looking forward to this one the most. I just feel like there is more competition in outdoor than there is in indoor.”
Belmaggio was the favorite to win the 3A 3,200, which brought about the usual set of nerves and self-pressures. But he crossed the finish line roughly 25 meters in front of the next-closest competitor, Caleb Zylka of Bel Air (9:37.72). He never had to call upon his less-than-stellar kick.
“On the most rare occasions, I go for it,” he said. “I think I kicked a 63 [second final lap] in the [3,200] once. But that was in good conditions, and I had good people to run with. Normally, it’s just a mental game for me if I am by myself.”
Belmaggio joined Paige Tolbard of Frederick and Jordan Addison of Tuscarora as Frederick County champions on the second day of the outdoor state meet, which featured athletes from schools in the 3A and 4A classifications.
Unlike Belmaggio, neither Tolbard or Addison were the favorite to win their events. Yet, like Belmaggio, they each emerged with their first state titles during the outdoor season.
Tolbard, a senior thrower at Frederick High who has now placed at every state meet she has participated in over the last four years, previously won a shot put title during the indoor state meet in 2018.
She hit her winning distance of 118 feet, 2 inches in the 3A girls discus on her third and final attempt in the preliminary round, and that was good enough to hold off Sierra Butler of Huntingtown (117-11).
“I felt really good,” Tolbard said. “I had been focusing more on discus than shot this season. I was seeded third, and I kind of surprised myself with the win.”
Addison, meanwhile, wasted little time in setting the tone in the 3A boys long jump. The junior at Tuscarora and the No. 4 seed in the event jumped a personal best 22-2½ on his first attempt, and that distance stood for the rest of the event.
Huntingtown’s Jeremiah Baxter, who competed in an earlier flight, had the next best mark with a leap of 21-8½. Edgewood’s Deonte Banks, the top seed going into the event, did not compete.
Addison won the long jump at every big meet he participated in this season, including the Central Maryland Conference meet, during which he jumped his previous best mark of 21-10¼.
He also qualified for the 100-meter dash finals with a time of 10.9 seconds in the prelims, he and helped the Tuscarora boys place eighth in the 4x200 relay (1:30.09).
Belmaggio also capped an undefeated season with his victory in the 3,200. He sort of hung near the middle of the pack for the first mile of the race before gradually moving up to take the lead.
“I could tell he was going to run well,” Wright said. “He looked good in the beginning of the race. He ran very well.”
Belmaggio started running long distances the year before he got to Linganore. He was inspired to start running road races after watching his older sister, Micah, run cross-country. So, to practice, he would run to the end and back of what he described as a mile-long driveway at his family’s home in Frederick.
The first time he ran the mile, he was not among the top finishers. So, he quickly realized he was more suited for the longer races, and that helped him establish the mental toughness he used to wear down fellow competitors in place of a strong kick.
“I always knew that if I just grinded in the middle of a race, hopefully, everyone else would just fall off by the end.”
Belmaggio plans to continue his distance-running career in college at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. He will run his final high school race Saturday in the 3A boys 1,600.
“I am not completely disappointed this is my final high school meet,” Belmaggio said. “I am really looking forward to running in college. I know I have better things to come at UMBC.”