By ANDREW MASON
11:14 PM EST, February 28, 2013
As Nick Snyder said, “It’s an exciting time to be at HCC.”
Right now, Snyder couldn’t be more excited to be at Texas Tech University.
The Hagerstown Community College second-year coach will have several male athletes competing there Friday at the NJCAA National Indoor Track & Field Championships.
Grant Smith is the No. 1 seed in the shot put at 56 feet for the Hawks, while Brandon Horning is seeded eighth in the 1,000-meter run (2:35.01), Stephen Starliper is seeded 32nd in the 1,000 (2:39.35) and the distance medley team of Starliper (1,200), Rodney Flora (400), A.J. El-Amin (800) and Horning (1,600) is seeded fifth (10:32.57).
“Regardless of what happens, it’s a success because last year we only had two athletes there, and none of them really had a shot,” Snyder said. “Our goal is to not just send people to nationals, but to have them place. And hopefully we can eventually contend for a national (team) championship.”
Smith, a sophomore and Brunswick High School graduate, has a chance to become HCC’s first indoor national champion since Tim Mason won the 5,000 in 2000.
Smith’s season-best throw of 56 feet is 5 inches superior to that of the No. 2 seed, Coffeyville’s Deondra Canaday.
“(Smith) has been the most consistent thrower in junior college this year,” Snyder said.
Sophomores Horning (South Hagerstown), Starliper (Hancock) and Flora (Boonsboro) are all Washington County products.
“It’s nice still living in Hagerstown,” said Horning, who will continue his running career at Shippensburg University. “I like this running community. A lot of good runners come from this county.”
Snyder said Horning’s strength at nationals might be his finishing kick.
“If it’s a tactical race, he can close with anybody,” he said.
In high school, Starliper’s claim to fame was earning Hancock’s first individual berth to the Maryland state cross country championships since 1980.
Now, two years later, Starliper has earned a spot on the national stage.
“It’s definitely been a long ride,” he said. “I’ve been down at the bottom at a small school, and then I worked my way up to the middle. And now I’m sort of near the top, where I hope to stay for a while. I never thought I’d be here at this point, though, at this level of fitness.”
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