Destiny Benjamin is Towson Times Female Athlete of the Year
Dulaney High's Destiny Benjamin was selected the Towson Times Female Athlete of the Year after winning eight state titles in wrestling. She will wrestle at Ferrum College next year. (Photo courtesy of John Bowers)
Destiny Benjamin didn't start wrestling until her freshman year, but in four years at Dulaney High, she did what no other Dulaney female wrestler had ever done.
The 2019 Towson Times Female Athlete of the Year capped her senior year by winning the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association wrestling tournament for females for the second year in a row.
Wrestling at 126 pounds at the state tournament, she had a technical fall and two pins, including one in the final bout, just 39 seconds into the match.
The co-captain, with Philip Bramucci, was 22-16 overall during the season with 11 pins.
She was the first female captain in Dulaney wrestling history and the first to finish with a winning record.
By finishing top six in the Baltimore County tournament, she was the first female ever to qualify for the Class 3A-4A North Region tournament, featuring males and females.
Her eight state championships during her career, that includes postseason titles in Freestyle and Greco Roman tournaments, also helped get her name to be placed on the coveted Dulaney Wall of Fame.
Wrestling may not have been her main sport before arriving at Dulaney, but she had no fear of contact.
"My main inspiration to try wrestling was that I was always into combat sports and liked the idea of it because I watched the MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) and everything, and wrestling is basically the only sport in high school where you can hurt people legally, so I was like 'I might as well give it a shot' and I tried out, ended up liking it and then I stuck with it," Benjamin said.
The early years on the mat included some tough lessons.
"She definitely took her losses and got whipped as a freshman and sophomore and even parts of her junior year and she just didn't like that feeling," Dulaney coach Scott Asher said. "She was always asking the coaching staff, 'What can I do?' even when she wins, she wants to improve."
She recalled her first victory was an exhibition against Catonsville during her freshman year on JV.
"I didn't start on varsity my freshman year because they had a 126-pounder that was a lot better then me, but I wrestled an exhibition at the end of the dual meet and I ended up pinning the kid," she recalled.
Losing to boys bothered her in the first couple seasons.
"If I lose a match, obviously I'm going to be upset about it because you lost and you want to get better, but the way that I saw it, was that it was like a learning experience and so just trust the process," she said.
"But, it would make me upset when I lost to the guys and then they would be like, 'Oh, you are really good for a girl and everything like that' and whenever they would say that it would make me really mad because I don't care about being good for a girl, I want to be good period. It shouldn't matter."
Benjamin, who defended her Maryland State Wrestling Association State championship this year, was also the 2019 recipient of the Tricia Saunders Excellence Award, which is a national award that recognizes excellence in wrestling, scholastic achievement, citizenship and community service.
One recipient from each state is honored and a national winner is selected from regional winners.
"It was a big honor when I won that award," Benjamin said.
It was also an honor to be selected wrestling team captain.
"That was decided on by the coaching staff," Asher said. "It really wasn't a discussion, it was like, other than Destiny, who is going to be captain. We knew that going in. She's a role model for everybody on the team, academics and year-round wrestling, she helps with our pre-season clinic that we have through Cockeysville Rec Council."
Wrestling is nearly a year-round sport for Benjamin, who started practicing for postseason spring and summer tournaments about two weeks after the high school season ended.
"Basically, I was only away from any mat time for about two weeks," Benjamin said.
Those postseason state and national tournaments gave her much-appreciated experience.
"I feel like my biggest improvement over the years was my confidence and my technique because I was looking at some matches my freshman year where I would be going up against guys I could have beat and then it was just like I was scared," she said.
Dulaney's Destiny Benjamin, left, stayed off her back during this match against Dunbar's Jalen Jones in her junior year. Benjamin went on to win MSWA and MPSSAA state championships wrestling girls as a junior and senior.
"My senior year I just developed this confidence over the summer that I'm going to have a good season and that nobody is going to stop me from having a good season and then I ended up killing it."
Her leadership was also an influence on Dulaney's other female wrestlers — Nicole Wanga and Sarah Sunday.
Wanga was second in the state championship meet and Sunday was fourth.
"She obviously can work with anybody on the team as far as improving their skill set, she's one of the most technically-sound wrestlers on the team," Asher said.
She will wrestle on the women's team at Ferrum College next season and plans to study the science aspect of criminal justice.
"I'm very excited about my college career on the mat because it's kind of a fresh start, because obviously people are going to care about what your accolades were in high school, but they won't care as much as they did in high school, so it's kind of a fresh start to actually show other coaches what you are made of," Benjamin said.
Benjamin showed what she was made of against Perry Hall during her senior year in what was her proudest victory.
The Lions were going to win the dual meet because of several Perry Hall forfeits, but she was involved in one of the five matches that were contested on the mat and her coach wanted to win those matches.
She expected to wrestle a JV boy, but got a surprise.
"I came out and there was this guy with like huge swollen arms and I was like, 'This could be a lot tougher then I thought,' " she said.
It was tough and she trailed by five points going into the third period.
She got a reversal and two back points, but still trailed by one.
Her coach pleaded for her to let her opponent escape and try to get a takedown.
She got the takedown with 12 seconds left and just had to ride him out to force overtime.
"I held onto his leg for dear life and took it into overtime," she said. "That's when my coach yelled at me, 'Finish it, it's in overtime now,' and so in the first 30 seconds I got the takedown and then I won the match."
She insists it was her teammates and coaches that gave her the energy to rebound.
"It was pretty motivating because my coaches were behind me and my team was behind me and if I didn't have their energy being influenced on me in that match, I wouldn't have won that match," she said.
What also motivated her was wrestling boys.
"I feel like wrestling the guys is more fun for me, mainly because it's in the regular season and I have my team with me and everything like that and especially since I was the captain of the team this year, it was just like a lot of good vibes and good energy when I went out on the mat," Benjamin said. "If I would doubt myself in the match, I would look over at my team and look at who I was leading and then I would just get the strength to win the match."
"She dedicated herself to it and she will wrestle in college and I think the sky is the limit for her, she is just going to keep on improving," Asher said. "That is something within herself."
Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication |
Dulaney's Drew Dailey is 2019 Towson Times Male Athlete of the Year
Dulaney senior Drew Dailey is 2019 Towson Times Male Athlete of the Year
Dulaney High runner Drew Dailey has been known for his amazing ability to rally for victories with a strong finishing kick in distance races.
The 2019 graduate left a lasting impression by doing that twice on the final day of his high school track career.
At the Class 4A state championship meet, held at Morgan State University, Dailey won state titles in the 800 and 1600 meters by less than a second in each event.
His impressive senior year, which also included winning a state title indoors in the 1600 (4:18.09) and his second straight Baltimore County cross country championship (16:07.8), earned him selection as the 2019 Towson Times Male Athlete of the Year.
At the outdoor state meet, Dailey captured the 1600 in a school and personal-record record time of 4:14.60.
He narrowly held off Richard Montgomery's Garrett Suhr.
"That 4:14 is the fastest mile track time in my 23 outdoor track seasons," Dulaney coach Chad Boyle said. "In the mile, Garrett was really holding on and Drew really had to go to the well and just outlast him."
Dailey admitted he had some butterflies before the 1600.
"I was definitely more nervous for the 1600 because it was my first big event for the state meet and I went through the whole morning just thinking about when the 1600 is over and it's just like you relax after that and then you go straight into the 800," Dailey said.
Dailey couldn't relax until the home stretch.
"The last 100 meters it was me and him basically neck and neck and he took a step ahead with about 50 to go and then I knew the state championship was on the line, so I just gave it everything I had and I made it by a second, so I would say about 30 meters to go was when I really started to pull ahead by that last second," Dailey said.
A few hours later, in the 800, Dailey ran a 154.30 personal-best time and held off Severna Park's Alex Chaisson (1:54.74) to help the Lions finish second in the 4A meet behind Northwest.
"In that race, he was a little more in control," Boyle said. "The mile you could tell he was really working and, not that he wasn't running a fast 800, but I feel like the 800 was a little smoother for him. It kind of set up in his wheelhouse like he likes to run the races and he got a clean breakaway and once he broke away I said to myself, 'This race is over.' And no one had a response."
Drew Dailey won outdoor state titles in the 800 and the 1600.
When Dailey needs to respond with a kick to win, he does it with confidence.
"I've always had that confidence that if the race is there and I'm in range to catch him, I could do it and it just all came together at the state meet," Dailey said.
Dailey was also pleased to win his final race in front of his current and former teammates.
"It was pretty sentimental and it was cool too because some of the guys who graduated last year came back to watch the state meet this year," he said.
During the spring season, Dailey won seven 800-meter races in a row and he also won all five he entered in the 1600, including county and regional races.
He was also on the victorious 4x800 relay team with Alex Whatley, Jalen Gourrier and Max Fisher at the Baltimore County championship meet.
The same quartet was third in the regionals and Cooper Giesler filled in for Fisher at states where they were sixth.
Dailey's ability to close was magnified during his junior year of cross country at the Baltimore County championship meet.
He out-kicked Loch Raven's Garrett Harris and senior teammate Brian McCullough, winning the race in 16:19.6 compared to McCullough's 16:19.7.
"Once I kicked past the kid in second [Harris], that's when I knew I could get Brian," said Dailey after the race.
In addition to having confidence to win tight races, Dailey maintained a strong work ethic and mental approach to training.
"As a runner, when you get to train for that amount of time you really do start to learn yourself, when to back off in training and when to really turn it on in training and he's perfected that and that's what makes him able to peak when it matters, which is easy to say, but to actually do it is another thing," Boyle said. "You could talk to 10 runners and not many of them are able to do it."
During the indoor season, Dailey won four 1600-meter races, including the regionals and states and won five 800s, including the counties and regionals.
He won the 1600 at states and finished 10th in the 800.
"The challenge indoors is just the meet is so quick, it's really difficult for anybody to really double back in anything," Boyle said.
"I think the most special thing to happen to me this year was the 1600 indoor because it was the first time I realized myself that I had a chance to win a state championship and that I was confident to win it," Dailey said. "That whole two-week period before the state meet I was like every single day, every minute I was looking forward to it and when the day finally got there and I finally did it, it was like the biggest relief I've ever felt."
As a sophomore in 2016, Dailey was 40th at the state cross country championships and he helped the Lions win their second straight state title. His time that year was 17:22.31.
Last fall as a senior, Dailey was sixth overall for the third-place Lions in the 4A cross country championships in a personal-record time of 16:24.50.
Eric Walz, a 2016 Dulaney graduate remains the only Lion to win an individual cross country state title.
He posted a time of 16:06 when he won it in 2015.
Boyle compares Dailey to former Lion distance standouts like Walz, Billy Duffy and Vince Walsh.
"He (Dailey) is leaving Dulaney as one of the top four or five athletes probably ever, including the people that [former coach] Bob Dean and other coaches had in their time at Dulaney. His 4:14 is nothing to sneeze at, that's a really great time and 1:54 is a great time."
"Cross country was great, it was a great season this year and I really think track is my main sport and to be able to finish sixth at the state meet at such a high level that was good too," he said. "And to be looked at on the same level as Eric Walz because I've always looked up to him was also great."
Dailey will continue his education at Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania where he will continue to run cross country and indoor and outdoor track.
Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication |