During a stellar track career at Lansdowne High, Yelnats Calvin was a firm believer in the famous quote "Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing."
Calvin lived up to those standards during his senior year, earning Arbutus Times Male Athlete of the Year honors in the process.
Coach Andrew Parker witnessed that burning desire to win during the indoor and outdoor track seasons and watched him carry it out in the meets.
"He has to win in every race he's in — any race, any time during the season, he has the attitude he's going to win," Parker said.
Calvin started competing with the top runners during the outdoor season of his sophomore year, when he was second in the 400 meters and sixth in the 200.
The following year, the wins started coming in bunches on the indoor and outdoor tracks and didn't stop.
"I like to win every race I'm in," Calvin said.
His best performances came late in his senior year when he set personal records in the 100 (11.09) and 200 (21:88) at the Class 2A Central Region championships.
At the Baltimore County championships, he set a PR in the 400 (49:23) and followed that up with a regional title in the 400 (50:32).
Winning the county title in the 400 was his favorite highlight from his final season.
"That was a PR and it was the first time I won an outdoor gold medal," he said.
Calvin qualified for all three events in the state championship meet at Morgan State University, but he injured a quadriceps muscle during preliminary trials and he was forced to withdraw.
"He was in really good condition after winning all his events at regionals," Parker said.
The injury was disappointing, but he saw the big picture.
"I just focused on recovery," said Calvin, whose running future will continue at Columbia University next year.
Although Ivy League schools don't offer athletic scholarships, he will have to earn a spot on the team.
"After I got accepted, I contacted the track coach and he said I could walk-on," said Calvin, who is eager to get started on collegiate workouts.
Calvin, who maintained a 3.75 grade point average and was in the Honor Society, Jazz Band and was senior class treasurer at Lansdowne, played soccer and basketball before committing to track and field.
The first inkling that he was especially fast came at Sudbrook Middle School, where he would trade race victories with schoolmate Juleon Killikelly Lee.
Lee won Baltimore County outdoor track titles in the 100 and 200 meters in 2010 for Western Tech before giving up running to focus on football.
Likewise, Calvin gave up soccer and basketball after his freshman year at Lansdowne.
"I remember the first day of soccer practice freshman year, I won the 40-meter dash and everybody said I was fast," said Calvin, who got the same compliments while doing sprints on the basketball court.
His dad, Stanley, was a track coach in Jamaica, and has been his motivator. Yelnats is Stanley spelled backwards, which is an ironic name for such a forward-thinking student-athlete.
Nevertheless, Yelnats said his dad "Has always pushed me ever since I was little."
Parker saw that from the beginning.
"I would have to say it's his work ethic that stands out," Parker said. "It's up to them to do the work. We just work around their schedules."
Although unable to perform in the state spotlight at Morgan State, Calvin did make an impression on the same campus earlier in the spring.
He won the 400 and was third in the 200 and fourth in the 100 at the Morgan State Invitational.
During the indoor season last winter, Calvin won the 300 (37.70) and was second in the 500 (1:12.40) at the 2012 Baltimore County championships, after winning the 500 and taking second in the 300 in 2011.
His biggest disappointment came after the Vikings thought they had won the 1,600 meter relay at the 2012 county meet.
"We were disqualified for a uniform violation," he said. "That was very frustrating."
Despite that setback, Calvin was voted Baltimore County's top runner of the year.
"That was definitely a great thing to be recognized by all the other county coaches," Parker said.
"I'm ready to meet my new teammates and I'm excited for college," said Calvin, who plans to major in economics. "I like New York City and there are lots of opportunities."
So far in his young life when opportunity knocks, Calvin is eager to answer.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun