Two key ingredients to any successful athletic program are talent and depth.
While these components are no guarantee for success,they nevertheless are a step in the right direction.
For the pastfive years, Meade's indoor track and field team has possessed these mandatory ingredients and the Mustangs have reaped the benefits.
Bringing together the talent at Meade High since the program's inception 14 years ago has been Jay Cuthbert, the Anne Arundel County Sun Indoor Track Coach of the Year. This season alone, Cuthbert's Mustang boys captured their fourth consecutive county title, as well as a third straight region crown.
Cuthbert plainly attributes his teams' success to tradition.
"The tradition we have established at Meade ishelping us get kids out (for the team)," said Cuthbert, who also coaches cross country at Catonsville Community College. "Instead of us beating the bushes and having to go after kids, kids are coming to us,which makes it a lot easier."
While Cuthbert's task should not beunderstated, it has been somewhat facilitated by the presence of pole-vaulting twins Jeff and Eric Miller, the Anne Arundel County Sun's Indoor Track Co-Male Athletes of the Year.
Jeff and Eric's accomplishments at the county, region and state meets were nothing short of perfection, as they finished 1-2, respectively, in the county, regions and states, where Meade's boys and girls both finished second behind Eleanor Roosevelt of Prince George's County.
The success of Severna Park's Fran Mackney was not cultivated in the tradition-rich environment of Meade. However, her individual efforts in the wake of her team's shortcomings led to her selection as the Indoor Track Female Athlete of the Year.
In only her second year in the sport, Mackney won county and region titles in the 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs and in the states finished second in the 1,600 (5 minutes, 23.4 seconds) and third in the 3,200 (12:13.8).
"My coaches told me I had a chance of winning at the county meet, but I wasn't really convinced that Iwould," said Mackney, who took up the sport after being cut from thefield hockey team her sophomore year. "Once I won at the counties and the region, then I started thinking about the states."
Severna Park coach Jim Patton said Mackney was disappointed with her performance at the state meet but said she managed to keep things in perspective.
"She's a strong girl with decent speed but not great speed," said Patton. "But what she lacks physically, she makes up for with hermental toughness. She has a good grasp of herself and she's not afraid to admit when she does something wrong. After the (state) meet, she complained that her hip was bothering her but then she later admitted that a lot of it was in her head."
Mackney agreed, "I'm still not as aggressive as I could be, but I'm still learning. You learn something new in every race. You have to know when to make a move and how to make a move. I probably could have pushed myself a little more."
Pushing his athletes in what he calls the "big three" (county, regions and states) is something Cuthbert says he does every year.
"We want to win the last three of the year and that's what we always shoot for," said Cuthbert, a graduate of East Carolina University. "Wetry not to get them up too high or let them down too low. We try to keep them at an even keel.
"We get them believing in themselves, believing in us. We want them to know that we're not just blowing smoke all the time."
Meade's girls squad apparently bought stock in Cuthbert's approach, as it captured first place in the regions and second place in the county and state meets. It was the unexpected successof the Mustang girls that Cuthbert savored most this season.
"Even though we didn't win a state championship, total team-wise it was probably the most fulfilling (season) we've ever had here," said Cuthbert. "It seems like in the past either the guys are up and the girls are down or vice versa, but this year they were both right there."
Cuthbert attributes the Mustangs' overall success not only to a deeptradition, but a growing determination among the athletes not to letdown those predecessors who laid the foundation of the program.
"The kids know we've done well over the years and they don't want to be remembered as the team that broke the string," said Cuthbert. "We don't feel we put a whole lot of pressure on the kids. We have high expectations of them. We just want them to give us an honest effort, whatever that might be that day, and in most cases that's what we get from them."
Getting an honest effort from Mackney is all Patton haswanted as well, but as everyone can see, she has well exceeded that.Patton believes her success is directly related to her "mental toughness" and ability to "keep focused."
"She's very coachable," he said. "She listens to what you have to say and she responds accordingly. She's a dream."
While Patton can gloat about the success of his junior, Cuthbert finds it necessary to give credit where credit is due. Cuthbert deferred the praise to Maj. Randy Miller, a former pole vaulter at Ohio State University, who supplied his sons with the priceless technical guidance.
"They're a tribute to their dad," said Cuthbert. "When they came here their freshman year, they were very well-versed in the technical aspects of the vault."
In spite of Cuthbert's attempt to direct the credit elsewhere, both Jeff and Eric spokehighly of their coach, claiming it was he who created a winning atmosphere at Meade.
"Coach Cuthbert's energy attracts people to the program," said Eric, who along with his brother will compete in next weekend's National High School Scholastic Championships in Syracuse, N.Y. "He puts a lot into it and the kids like him. He's built the program up and it has a strong tradition and people like to come out for the team. He's really into it and seems concerned about what everyoneon the team is doing."
Jeff said, "He's a great coach. He really has brought us a long way with our sprinting ability. When we came here, we weren't muscular and our sprinting had a lot to be desired, but he got us into weight training and his sprinting program has reallyhelped us a lot."
Cuthbert shares the same respect for his vaulting duo and said he will miss more than just watching them soar over the bar when they graduate in June.
"I will definitely miss their personalities and their leadership," said Cuthbert. "Neither one of them is real boisterous. They lead by example on the track, in the classroom and in their social life. They're the best kids we've had -- ever."
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