Teaching biology may be Gerald Russell's livelihood, but it's his part-time job as coach of Woodlawn's county and regional champion boys indoor track and field team that gives him his liveliness.
"My philosophy is to get the kids to understand that they have talents that go beyond what they think they have," said Russell, The Baltimore Sun's selection as Baltimore County Indoor Track and Field Coach of the Year. "In life, they will face the same challenges. If they lose one job they're going to have to move on to another. I tell them, 'Sometimes you have to take that step into the unknown.' "
Russell's Warriors took that first step -- accepting their roles -- and never looked back.
Woodlawn's boys contingent scored 94 1/2 points at the Baltimore County championships to hold off runner-up Perry Hall (83.3) and third-place Dulaney (44) before capturing the Class 4A, Region I crown with an 80-69 victory over region finalist Quince Orchard of Montgomery County.
"Gerald is very team-oriented, and he really stressed the team concept this season," Woodlawn girls coach Brian Cannon said. "In past years we had a lot of individuals, but this season he helped pull everyone together and we had more camaraderie and the team showed more sportsmanship than it ever has."
The Warriors finished in sixth place at the state meet, but senior Marlon Harris kicked it in down the stretch to win the boys 800-meter title in 2 minutes, 2.9 seconds.
For his performance in the county, region and state meets, Harris was selected as Baltimore County's Male Indoor Track Athlete of the Year.
It was for the same reason that The Baltimore Sun chose Amanda White, Dulaney's double-state champion, as the Female Indoor Track and Field Athlete of the Year for Baltimore County.
"Marlon is a dedicated athlete who always gives you 110 percent," said Russell, who watched Harris win the 500 and 800 at counties. "We worked with Marlon, and we dissected each portion of his race and taught him how to run it in segments and he responded real well. Marlon still hasn't even started tapping into his talent yet."
Harris said: "I never really got pushed [by the competition] this season. I've always had a lot of strength, but I didn't really know how to use it. I did a lot of sprints and worked on my endurance a lot."
It would appear that White, a recipient of the Dial Award given annually to the nation's top high school athletes, would be nearing her peak as both a nationally renowned runner and a swimmer, but Lions girls track coach Bob Dean maintains that he continues to see improvement in his senior.
"When you have someone that runs at the level she does, as a coach you try not to run her out," Dean said. "Sometimes I prefer she not run as hard as she does, but she's so competitive. She just pushes herself to the limit in everything she does."
White set a state indoor record in the girls 1,600 in a winning time of 5:02.3 before winning the 3,200 in 10:49.5. Her victories in the 3,200, 1,600 and 800 helped Dulaney's girls claim top team honors at both the county and region meets.
White will try to end her indoor season on a winning note when she travels to Syracuse, N.Y., this weekend to participate in the National High School Indoor Track and Field Championships.
"Most of my goals for the indoor season revolve around this coming weekend's meet," said White, who will compete in the 1,600 and 3,200.
"It's easier to push yourself in the indoor season because the track is smaller and you can lap people more frequently. When I'm running, I just keep concentrating on passing the person ahead of me."