Based on its track record, Mervo can run with best Arundel relays to test Mustangs


Mervo's track and field team is always on the run.

Baltimore City schools don't offer indoor track and the Mustangs don't have outdoor facilities, so coach Freddie Hendricks -- in his 22nd season -- often takes his team on the road.

"Some days, the sprinters practice at City's [College] track, while the field-event kids practice here at Mervo on the grass," said Mervo athletic director Woody Williams. "Sometimes, they're at Morgan [State] or Herring Run Park."

"We have no discus thrower because we have no cage, and we don't have a pole vaulting pit," said Hendricks, whose assistants are Ron Taylor and Ron O'Neal. "We give up those points in the technical events."

Despite its limitations, the Mustangs are favored to dethrone Poly at the Maryland Scholastic Association championships May 15 and are considered a threat to win the state 4A track crown.

Mervo will be tested in this weekend's 31-team, 24th annual Anne Arundel County relays by defending champ Old Mill and Prince George's County's Eleanor Roosevelt, which tied Old Mill for the 1992 state title.

The event also will feature Oakland Mills, which edged Mervo for first place in the Gilman relays, Gilman, Mount St. Joseph, McDonogh and Westminster.

Mervo has the area's best times in six events, with All-Metro 100-meter MSA champ Ben Braswell leading in the 200 (22 seconds), and anchoring the top 400 relay team (42.2) that includes sophomore Dante Palmer, senior Rodney Cabean and junior Anthony Stuckey.

Mervo's 800 relay team of Ed Tyler (a transfer from South Carolina), Brian Murphy, Sandy Johns and Jason Reaves, has an area-best time of 1 minute, 28.9 seconds -- just ahead of second-place Old Mill (1:31.3).

The Mustangs' mile relay team of Antoine Nelson, Palmer or Cabean, Braswell and Stuckey leads the area in 3:23.7, but Westminster (3:28.9), Chesapeake (3:29.0) and Old Mill (3:29.1) are all capable of winning.

Stuckey, the only local to beat Braswell in the 200, is fourth among area 400 --ers with a 50.8-second effort. Mount St. Joseph's Arzel Brown (22.36) has run slightly faster than Stuckey (22.7) in the 200.

This weekend, Stuckey's 400 rivals could be Dyson Dryden (Gilman), who ranks first in 43.9, Mount St. Joseph's Brown (50.7, third) or Westminster's Wade Shank (51.8, seventh).

Nelson, a hurdler, has clocked 14.9 in the 110 and looks for challenges from Westminster's Jason Craig and Mount St. Joseph's Anthony Lee -- both at 15.6 -- and Chesapeake Chris Adams (15.8).

"We just want to get as many points as possible," said Nelson. "Even if we don't win, we'll still get the same support from our teammates."

Mervo's Sheldon Downing was an MSA runner-up in last year's high jump, and his personal best (6 feet 5) leads the area. But he'll compete this weekend against Jennon Archie (Crossland) and Mike Hawkins (Potomac), each having cleared a Washington-area best of 6-6.

"I think I can beat them," said Downing. "They usually do my event last. That's the way I like it."

Braswell's 22-6 in the long jump tops the area. Not far behind are Palmer (21-9, third), Annapolis' Alex Purdue (21-1 1/2 , fourth), Westminster's Matt Knights (21-2, fifth), Mount St. Joseph's Lee (20-11 1/2 , sixth) and Cabean (20-9, eighth).

Mervo's Roger Morning has triple-jumped 43-3 -- fourth best in the area -- and is targeting Knights, whose leap of 46-9 1/2 is an area best. McDonogh's Bryan Hancock (41-1 1/2 ) and Lee (42-10 3/4 ) of Mount St. Joseph and Troy Green (41-4 3/4 ) of Old Mill rank sixth, seventh and eighth, respectively.

The Mustangs' junior shot putter Trimaine Neal (45-8) and freshman 3,200 runner Mike Curtis (10:16) are the area's fifth and sixth best, respectively.

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