Just call him Mr. Durability.
Competing in his third cross country season at Oakland Mills, junior Greg Curtis has never missed a race. That's 25 and counting for someone who straddles the upper tier of Howard County's best runners.
In a sport where a minor injury can sideline a runner and regular endurance conditioning is mandatory, Scorpions coach Steve Carnahan finds Curtis' persistence impressive.
"He's kind of like the rabbit in the Energizer commercial," Carnahan said. "Greg keeps going and going and going."
Curtis doesn't see burnout approaching and is shooting for 29 consecutive races by season's end, as the Scorpions run after their ninth Class 2A state title in the past 10 years.
"It doesn't do any good to sit on the sideline," Curtis said. "It's just staying healthy and treating yourself right."
Curtis parlays his consistency into always being near the top. In five races this season, he finished second (Howard County Invitational), third (Westminster Invitational), first (county quad meet), third in Division 3A (smallest schools) at the Arundel Invitational and first at the Harford Invitational.
His ability to regularly finish near the top is "a whole different kind of running" than someone who runs with the pack, Carnahan said.
"He has become a front-runner for us," Carnahan said. "It's one thing to be running on varsity in the back, but it's another to be running up front. You must take added risks and it's a far greater challenge."
Curtis' time of 16 minutes, 31 seconds in the Harford Invitational was a personal record. In the Howard County Invitational, he topped his two strongest county competitors, Centennial seniors Bobby Van Allen and Kevin Hill, who finished third (16:46) and fifth (16:57), respectively.
On Howard Community College's 3-mile course, Curtis surged at about the 2-mile point, passed Van Allen and Hill and paced himself behind eventual winner Brian Harris of C. Milton Wright to place second.
The Arundel Invitational at Annapolis High was the next time all three runners matched times, although they competed in different races. Hill's and Van Allen's times of 15:53 and 17:05, respectively, in Division 2A, beat Curtis' 17:10 in 3A, setting the stage for a rubber race when Oakland Mills visits Centennial in a quad meet tomorrow.
Centennial coach Al Dodds believes that Hill, a talented transfer from Pennsylvania, is the fastest of the three.
"Kevin Hill's superior," Dodds said. "Kevin's only bad race was the Howard
In addition to cross country, Curtis runs the mile, 2-mile and 400 on the Scorpions track team. He enjoys cross country more, because of the variety of running courses, and "it's more of a team, family-type thing," he said.
"In track, the sprinters go off on their own and the distance runners go off on their own," Curtis said.
Curtis also likes the fact that Carnahan injects some humor into the atmosphere with a "funny socks day," a "crazy hat day" and a "Band-Aid day."
For Curtis, running is a way of life. He works part-time at Feet First, a running shoe store which is also unofficial headquarters of the Howard County Striders, the club Curtis trains with during the summer when he's preparing for fall meets.
Additionally in the summer, Curtis runs with a select group from the Oakland Mills team. Carnahan praises Curtis' self-discipline.
"Running in the summer conditions his body. He doesn't break down," Carnahan said of the 5-foot-11, 158-pounder. "That's where most high school cross country runners falter. It's very difficult to run on your own without a coach or a meet to compete in."