Rondon, Howard give Oakland Mills a shot in the arm

THE BALTIMORE SUN

At the county track championships that start Wednesday, Oakland Mills coach Sam Singleton won't have to worry about one event -- the shot put.

The two-time defending state champion Scorpions have the best shot-put duo in county history. And they are both juniors.

Brian Howard and Kevin Rondon had their best throws April 25 at Mount Hebron.

Rondon threw 53 feet, 1 3/4 inches to break the school record of 51-8 set by Wade McHargue.

A few minutes later, Howard threw 55-3 to break the 20-year-old county mark of 55 feet by Wilde Lake's Wayne Mims.

"It's great having Kevin on the same team," Howard said. "We have a friendly competition. I was clearly better than he was last year, but at the beginning of this season he beat me two or three times. At any meet, Kevin could win."

Rondon's toss at Mount Hebron was the first time he had thrown 50 feet.

"I was very calm. It was my mother's birthday and I wanted to do it for her," Rondon said. "And when my partner [Howard] threw 50 on his first attempt that really motivated me."

Because he threw shot put indoors while Howard wrestled, Rondon was ahead of Howard when outdoor season began. Rondon won the county indoor title at 45 feet and finished third in the state indoor championships at 48-1.

"Brian makes me better," Rondon said. "The competition puts a positive pressure on me. We tell each other good luck, and whoever wins, wins."

Both started throwing the shot seriously last season, after McHargue graduated and left a void.

Both are among the strongest athletes at Oakland Mills. "Brian is the strongest kid in the school," Singleton said.

Howard (6-foot-1 and 215 pounds) bench presses 350 pounds, squats 600, cleans 250 and dead lifts 400. Rondon (6-1, 225) benches 300.

"My best friend, Kyle Walker, got me involved in track," Rondon said. "He said I was big and should try it."

Howard started out as a freshman throwing shot, but the team had McHargue and needed sprinters so he ran the 100 instead.

He ran his fastest 100 meters in 11.2 seconds at the same Mount Hebron meet -- minutes after his record-breaking throw. He finished sixth in the state 100 as a freshman. He also ran on the state champion 2x400 relay team that season and two state champion relays last season.

Because the team had so many sprinters last season, Howard switched to the shot.

He was disappointed with his third place in the shot at the states, but he won the regional outdoor title at 48-1 and the county title at 45-6.

Neither athlete so far has perfected the technique that usually accompanies outstanding shot putters. There's no telling how far they will throw once they master a smooth technique.

They didn't compete, but picked up some pointers this spring at the Penn Relays, where most of the high school shot putters throw 55 to 60 feet.

"Once I get the spin move down I think I can throw 60 feet," Howard said. "At least, that's my goal. The Penn Relays gave me ambition."

Howard played linebacker (All-County) and running back for the county championship football team this fall. He has a 3.83 grade-point average and hopes to play college football.

After two years of playing basketball, he wrestled heavyweight this winter for the county champs and finished third in the county and region.

"Wrestling is the hardest sport because of the mental aspect. There's an individual competition and a team competition and there are so many ups and downs," he said.

Four times the team competition came down to his match and three times he won. The loss was in the first match he ever wrestled.

Rondon also played football. He was a back-up defensive tackle last season but should start next season.

"They are both quality kids," Singleton said.

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