PHILADELPHIA -- If there was ever a doubt before yesterday, there isn't anymore. Yes, Mount St. Mary's has climbed among )) the elite in the college track world.
"I knew we could run with the high profile schools," said Mount coach Mike Merritt after his 4x200 relay team of Jamal Simms, Newell Scoon, Clifford Wong and Clyde Edwards ran a school record 1: 25.54 to advance to today's Championship of America finals at the 102nd annual Penn Relays at Franklin Field.
"With the young team we have, I wanted to get out in front early, so I switched some of our runners around," said Merritt.
The tactic worked. Even though the Mount placed second in its heat, winner Penn (1: 24.37) had the second best overall time to Norfolk State's 1: 23.05. Now, can Mount St. Mary's, with the seventh-best time in the field, make up more than two seconds difference to take the title?
"Norfolk's an excellent team, but anything can happen," said Merritt, whose distance medley relay team of Jessica Totaro, Lisa Kaiser, Heather Moul and Robin Kloster placed sixth in that prestigious event Thursday in 11: 37.07. "I've been at the Mount 10 years; this is probably one of my strongest teams ever."
And what words of advice will he have for them today? "I'll just tell them, 'Relax and just go for it,' " said Merritt, who will also have a team running in the women's 4x800 relay final. "We've been running in very tough competition all year. But this is the ultimate for them."
Otherwise, it was a day of near-misses and general disappointment for Baltimore-area schools, both high school and college. The lone exception was Calvert Hall's Cory Smith, who ran a strong third in the high school 3,000 meters in 8: 31.21.
Among the rest, none qualified for Championship of America finals, although Mervo, Carver and Baltimore Poly all won their respective heats.
Pub Date: 4/27/96