Gone to graduation are five of Western's senior stars, including second-team All-Metros Tamara Laing, Gabrielle Butler, Janee Ward and Tamara Clarke.
But despite having just three returning seniors this year -- all of whom were role players last year -- Doves girls track coach Jerry Molyneaux is thinking and talking big.
Always brutally frank in assessing his athletes and conservative when doling out praise, Molyneaux, in his ninth season, is unusually outspoken of late.
"For talent, this is the best team I've ever had," he said of his third-ranked Doves.
He says Western is even better than it was last year, when Laing, a sprinter, Butler, a hurdler, Ward, a jumper, and Clarke, a middle distance performer, anchored the Doves to their fifth straight District 9 championship.
In winning 12 of 17 events, last year's Doves (203 points) scored nearly three times as many points as runner-up Northern (68). The Doves were region runners-up to Perry Hall, and were sixth at states.
But Molyneaux insists this year's team, which comprises 10 freshmen, six sophomores and four juniors, would hammer last year's.
"We have more talent by a long shot, and it's the fastest, with the most natural ability and the most skill -- we'd whip their butts," Molyneaux said.
This year's three seniors are sprinter-jumper Linaya DeShields, middle-distance specialist Crystal Richburg and shot putter-discus thrower Sherine Ward.
"I've been on this team for four years, and this one's the best," said DeShields, a third-place finisher in last year's 100-meter city championships. "We've got field event specialists, good sprinters, good jumpers, and our relays people are [interchangeable]. We have so much depth and variety."
Junior Shannon Moore qualifies in that category. She was a city runner-up in last year's outdoor 300 hurdles and comes off an indoor appearance in the 55 hurdles state finals. Moore and junior Cornelya Mims ran the first and third legs of last year's city champion 800 relay squad, which won in a meet record 146 minutes, seven seconds.
This year, Moore ran the second leg of the 800 relay team that has already clocked a school-record 1: 45.0 -- second-best in the area -- at the Towson Relays. That team also included, in order, freshman Toni Jefferson, DeShields and Mims.
Jefferson "is as fast now as Laing ever was," said Molyneaux. That's saying a lot, because Laing earned The Sun's All-City Performer of the Year honors as a sophomore, and won gold medals in 10 city championship events over her past three seasons.
But Jefferson has answered the call, already having clocked an area-best 12.1 seconds in the 100 meters, and long-jumped a school-record 17-6.
Junior Kimya McCoy was last year's city champ in the 3,200, winning in 12: 32.6 -- a meet record by 10 seconds. She also was a 1,600 runner-up to teammate Elizabeth Johnson, a sophomore who comes off an indoor state runner-up finish in the 800. McCoy also was third in last year's city triple jump.
Earlier this season at the Bowie State Invitational, Johnson and McCoy ran the third and fourth legs of the Doves' winning distance medley relay, led off by Richburg and Jefferson.
In the same event, Johnson and McCoy ran the last two legs of the winning 1,600 relay, which began with Richburg handing off to sophomore Tiffany Jackson.
Jackson, a middle-distance performer along with junior Marion Moore, should each make impacts in time, Molyneaux said.
Among Molyneaux's goals are beating No. 5 Perry Hall and No. 6 Dulaney at regions, and placing among the top three teams at states.
"We're gearing up for states in the meantime," Molyneaux said, "and I expect our times to keep dropping -- big time."
Pub Date: 5/01/96