Slide over Mervo and Perry Hall, the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association is bringing its track and field act indoors.
The MIAA's decision to upgrade indoor track from club to team status was frowned on by some private-school winter sports coaches who feared the "new sport" would dilute the athletic talent pool. But those with the stop watches, such as Gilman coach Johnnie Foreman, believe it was a right, long-overdue decision.
"If we want to be competitive with these [public school] teams during the outdoor track season, we have to run hard in the winter, like them," said Foreman. "It gives our kids an opportunity to run in a competitive environment, and it will help keep the interest of those just starting out in the sport."
Foreman's top distance runners -- David Chalmers, The Sun's cross country Runner of the Year, and Seamus Whelton, a first-team All-Metro pick -- won't be on Gilman's inaugural indoor team. Chalmers is a key member of Gilman's basketball team, and Whelton prefers diving.
Foreman would welcome the points Chalmers and Whelton could score on the indoor oval, butinsists he'd rather see them doing what they want to do.
"We're not trying to steal any other kids from any other sports," he said. "My best quarter-miler outdoors, Donald Bacoat, is a wrestler, and I told him, 'Go ahead and wrestle.' But he decided not to. He knows he isn't going to wrestle in college, and he wants to focus on his running. Finally, he has the opportunity."
The league has scheduled its inaugural championship meet for Feb. 24 at Essex Community College.
The six-team conference, which includes boys squads from Calvert Hall, Archishop Curley, Gilman, Loyola, McDonogh and Mount St. Joseph, is not eligible to compete against the public schools in their postseason meets. But the schools are bound to cross paths at one or more of the many invitationals.
A preview of the season:
Until some teams prove otherwise, Mervo's boys and Western's girls are the teams to beat.
Mervo: Graduation hit the Mustangs hard. Back, however, is a solid group of sprinters, including Antoine Collins, Tyree Bryon, Vaughn DeVaughn, Garfield Thompson and Craig Coombs.
"We're like a stair-stepper," said coach Freddie Hendricks "We always have kids coming up to replace those we lost."
Mervo's girls include three potential city champs in Lauren Bartee (high jump, hurdles) and sprinters Aramah Johnson and Brandy Vincent but will be hard-pressed to unseat defending city champ Western.
Western: The Doves are led by a veteran group, which includes Elizabeth Johnson, Tiffany Jackson, Cornelya Mims and Toni Jefferson. "There's no competition in the city and we should whip everybody in the region," said Doves coach Jerry Molyneaux.
Carver: The Bears boast the area's most decorated and most highly recruited sprinter in senior Bernard Williams. Williams, who has already visited the University of Tennessee, is a quadruple state champion, having won state titles in the 55 and 300 dashes indoors and the 100 and 200 outdoors. Jeffrey Blair, on the Bears' outdoor state champion 800 relay team, is back and will be pushed by newcomers Kirk Boone, Kibwe Shelton and Steve Queen.
"It's us and Mervo in the city," said Carver coach Walter Cole.
Patterson: First-year coach Rick Ardinger believes his boys are "contenders for the city championship" and adds that "we have the potential to bring back the tradition of track and field from the 1950s and '60s, when Patterson dominated." The team will rely on sophomore Joseph Keeling and the Williams brothers, Tomez and Brendon.
Quandra Faulkner, a speedy junior who Ardinger calls "an Olympic hopeful," will be in the spotlight.
Poly: Wallace Sifford isn't expecting much in team competition but is looking for big things from several individuals, including senior leader Wayne Walsh, Arnold Henry and Renardo Brisbon.
Douglass: A program short on numbers but tall on talent. The boys are led by Robert Murray (55 dash), Wayne Oliver (300) and Jay Engles (distance). Showing promise for the girls are Renaldo Owens (shot put), Veronica Street (300 dash) and Violet Murray (55 dash).
Southwestern: The girls team has two of the area's best in Yvonne Brown (distance) and Tenille Johnson (hurdles).
Southern: Distance runner Harold Whaley is one of the few bright spots on Southern's first-year boys team.
Dunbar: Rebuilding this season, coach Barbara Bryant will construct her teams around Alvin White, Deltwane O'Neal, Laketa Dyson and Jamilla Dickens.
Northern: Seniors Brian Purnell and Pete Pinnock will run the 300 and 500, and the Vikings girls team returns city high jump champ senior Majeedah Neale.
Lake Clifton: Underclassmen Mary Robertson, Zalika Collins and Angie Taylor lead the girls.
Dulaney's girls and Perry Hall's boys are looking to recapture their county team titles, but several teams will be trying to play spoiler.
Dulaney: The core of its state champion cross country team returns, including Marjorie Bollinger, Holly Zahner, Bianca Jay, Meredeith Fellman and Meghan White. The Lions boys hope to make a run at Perry Hall and will rely on distance runners Shawn Sullivan and Greg Vincent to deny the Gators their fourth consecutive county crown.
"We're neck-and-neck with [Perry Hall] this year," said Dulaney coach John Britt. "This is the closest we'll be to them in a long time."
Perry Hall: Coach Jerry Martin welcomes the Dulaney challenge and proudly proclaims that his boys team is "strong in every event." Omar Knight is the Gators' most potent weapon, and he can run from 500 on up. Knight is joined in the middle distance events by the Green brothers, Cody and Cory, and Jason Harle.
Towson: With some of the Howard County schools thrown back into its region, Towson's boys will be hard-pressed to repeat as ++ regional champs. The Generals are going to need points from veterans Adam Wierman, Jason Yu and Jason Mitchell.
Hereford: Pat Tyrrell returns and will try and defend his boys 1600 and 3200 region titles. Kate Mcfarland, the county's pioneer in female pole vaulting, is back, as are distance runners Rebecca Sauder and Bridget Wildt.
Franklin: Megan Erickson, who high-jumped 4-11 last year, will leap again, and teammates Katie Citroni and Kara Wingate will handle the distance events.
Patapsco: The school hasn't fielded an indoor team the past few years and is rebuilding around sprinters Dave Dillard, Eric Umberger, Larry Hodges, Adebola Olajide and Kim Saab.
Eastern Tech: The girls team has only one returner, distance runner Dawn Rowan. Some promising freshman boys complement veteran shot putter/middle distance runner Dan Oden.
Catonsville: The girls have the personnel to repeat last winter's regional win. Giving the Comets hope are distance runners Eden Rellihan and Brigid O'Connell and sprinter Renee Tirrochi.
Dundalk: Donta Dotson, who went undefeated in the 55 dash during last year's regular season, should put Dundalk in the spotlight and fellow-Owl Nikki Cameron has shown promise in the 55 hurdles and the 500 dash.
Milford Mill: Junior Derek Anderson, state champ in the 300 hurdles as a freshman, injured a knee last year, but he's back and is joined by teammate Derrick Stanfield, last year's region indoor champ in the 300 IH.
Randallstown: Junior Jeffrey McKelvin is a double-threat -- the high jump and hurdles.
Western T&E;: Marcus Lynch and Darnell Harkless provide a strong 1-2 punch in the sprints.
Pikesville: Keishauna Banks, the defending Class 2A region champ in the shot put is back.
Woodlawn: Speedster Catrice Jefferson, an All-City/County selection last winter, returns.
Parkville: The team, which recently played host to a delegation of Russian athletes, lost 10 competitors to graduation, including Joe Smith (Villanova). But Jen Geroux, the metro area's cross country Runner of the Year, will lead the Knights' girls squad. Veuril McDavid, Darryl Cooney, Jeff Cramer, Darren LaRocque and Jon Francis will pull the weight for the boys team.
Private boys schools
Mount St. Joseph: The Gaels have to be considered the early favorite to win the first MIAA indoor title. The Gaels had 70 athletes try out for the team and coach Gene Constantine has managed to narrow that number down to 25. Constantine's top guns are Matty Thomas, one of the top hurdlers in the state, seniors Robert McCormick and William Dunmore in the 400, and Chi Ukonne, the JV champ in the intermediate and high hurdles.
McDonogh: Indoor track will still be considered a "club" sport at McDonogh School, and athletes who participate this winter will not be awarded a varsity letter.
The Eagles are led by C.J. Smith, the league's defending long jump champ, and All-Metro harriers Garth Terry and Alex Taylor.
Archbishop Curley: This team got a boost when All-Metro cross country runner Tony Diem chose indoor track over wrestling. The Friars should get an added lift from junior Wayne Brown, the MIAA's defending champ in 100- and 200-meter dashes, and defending 300 intermediate hurdle champion Adam Siripoonsup.
Gilman: In addition to Bacoat, Gilman should get some help from distance runners Scott Sussman, Tom Hale and Will Spencer, and Felix Isuk, the MIAA's defending shot put champ.
Calvert Hall: Coach Mary Bondyra isn't sure who she will be penciling into her lineup this winter, but she has received commitments from All-Metro cross country runner Eric Linder and MIAA junior varsity champs Colin Gause (long jump) and Uzoma Nwadike (300 hurdles).
Loyola: Chris Knott, one of the MIAA's premier distance runners will set the Dons' pace, along with P.J. Prosser (middle distances) and quarter-milers Josh Rodriguez and Jeff Harmon.
Private girls schools
The Association of Independent Schools hasn't made indoor track an official sport yet, but that hasn't stopped Catholic and Mount de Sales from fielding teams.
Some of the other private girls schools don't have the numbers to field a team but their individuals will compete at area meets and are eligible to compete in the first Baltimore Private Schools Championships on Feb. 21 at Essex CC.
Catholic: Forty girls turned out for the school's first official indoor team, including senior Mercy Okoye, the private school's defending 400-meter outdoor champion. Junior Beth Frey can run anything from the 200 dash to the mile. The sprinting corps is rounded out by Gina Schafer, Maria Adams and Cheryll Siebert and Erin Riley and Kim Zakrzyski will represent Catholic in the shot put.
Mount de Sales: Coach Sean Moran has a number of talented athletes on his squad including distance runners Katie Cardoni, Amy Miller and Rosie O'Neill, sprinters Jenn Aversa and Kathleen Coolahan and senior shot putter Joni Coddell.
Bryn Mawr: The Mawrtians will be represented in the running events by Chris Houle, Diana Thaung, Liz Miller and Jessie Kulp.
Pub Date: 12/15/96