Mervo's track and field team didn't waste any time making a name for itself among the state public schools.
After finishing second in the state in their inaugural season in 1993 and third the following year, the Mustangs garnered back-to-back Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association titles and enter this season with their sights set on a third consecutive Class 4A state crown.
Field events have never been the Mustangs' strength, however. In fact, the last guy Mervo coach Freddie Hendricks tried to convince to try the pole vault never got off the ground.
"We don't have any facilities at our school, so I gave this guy a pole, showed him the grip, and had him run down the hallway with it," said Hendricks, who trains his team at Morgan State and City College. "He lost interest pretty quick."
That's about the only thing Mervo has lost lately. Over the winter, the Mustangs' indoor team swept city, region and state titles and finished the season ranked No. 1 in the metro area.
The only athlete not back from that group is Craig Coombs, an outstanding baseball player.
Antoine Collins and Garfield Thompson are back and will run the 800 and 1,600-meter events for the Mustangs. Tyree Byron will handle the 400 dash and run a leg of the shorter relays and Vaughn DeVaughn will represent the blue and gold in hurdles and relays.
Rounding out Mervo's speedy contingent are Dax Johnson (100 and 200 dashes) and Eric Newby, a talented sprinter who has cleared 23 feet in the long jump.
"Another strong team on the track could hurt us if they have field events, but we're pretty excited," said Hendricks. "I know we have a shot at it. Perry Hall is always tough. Meade is a team to be reckoned with. High Point and Suitland are both good, and Roosevelt is always there."
Mervo's girls team won't be as dominant, but does have some individuals who could shine this spring. Lauren Bartee is one; Aramah Johnson is another.
Bartee emerged as city champ this winter in the 55 hurdles and was fourth in the high jump at the Class 3A-4A state meet. Johnson, the city's indoor runner-up in the 500, continues to improve and will represent the Mustangs in the 200 and 400 dashes.
Western's girls team had a huge turnout this spring and is poised to defend its city and region titles. To overcome perennial powers Roosevelt, Old Mill and Oxon Hill at the state meet, the Doves will need peak performances from veterans Elizabeth Johnson, Tiffany Jackson, Cornelya Mims and Toni Jefferson.
Southwestern's Tenille Johnson is the only city girl returning from last year's All-Metro team. Johnson won the 100 hurdles at last year's Class 4A North region meet and was second in the same event at states.
The Sabres boys team has Gary Gerald, who became the city's first indoor pole vault champ.
The only returning All-Metro runner from the city on the boys side is Carver's Bernard Williams. Williams won state titles in the 55 and 300 dashes indoors and will attempt to defend his outdoor state titles in the 100 and 200 dashes.
Senior Majeedah Neale, the city high-jump champ two years ago, is back for Northern and Arnold Henry is back for Poly after earning a gold medal in the 55 hurdles at the city indoor championships.
Among private schools, Mount de Sales and Catholic look to be the girls teams to beat. Four teams -- Gilman, Mount St. Joseph, Curley and Calvert Hall -- have chances to win this year's Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association Championships.
Gilman lost sprinters who won last year's dual-meet title and the MIAA Championship meet, but Greyhounds coach Johnnie Foreman believes he has enough talent back to defend their titles.
David Chalmers, the metro area's cross country Runner of the Year last fall, and junior Seamus Whelton will handle the distance events for Gilman. Teammates Donald Bacoat (triple jump) and Ryan Humphrey (pole vault) will try to defend their MIAA titles.
"Parity has finally set in," said Foreman. "Hopefully, we'll finish somewhere near the top, if not at the top."
Mount St. Joseph returns a nucleus of the team that captured first in the inaugural MIAA Indoor Championships at Essex Community College. Aaron Thompson, a running back headed to Maryland on a football scholarship, will run sprints and throw the shot put. During the indoor season, Thompson turned in a metro-area best performance in the shot put with a toss of 48 feet, 7 inches.
The Gaels' other leading performers include Jake Miller (pole vault), William Dunmore (400) and Ricky Frazier (400, 800 and high jump).
Curley has enough standouts, namely Adam Siripoonsup (hurdles and jumps), Wayne Brown (sprints and jumps) and Tony Diem (distance) -- to win the championship meet but lacks the numbers to be successful in the dual-meet competition.
Calvert Hall will rely on its distance people, Joe Bryson and Jed McCormick, to keep the Cardinals competitive.
Mercy Okoye and Beth Frey led Catholic to a first-place finish in the inaugural Private School Championships and will try to help the Cubs get past two-time defending champ Mount de Sales.
Rose O'Neill and Amy Miller will set the pace for Mount de Sales in the distance events and Candy Coleman and Joni Caddell will represent the Sailors in the throwing events.
Garrison Forest doesn't have a track and field team, but that's not stopping Anna Goetze from competing this spring. Goetze, the Grizzlies' top harrier the past three seasons, has trained with Hereford coach John Roemer and will compete as an independent at Hereford's dual meets.
Pub Date: 4/01/97