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Annapolis boys shooting for title sweep


With the Anne Arundel County and the 3A-2A East Region titles already in hand for the first time in school history, the Annapolis boys' indoor track team has its sights on the triple crown.

The No. 4 Panthers will go for the 3A-2A state championship on Monday at the Prince George's Sports and Learning Complex in Landover.

Sixth-year coach Mike Ballard expects his squad to be in title contention, thanks to a corps of intense sprinters, competitive distance runners and a solid shot-putter in Kareem Reed.

"I thought we would stack up real well for the region, and I expect us to stack up well for the states," said Ballard, a 1985 graduate of Annapolis and former track and field athlete for the Panthers.

"It's ours to lose because we don't need a perfect day to win it. We have guys who can score points in nine of the 13 events."

Ballard has done a remarkable job in turning his alma mater into a track power.

Three years ago, Ballard guided the Panthers' girls to their first-ever indoor track county title after finishing runner-up to perennial champion Old Mill in his first two years.

Distance and middle distance runners like Erin Masterson and Robyn Mincher were the strength of the 1998-99 Annapolis team that ended Old Mill's 13-year title run.

That team, however, finished fourth in their region meet and 11th in the states.

The current Annapolis boys team won its first county title with 111 points, well ahead of Meade's second-place 66.

Last season, the Annapolis boys finished third in the county (63.75 points) behind Broadneck (70) and Chesapeake (67.75).

In this season's 3A-2A East regional, the Panthers outdistanced second-place Gwynn Park, 92-41.

Now it's time for the state meet.

"We're ready, " said senior Mike Brown, who set Anne Arundel County meet records in the 55 meters (6.2 seconds) and the 55-meter high hurdles (7.4), and claimed the same two events in the regional.

"We have the talent and the chemistry to win the states. We are friends first. It was great to win the first county championship and the region, but we have more to do."

Brown, a four-year varsity sprinter who also runs the 300 dash and a leg of the county runner-up 800-meter relay, is one of three football starters on the team.

Juniors Demario Harris and Davon Watkins are the other two. Harris, who started in the defensive secondary with Brown and was named All-County and All-Metro in football, was second in the county high jump with teammate Tim O'Brien and third behind O'Brien in the region.

Harris also runs the 55 dash, high hurdles and is on the 800-relay with Brown, Watkins and junior Chris Menendez. Watkins, the football quarterback, competes in the 55 and 300 dashes.

The 300 dash is the specialty of Menendez, a transfer last year from Antioch Christian. Menendez, who Ballard calls "one of our most improved runners," won the county 300 in 36.2 and also runs the 500 for the Panthers.

"Everybody has worked hard this year to make this the best Annapolis boys team ever," said Menendez.

Ballard, who credits his assistants - Charles Gross, Scott Eden and Juan Brown - for much of the team's success, said there's more to the team than just sprinters.

"We've got quality distance runners in Patrick Cook-Deegan and Will Eden, who is only a freshman, " said Ballard.

Cook-Deegan was second in the 800 in both the county and the region, and Eden won the county 3,200 and placed second in the region.

Reed won both the county and region titles in the shot put and is a contender for a state title.

Will Amos, second in the region and third in the county behind two Class 4A pole vaulters, including two-time county champion Brian Grubel of Severna Park, enhance the Panthers' chances of adding big points in the field events.

The Annapolis girls tied for third with Severna Park in the county meet behind champion Broadneck and Chesapeake, all Class 4A schools, and finished fifth in the 3A-2A region meet that was won by a surprising Northeast team with triple winner Brittany Milliken.

Milliken should garner points for the Eagles in the 800 and 1,600 runs, while county and region high jump champion Maleeka Diggs will be right there for Annapolis.

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