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Progress put on fast track

The Baltimore Sun

Woodlawn senior Sean Randall will not be wearing a helmet and shoulder pads when he hits the track this spring.

But make no mistake. Randall is a football player moonlighting as a track athlete. He also is part of a trend in which athletes from football, basketball and soccer take up track in efforts to improve their performances in their main sports.

Randall, a wide receiver, is in his second year of outdoor track. Looking to better his speed and quickness running pass patterns, he competes in the 100- and 200-meter dashes along with 400-, 800- and 1,600-meter relays.

"It helped me with my stamina on the football field," Randall said. "I'm much quicker than the [cornerbacks] I'm going against."

Randall has shown marked improvement in football. Last fall, he was named first-team All-Baltimore County by county coaches for the first time.

He sees a direct correlation between his work on the track and his production on the football field.

"It made me quicker off the line and helped my agility," he said. "It helped me get my routes more crisp."

Randall went to a Temple University football combine last summer and ran the 40-yard dash in 4.41 seconds. His goal is to improve that time to 4.39 this spring, something he feels would draw interest from college football recruiters.

Wesley College and Widener are looking at him as a possible wide receiver and kick returner.

The number of high school and college football combines is growing, and the 40-yard dash is a staple. C. Milton Wright track and field coach Donnie Mickey said he's seeing football players come to his sport just to learn the correct way to sprint in the 40-yard dash.

"The 40 is the big thing for college [football]," Mickey said. "They go to these special training camps and combines, and they're training how to sprint ... [doing things like] staying low and not getting upright until several steps in."

Devon Brown, Bryan Woolson, Chris Stengel and Kenny Seidl all play on the North Harford football team. But this quartet also will help comprise the Hawks' 400-meter relay team, something that's delighted football coach Ken Brinkman.

"They felt that maybe it could help them with their speed and would further their football aspirations," he said. "I think it's the combination of both. Some of them want to do it to improve in football and some of them truly have a talent for some sporting events in track."

Sometimes, athletes who have never participated in track develop into something special. That happened at Glen Burnie when Justin Murdock joined the indoor track team as a sprinter last year after playing football.

He went on to win the Class 4A-3A state championship in the 55 meters the past two seasons. Murdock's time of 6.21 in the title meet Feb. 22 was the nation's best in that event this year, and he also won the Class 4A state championship in the 100 last spring.

C. Milton Wright football player Jerard Neely, a fullback, also was a track novice who quickly became a significant contributor. He can run the 100 and 200 and also helps on relay teams.

Among girls, soccer players seem to gravitate to track and field when looking to improve their games. Since soccer involves so much running, the connection between the two seems natural.

"It does basically the same thing it does with the boys," Mickey said. "It lets you try to become quicker, and if you're a soccer player in the field, you need speed and quickness."

Lynn Tranovich of C. Milton Wright is a soccer goalie who has looked to track to improve the quickness that is crucial for a player at her position.

A backup on the Mustangs' soccer team last fall who got pressed into action late in the season, she'll be running the 200 and 400 to try to get quicker and cover the net better.

While football still is Randall's main priority, he is finding success in track, as well.

This past winter, he finished fourth in the 300 at the Baltimore County meet and then followed with strong performances at the regional (third) and state (14th) meets.

He also was a member of the Warriors' 800 relay team that took second in the regional and seventh in the state meet. In the 1,600 relay, Randall helped Woodlawn win the county and finish second in the regional.

Randall has done well enough in track that he has a shot at a track scholarship, something he never envisioned when he took up the sport last year.

Howard, UMES and Seton Hall have all expressed interest in him for track.

"I never really ran before," Randall said. "I was trying to learn [things] to help as a wide receiver, and I've [gotten better]."

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