Sprinters might run short distances, but having a good group of them goes a long way.
Just ask Meade coach Nigel Holder. At last winter's state Class 3A indoor meet, his "Four Horsemen" - sprinters Justin Murdock, Dahmar Shields, Matt Brinkley and Anya Uzoh - carried the Mustangs to the championship. They accounted for 40percent of the team's points, and their 28 points alone would have been good for fourth place.
Sprints and relays make up seven of the 13 indoor track events. What makes sprinters so valuable is that they can compete in up to four events in a meet, while it's nearly impossible to have a distance runner go in four events.
"Sprints and relays can make the difference in the meet in indoor track," Holder said. "You can get more out of a sprinter in three or four events than you can get from a distance runner in two events."
Outdoor track is a different story because its state meet is spread over two days. Someone who competes only in field events indoors or outdoors usually can take part in only one or two because the skills required are so different.
More coaches are putting good sprinters in two individual events and two relays to get the maximum points out them. Sprinting and relays often go hand-in-hand.
"There's more two-and-two; that's what I went after last year," Holder said. "At the beginning of the season, I thought about the end of the year, and the smart thing to do was to focus on the two sprints and the two relays. It just made sense to do it that way."
Western Tech coach Shedrick Elliott has two versatile sprinters in Lance Wilkes and Shannon Thomas.
Wilkes is able to run in the 55 and 300 meters plus the 800- and 1,600-meter relays. Thomas will help Western Tech in the 300 plus the 800- and 1,600-meter relays.
In the bigger meets, their ability to do so many things helps Elliott as a coach.
"The versatility definitely comes in handy, and it gives me a good chance to look at other kids in other events," Elliott said. "They could do three or four events, if we need them, but that would most likely not happen until championship season. But it gives us depth."
Added Milford Mill athletic director and former track coach Joe Sargent: "You're going after quality over quantity. We'll take talent and work with the talent. You take kids who you know are going to succeed and score in different events."
Mount St. Joseph coach Vince Fuller will take advantage of having athletes such as Dorian Johnson, Kyle Fuller, Duane Parker and Renard Robinson. All four can help the top-ranked Gaels in sprints and relays.
The top-ranked McDonogh girls are going to use Amanda Kimbers and Kristen Brown in the same way. Kimbers can run in the 55, 300 and 800 relay. Brown competes in the 55 meters and the 55 hurdles along with the 800 and 1,600 relays. Coach Jeff Sanborn can move them, and his other sprinters, around to get points in a variety of ways.
Sargent had a lot of success with the formula when he was coaching.
Sargent's boys won the Class 3A-2A state title in 1997 despite bringing just five athletes to the event. Derrick Stansfield won the 300 and 500 meters and anchored two winning relays. That gave the team 40 of the 48 points it scored that day.
The Milford Mill girls brought only five or six athletes to the state meet in 2002 and 2003 and won twice, getting a big effort from sprinter Novia Brown, who won two races and helped with the relays.
It typically takes fewer points to win an indoor meet because there are five fewer events than in outdoor track. That's why multi-event athletes who can sprint and run relays are so valuable.
"You always want to maximize the points available," Pikesville coach Gerard Filosa said. "You've got to see where the kids can score the most points. If you have two studs in open events who can also go to relays, you can really rack up a lot of points."
Added South Carroll coach Rob Pennington: "Most good teams in indoor track are sprint-heavy. That's just the way it is."