Meade High's track teams face an unusual situation tomorrow.
The boys contingent will defend its title at the 29th annual National Guard Indoor Track Meet, which will take place at Baltimore's Fifth Regiment Armory despite the expected presence of anti-war protesters thatforced the postponement of a meet Tuesday.
Meade, located in the heart of Fort Meade, has many students whose relatives are members of the U.S. military. In fact, Coach Jay Cuthbert said at least two of his athletes have relatives who are involved in the Persian Gulf war.
"It's been discussed, and everybody's kind of pulling with each other. There's a lot of support from teammates, and they're working through it," said Cuthbert.
"I don't thinkit will affect their performances, but if it were a situation where they felt like they couldn't compete, then of course they wouldn't beforced."
Meet director Ed Walker said the anti-war protests have been going on all week outside of the armory, including yesterday when he was contacted about the event.
He said the activity forced the cancellation of a meet Tuesday involving Baltimore County teams from Catonsville, Dulaney, Hereford and Towson, but he said the protestswill not affect tomorrow's action.
"We're committed to this one, and we're bringing in heavy security," said Walker. "We will have a meet."
Cuthbert isn't sure what reaction to expect from his athletes or whether the sight of protesters will stir feelings of uneasiness.
"We had a meet at the armory Wednesday night. We left at about 6:45, and we didn't see any protesters," said Cuthbert. "But when I got home at about 8:30 and turned on the television, I saw on the news that there were lots of them (outside of the armory). We must have gotten out just in time."
He continued, "I guess there are more important things in the world than track, and obviously our people are affected because we're on post here. When we get up there, they might still be protesting as we're walking by, but it would be a shame for the kids to be hassled when (the war) is not their (fault)."
The expected protesters notwithstanding, the Mustangs will have a tough time repeating as boys champs for the third time. Both Old Mill's boys and girls will be vying for titles.
Old Mill's boys have a 4-0 dual-meet record, including a 101-86.5 victory over Meade in a 10-school meet at the Fifth Regiment Armory last week.
The Patriots' girls, with a host of underclassmen -- no seniors and just two juniors -- will be the county's top challengers to Central of Prince George's County, which won the event for the sixth time in 10 tries last year. ThePatriots' girls are unbeaten after finishing second in last year's event.
"We're not an odds-on favorite, but we know we've got a shot," said Old Mill coach Ron Evans. "There are going to be 85 schools represented there, and the meet has only been won a few times by teamsin the county. Meade's boys have done it twice and Old Mill's girls have done it twice."
Said Cuthbert: "Old Mill is strong, and so are we. We're hoping to score strongly in the specialty events. It's going to depend on how well our pole vaulters and high jumpers do."
Severna Park's girls are not expected to challenge for the team title, but the Falcons could win an individual title or two.
In all, there will be 80 boys teams and 78 girls squads competing. A few Anne Arundel County competitors received top seeds.
Among the girls, Severna Park's Fran Mackney is the county's only top seed. She is No. 1 in the 3,000-meter run with an 11-minute, 10-second clocking. Mackney, however, was beaten in the 800 on Tuesday by Old Mill sophomore Nicki Matters, who crossed in 2:37.2.
Old Mill junior Titisha Washington has posted a county-high 7.4 finish in the 55-meter --. She also runs the lead leg of the 800 relay and the anchor of the 1,600 relay.
The most competitive boys race -- called "the race of the day" by Walker -- should come in the 1,500-meter run. Meade's Ray Burleson is the top seed ahead of a field that includes two former state champions.
Burleson, who has registered the fastest time in 4:10, is ranked ahead of Centennial (Howard County) 3A cross country state champion Pat Rodrigues, Lansdowne (Baltimore County) state champ Jason Cox and Old Mill's Scott Boetig, a regional cross country champion.
Burleson is also the top seed in the 800 with a time of 2:2.4 and Boetig (9:11) is the No. 2 seed in the 3000, behind top-seeded Rodrigues and ahead of No. 3 seed Cox.
Although Meade's Anthony Lowe (7.6 seconds) defeated Old Mill's Rocky McMillan in the high hurdles last Tuesday, McMillan -- also with a 7.6 -- is seeded first, followed by three others from Woodlawn, Northwestern and Suitland, respectively.
"They've each beaten each other, and they're very comparable," said Cuthbert. "It should be a good race, but the feat will be getting to the finals."
Meade's pole-vaulting Miller brothers, Jeff and Eric, are seeded 1-2 for their event. The pair posted personal records withtheir 1-2 finish against Old Mill last week. Jeff was first with hisleap of 14 feet, 4 inches and Eric tipped the bar at 13-6.
Old Mill's boys also will need points from high jumper Marvin Williams, sprinter Derrik Johnson and shot-putter Brian Evans.
Johnson has the county's fastest 55-meter time of 6.5, and Evans has tossed a county-high 48-6. Broadneck's Carlos Cromwell had the previous high mark at 48-1.
Johnson and Williams run the lead-off and the anchor legs, respectively, of the unbeaten 800 team, along with McMillan and Corey Dorsey in the second and third legs. The team has posted the county'sfastest time, 1:35.9.