If you're going to beat Romero Wilson, you had better do it eary.
A junior at Mount St. Joesph, Wilson has built a deserved reputation as one of the area's top track and field finishers. He's one of those guys who's more preoccupied with winning than the stopwatch, and every one in the Maryland Scholastic Association fell victim to his kick last spring, when he won MSA titles in the 1,500 and 800 meters.
"Romero is never out of a race," said Brother Brian Vetter, the St. Joe coach who has charted Wilson's progress. "He has the heart to come back."
The image of Wilson coming on strong extends to the length of the season. The Gaels open their A Conference dual meet season today (3:45) at Xaverian Field against Archbishop Curley, and he might well lose the 1,600 to Matt Ciarpella.
There will also be major challenges from Calvert Hall's Chris Sisk, Poly's Ron Drummond and Loyola's Gavin McCarty and Bill Desmond, but come late May, when Carver's Sean Hendrick enters the championship picture, Wilson figures to be the one to beat in the 1,600.
Wilson's late-season confidence stems in part from the fact that he's not a year-round runner. He played basketball for St. Joe this past season. A 6-foot-2, 160-pound forward, he was one of the last substitutes for the Gaels, but the team went 21-11 and was No. 11 in The
Evening Sun rankings.
"I was strictly a basketball player before I came to St. Joe," Wilson said. "My dad asked me to try out for cross country as a freshman, and I had no problems with that."
At the end of his freshman year, Wilson placed second in the MSA in the junior varsity 1,500, in 4:27. After another summer of basketball and a growth spurt, he was seventh in the MSA in cross country in 1989, and his transformation into a dominant force was completed at last year's track and field championships.
Wilson took the 1,500 in 4:07.6, just three seconds off of the Gaels' school record. He surprised even himself by taking the 800 in 2:03.2, one-tenth faster than Poly's Drummond. The latter time wasn't all that impressive, but neither were the conditions.
Wilson's conditioning last summer consisted of a few races wearing the uniform of the Randallstown Optimists, and 40-hour weeks working at a car wash on North Avenue. Last fall he was the MSA cross country runner-up to Ciarpella, and a first-team All-Metro.
The MSA's best will find it harder than ever to hold off Wilson in his specialty, since this season the league is switching from the 1,500 to the 1,600. Whatever the distance, if he can stay healthy and focused, next year Wilson can become the first MSA runner in recent memory to win one of the middle-distance titles three straight years.
* The Evening Sun again will publish the area's top track and field performances on an every other Thursday basis, beginning April 18. To have worthy marks included, telephone 332-6662 Mondays and Wednesdays between 9 a.m. and noon.