Pondering the potential of his Old Mill High track team Wednesday, Coach Ron Evans chose his words carefully as he sat at a classroom desk.
His word usage was tempered by 25 years of coaching experience.His diction was hampered slightly by the oral surgery he had a day earlier. So a cautious Evans tried to make sure that he didn't say anything that would cause him to bite his tender tongue.
"I'm guardedly optimistic about this team. I want more out of my sprinters, and we have some girls who are helping to continue the long line of tradition of Old Mill hurdlers," he said. "Our strength is our depth and our field events. This team is young but balanced. And sooner or later it's going to make its mark."
Honest talk from a veteran of nine years at Arundel, where he produced three of his career 14 outdoor state titles. Evans has coached the Old Mill boys to five state titles and the girls to six, with each side winning two indoor state championships.
Under Evans, the girls squads have won 11 county titles andwill be attempting to capture their 11th straight May11. The boys will be going for their second straight county title after having won 10 in the past.
With the county meet just around the corner, the Patriots appear to be peaking at just the right time. Several team members are returning after being sidelined with mononucleosis, including jumper Corey Dorsey.
Things have been going extremely well for the Patriots recently. Dorsey was even being consideredfor a national television commercial for Coca-Cola.
In the classroom, 38 of the Patriots' 79 track athletes are honor-roll students. Six are 4.0 students, including sophomore Nickie Matters, an indoor 800-meter state champion, and sophomore Marisa Sanders, who finished sixth in the state in the 3,200 meters last year.
Last summer, Sanders won the Maccabean Olympic Games in the 15-year-old division, and her personal best time of 12 minutes, 58.3 seconds this season remainsthe Baltimore area's third fastest 3,200 clocking.
Led by Dorsey,a junior, the Patriots' long and triple jumpers are improving by leaps and bounds. And with senior Brian Evans and sophomores Amy Reusingand Michelle Smith, the discus and shot put titles seem just a stone's throw away.
"This is my 16th year at Old Mill," Evans said. "Years later, I'm just expecting the same results out of different kids."
And so far, he's getting them.
Both the boys and girls squads are 3-0 after consecutive victories over 10-time Carroll County champion Westminster, Prince George's County's Eleanor Roosevelt and neighborhood rival Meade.
Because the dual meet with Meade was the Tuesday before the Meade Stampede Invitational, Evans suspects Mustangscoach Jay Cuthbert did not put his best athletes on the track against the Patriots, which makes the county meet all the more intriguing.
The victory over Eleanor Roosevelt, however, was especially impressive because that squad was the defending Class 4A outdoor state champion. Roosevelt also won the indoor state title this past winter.
Through all of the success, however, the Patriots are trying to remain humble.
Sanders and Matters epitomize the Old Mill squad -- inexperienced but talented and eager to learn and improve.
"Really, we're kind of on our own. It's kind of weird not to have seniors show us the way," the 15-year-old Matters said. "When you go into a meet, you think people expect you to win, and it's hard sometimes. But our coaches help us out a lot, and we basically do what they say. But with what we do know, we all try to help each other out."
Dorsey's leaps of 21 feet, 5 inches in the long jump and 42-8 in the triple eachrank as third-best in the area, as do the discus tosses of Evans (139-9) and Smith (100-2). Reusing ranks second in the area with her discus throw of 100-7, as does Smith, with 37-4, in the shot put.
Junior Rocky McMillan has the area's second-best clockings in both the 110 and the 300 hurdles at 14.6 and 40.5 seconds, respectively.
McMillan's counterparts on the girls squad are freshman Raina Domneys and junior Amy Tolley, who each have crossed the line in 15.8 -- third best in the area. Tolley also ranks third in the 300 with a 48.4, andDomneys' personal best triple jump of 34-8 ranks second.
Old Millpacks a strong 1-2 punch in the 800 with senior Dan Cavanagh (2:03.6) and junior Scott Boetig (2:03.7) pushing one other. The two have the area's second and third fastest times, respectively. Boetig (4:39.6) also has the area's third fastest time in the mile, as does Duane Davis (51.5) in the 400.
In the relays, the boys 100, 200, 400 and 800 teams rank among the area's top three, as do the girls 100, 200 and 800.
Despite its obvious talent, this is not a team that can saunter expect to leave fallen opponents in its wake simply because it is Old Mill. This is a team whose members are in touch with the reality of their capabilities, yet tempered by their relative immaturity.
Said Evans: "There are quite a few kids who want (a state title) real bad, and I know we've got the balance to do it. But you know, it might not be this year. It might be next year. I do know that this team will have its day."