The Evening Sun will hold its High School Athlete of the Year awards luncheon tomorrow. Twenty-eight boys and 14 girls have been recognized, and for each winner there was another worthy candidate. Here's a look at five contenders who could have been Athlete of the Year, but weren't.
BOB WHEELER, Dulaney, 1970 Nursing a virus, Wheeler went out too fast at the state Class 4A cross country championships in 1969 and was upset. It was the only thing he did wrong all year.
Wheeler set a national high school record in the 600-yard run indoors, and outdoors he had a record-setting day at the Baltimore County championships, dipping to 4:10.0 in the mile and 1:50.6 in the 880. Both marks have entered their third decade as area records. A little more than two years later, before his junior year at Duke, Wheeler ran the 1,500 meters at the 1972 Olympics. A U.S. teammate on the starting line was Jim Ryun.
The winners in the 1970-71 scholastic year were Towson's Jack Thomas, maybe the best lacrosse player ever from the area, and Dundalk's Jeff Bradford, another three-sport star. The result was that Wheeler was rated no better than the third-best athlete in Baltimore County.
LOUIS CARTER, Arundel, 1971 Last fall, Randallstown's Larry Washington renewed debate regarding the best running backs ever in the area. One possibility wasn't mentioned, because he played quarterback. A two-time all-state defensive back, Carter was put in a three-point stance for his final high school game. Southern of Lothian had a good team, but Carter ran for 338 yards and seven touchdowns in a 72-6 rout of the Bulldogs.
In basketball, he averaged a team-high 20 points as the shooting guard for a state final four team, along the way making a legendary buzzer-beater in the district playoffs that held off Bel Air. With Carter anchoring, Arundel won state championships in the 4X110 (42.7), 4X220 (1:28.7) and 4X440 relays.
Along with defensive lineman Randy White, Carter helped revive Terps football. Carter -- who set Maryland career rushing records for touchdowns, carries and yards -- was an NFL journeyman into the 1980s.