Key Coach Starts Stampede Of Interest

November 03, 1991|By Nancy Menefee Jackson | Nancy Menefee Jackson,Contributing sports writer

Jim Bullock has a way of getting people interested in running.

The cross country coach at Francis Scott Key High School didn't just build an almost non-existent program into a championship team, he also turned his family into championship runners.

When Bullock came to Francis Scott Key three years ago, the crosscountry team had just five to seven runners. This year, the 14-member boys squad is expected to win the state championship in Class 1A, as they did last year.

And though you need five runners to score, Bullock had just two runners for the girls cross country team two years ago. But they persisted, and today he has eight.

"Considering the size of the team, we were pretty successful," he says.

He thinkshis enthusiasm for the sport helped build the team.

"I think I'm very considerate to the athletes, very fair and caring," he says, butquickly adds, "I'm also very tough. I make them do their workouts."

The word of his success quickly spread, and more students became interested, even those who had never run before.

But now Bullock has a conflict. That same enthusiasm propelled his two daughters into running careers -- at a competing school.

Bonnie Bullock is the No.2 runner at Westminster High School, and her sister Joy is the No. 3or 4 runner, he says.

Bonnie, a senior who has run on the varsitysquad all four years, was the county's top runner her freshman year and has been one of the best in the county every year since. Sophomore Joy, who ran junior varsity last year, has done well in cross country this year and wants to move into middle distance and distance events in track.

Although Westminster is in Class 4A, the schools do run against each other twice; their most recent matchup was on Oct. 25at the county meet, and Westminster won the girls title, while Key was fifth.

Who does Bullock root for?

"I have a lot of mixed emotions," he says. "I'm rooting for my two daughters and for my girls at Key." He's upfront with all of his girls, telling them all what they can expect in terms of competition from each other, and then when they run, "I'm rooting for all of them."

A teacher and motor development specialist at Robert Moton Elementary, Bullock, 48, had run track and cross country at Springfield College in Massachusetts, where he majored in physical education, as well as running track in high school. He coached junior high runners in New Jersey until 13 years ago,when the family moved to Maryland.

Bullock hooked up with the Westminster Road Runners, with whom he still runs every week. He ran 10,000 meters, but says he enjoyed 5,000-meter races more "because of myspeed." In 1982, he ran his personal best -- 36 minutes, 39 seconds -- in a 10,000-meter race. The next year, he followed with a personalbest 17:30 over 5,000 meters.

Judi Bullock, who has been running for 11 years, was the first to catch her husband's running bug.

"Igot involved when the children were young and I was not working," she recalls. "It was a way for me to get out of the house, and it didn't cost much money. I didn't have to get in the car or go anywhere -- just put my running shoes on."

When the children were young, the Bullocks ran at different times, but now they enjoy workouts together.

For a while, Judi, 45, recalls, "I was very competitive. I would enter big races and I would win. But I peaked a few years ago."

She feels her finest accomplishment was her fifth-place finish in her age group at the Constellation Classic in Maryland four years ago. That was also her best 10,000-meter time -- 42:03, a figure she can recall instantly.

"She's proud of that," says her husband.

She alsoran marathons, and her personal best was 3 hours and 50 minutes in the Marine Corps Marathon. She ran a slightly slower New York Marathonin 4:01.

"I will never give it up. I love it. I like being outside in different kinds of weather."

She runs regularly with a group of friends, and although she hasn't run marathons lately because of the time involved in training, she is thinking of returning to New York next year.

The girls' primary interest wasn't running; it was ballet. But when they entered high school, their parents wanted them tojoin a sport or activity.

"We always stressed that it was important to be in an activity or sport, not just go to school, attend classes and come home," Jim Bullock says.

As children, the girls had participated in the Road Runners' fun runs; but as they grew their commitment to ballet left them too busy for rec sports. Once in high school, they chose the only sport they were familiar with.

And now, says Joy, she'll probably continue to run through high school and hopesto run cross country in college.

"I like best racing with my teamand my friends," she adds. "You get nervous, but in the end you always feel good about yourself."

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