The county's top-heavy world of indoor track finally might feature alittle parity this season.
Underclassmen have come out in droves at several county schools, giving promise for later in the year.
Old Mill and Meade have been on top of the numbers game for years, which gives them a distinct advantage in experience.
Meade's boys contingent will try and defend its postseason titles without the assistance of pole-vaulting twins Jeff and Eric Miller, who were 1-2, respectively, in last year's county, region and state meets.
SeniorBrian Glock, a pleasant surprise for the Mustangs last season, returns with his sights set on the three postseason pole-vaulting titles.
"We're expecting big things out of Brian, but we'll miss the Millers," said Meade coach Jay Cuthbert. "We only have two feet to fill four shoes, so that's a big hole to fill."
With versatile athletes Anthony Lowe and Ray Burleson gone, too, Cuthbert is relying heavily on the high-jumping of Derrick Barr and the shot-putting of Levaniel Hicks.
Barr already has leaped 6-4, in last week's Baltimore Metro Invitational at Catonsville Community College. Hicks exhibited his strength at the Catonsville meet and the first county meet at the 5th Regiment Armory in Baltimore as he gained two second-place finishes ineach meet with throws of 44-9 1/2 and 43-11 1/2, respectively.
"We don't have the depth that we've had in past years, so it's going tobe pretty tough defending our titles," Cuthbert said. "Our turnout was lighter than in past years, and (Old Mill coach) Ron (Evans) has aton of kids out, so it's going to be tough to compete with those kind of numbers."
The Mustangs' girls team was hit hard by graduation, but it has senior sprinters Amanda Simmons, Chelsea Williams and Tawana Wilson and junior middle- and long-distance runner Amy Bell backto help soften the blow. Erica Kearns, Yuvette Johnson and Alesa Rubendall are expected to assist Meade in sprints and long sprints, while Ulanda Archie will represent the squad in the high jump and sprints.
Old Mill's girls are seeking their seventh straight county title, while the Patriot boys battle to regain the county crown from the Mustangs.
"Our girls are pretty solid, and we have some outstandingkids," said Coach Evans. "I think both our boys and girls teams havea very good shot at the county title. I'm expecting good things, butyou never know."
One person Evans can depend on is senior Tisha Washington, who returns to defend her county title in the 300-meter run. Washington, who finished second at the regions and sixth at the state meet in the 300, should receive some assistance from sprinter-hurdlers Amy Tolley and Raina Domneys, long-distance runner Marisa Sanders, and Michele Smith, who competes in a variety of track and field events, including the shot put, high jump and several sprinting events.
Rocky McMillan will pace the Pats' boys team, which finished second in the region and a disappointing 10th in the state meet. McMillan was a triple winner for the Patriots at last year's county meet, ashe claimed the 100 and 300 hurdles and was the lead-off leg of the county champion 400 relay team.
The Patriots fared well individually at the states, as McMillan emerged as state champion in the 55 hurdles, and sophomore Mickey Matters claimed the top honors in the 800 run.
Glen Burnie second-year coach Aaron Walker hopes his young Gophers can maintain the type of intensity that earned his boys team a third-place finish and girls a fifth-place finish at last year's county meet.
The Gophers' boys team will get a boost from senior Alphonso Generette, who will defend his county championship in the 300 run while also competing in the 55 --. Seniors Cindy Silate and Natalie Biamby should help keep the girls squad competitive.
"We're not really that young, but we don't have a lot of experience," said Walker. "We have a lot of first-year people, so we're looking for this to be a fun, growing season.
"As a coach, I'm just looking for personal improvement throughout the season from each of my kids."
At Severna Park, distance runners are the core of a team, which Coach Jim Patton said "aren't as good as they will be come January."
Seniors Fran Mackney and Cindy Symancyk, along with freshmen Briana Weidman and Jessica Schlagel, compete in the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 events.
Senior Erin Wylde will make her presence felt in the 500 and 800 runs, while sophomores Coutnay Stanke and Laurie Reed add stability in middledistances. Stanke also doubles as a high-jumper, while Reed finishedfourth in the 1,600 at the Catonsville meet.
"Sprinters were never one of our strengths, but we're a lot deeper than in the past," said Patton, who has a very young batch headed by sophomore Monique Washington. Others include junior Kristin Wilson and freshmen Gretchen Young, Megan Smith and Michelle Reese.
Senior Jenny Schmeltzer and sophomore Shea Seibles, who also runs sprints, will throw the shot put. Sophomore Gwen Glister will handle both high jump and hurdles duties.