Atholton's Strickland running ahead of her time Freshman gains with each stride

October 12, 1992|By Rick Belz | Rick Belz,Staff Writer

Atholton cross country coach Earl Lauer already calls freshman Dana Strickland the second-best runner he has coached. And he's been coaching since 1971. And he's coached a bunch of quality runners, including four All-Metros.

Strickland, only 13, is naturally apprehensive every time she races against older high school girls.

But with each successful event, she gains confidence.

Her latest triumph came at the Arundel Invitational Oct. 3. She won her division by more than a minute and posted the third fastest overall time in the three-mile event, 20 minutes, 39 seconds.

And she did it on a sprained ankle she injured the day before at a Homecoming rally. A girl stepped on it as they were exiting the stands. "It didn't hurt that much on Saturday so I ran, but it swelled up a lot afterward. Now I'm limiting my running to the track for a while," she said Wednesday.

She planned to skip last weekend's Harford Invitational and may miss tomorrow's tri-meet with Centennial and Mount Hebron, two strong county teams.

"I've sprained it four times in the past year, twice playing basketball, once running and then at the pep rally," she said. "I'm doing strength exercises for it."

Strickland made a glitzy entry into the high school cross country world by winning the Howard County Invitational Sept. 18. It was her first high school event. The field of 143 girls included defending county champion Alicia Adams of Glenelg.

The Fulton resident followed that by winning a dual meet at Howard in a course-record time.

Then she had an off day with a seventh place at the Westminster Invitational, when a sinus infection slowed her.

She ran a strong race in a tri-meet at Glenelg and apparently won in the second-fastest course time, but she was disqualified for running slightly off course.

Strickland rebounded by finishing second in her division with the fifth-fastest overall time at the Pallotti Invitational.

So the tally for six races is three wins, one second, one seventh and one disqualification after she finished first. "She's been really consistent, and her times are coming down," Lauer said. "She has more speed than any other freshman I've coached."

The girl Lauer thinks was his best runner, Carolyn Forde, didn't run as a freshman.

The other All-Metro runners he has coached include Kim Many, Laurie Atherholt and Janet Coffey, who ran as freshmen.

Lauer knew Strickland was a good runner long before she arrived at Atholton High, because he taught her at Clarksville Middle School. She has run for the Howard County Junior Striders since fifth grade and last year finished 13th in the 13-14 age group at the AAU national championships. She will be 14 on Oct. 21.

Lauer thinks Strickland may be a better runner at shorter distances, but she prefers cross country over track.

She also enjoys basketball and played for the Columbia Swish traveling team last season. She's 5 feet 6 and weighs 110 pounds, and usually plays forward.

Strickland, whose brother, Mike, is running well for the Atholton boys team, has not set any individual goals for her freshman season.

"I just want to do my best and contribute to the team," she said.

Doing her best may just mean winning the county championship. She'll find out on Oct. 29 at Howard Community College.

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