Townsend studies up on and off track

January 20, 1993|By Michael Richman | Michael Richman,Contributing Writer

Atholton's Bryan Townsend is a spy -- and a good one at that.

When racing someone in either cross country or track, Townsend scopes opponents' running characteristics and strategies. This affords him an advantage the next time they compete, for he knows who possesses a fast start, a fast finish or a strong kick.

In all, Townsend's keen sense is a primary reason he's one of the Baltimore area's best long-distance runners. In current indoor-track times, the senior is first in the 1,600 (4:37.03), second in the 800 (2:05.3) and fourth in the 3,200 (10:27.4).

"I learn their strategies and try to respond to them," Townsend said of his opponents. "If it looks like they have something I could use in my race to enhance my performance, I try to pick that up."

Nearly flawless is the description for Townsend's showing in his three indoor meets this season.

He placed first in the 1,600 and 3,200 at the Baltimore Metro Invitational; first in the 1,500 and third in the 800 at the Holiday Invitational; and first in the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 in a quad meet with Oakland Mills, Mount Hebron and Hammond. He also anchored Atholton's 3,200 relay team that finished second in the latter meet.

Townsend is striding to repeat as Maryland's Class 3A 1,600 and 3,200 champion. He captured the state's cross-country title in the fall.

Glenelg's Ed Hogan, another premier Howard County long-distance runner, is Townsend's rival and friend. With a 4:19 time, Townsend nipped Hogan in the 1,500 at Holiday. It so happens that Townsend is aware of Hogan's tendencies.

"Hogan will pick an arbitrary point in the race and do a quick surge to try and break through," Townsend said. "You just have to be ready for that."

First-year boys coach Pat Saunderson said: "A lot of people just go out and run with natural ability. Bryan goes beyond natural ability and uses his knowledge of running against other runners. He uses his intelligence very effectively."

Townsend's smarts are evident in the classroom, as well. A two-time National Honor Society student with a 3.9 grade-point average, he's committed to extracurricular activities such as the math team, the "It's Academic" team and the Grace Science Club, over which he presides. Plus, he's editor of Atholton's literary magazine and senior class treasurer.

He said that combining running practice and competition with all the academic endeavors "takes a lot of time management."

"If I didn't have so many extracurricular activities, I would start to get lazy," he said."It's psychological. . . . Keeping active keeps me focused."

Townsend is one of four team captains, and Saunderson relies on him as a coaching "liaison" on and off the track.

The Raiders are young, and Townsend's experience becomes valuable when the coach has a question or wants to discuss strategies.

Townsend is further respected because he practices hard and puts the team's fate in the No. 1 position, Saunderson said. For instance, Townsend recently began pumping iron -- which he says he hates -- in an attempt to lure teammates into the weight room.

"When I see many superstar runners of his caliber, they're doing a lot on the track in terms of setting times and scoring points, but not a lot off the track to help their team," Saunderson said.

A member of Atholton's 3,200-relay foursome, Michael Strickland, remembers the freshman Townsend as a runner who was nothing special.

"When he started in high school, he wasn't the greatest," said Strickland, the Baltimore area's seventh-fastest 800 runner (2:09). "It's like hard work created his talent. The beginning of his sophomore year is when he really took off. He hasn't stopped."

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