Gliders in stride for AAU qualifier

July 11, 1993|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,Staff Writer

Not even the sweltering heat can melt the hopes of a dozen young runners to qualify for the AAU Junior Olympics.

"The heat is terrible. I hate it," said Amanda Laughton, an Aberdeen High freshman, before Thursday night's Harford County Gliders practice at the Bel Air High track. "You drink a lot of water and try to take it easy, but you've still got to try. You've still got to do your best."

Laughton and 4 x 800-meter relay teammates Kristin Hulbert, Kelly Coogan and Kim Helmers have one of the team's best chances to earn a berth at the Junior Olympics, which doubles as the AAU national championships, in Knoxville, Tenn., Aug. 1-7.

On this blazing weekend, those four and other Gliders are racing at the AAU regional meet in Newport News, Va. A top-three finish would send them to Knoxville.

Two other relay teams have a chance to move on as well, said Gliders coach George Helmers. Also in the 13-14 girls, Laughton, Erin Chlumsky, Ayanna Bennett and Megan Svehla could advance in the 4 x 400 relay.

Perhaps the most potential lies in the 9-10, 4 x 400 relay team of Bethany Hulbert, Lauren Moore, Jessica Johnson, Kristin Tourville and Rachel Kesselman.

Since the beginning of the season, different combinations of these five consistently have lowered their times to 5:09. They qualified for the AAU regionals 21 seconds under the minimum qualifying time.

"With a little work, they could easily get down under five [minutes]," said Helmers, adding that the girls have been hampered recently by nagging injuries to Bethany Hulbert, Moore and Kesselman. "They're kind of hurting right now. We're just hoping they'll be able to do OK."

Bethany Hulbert, 9, said her calf injury doesn't bother her anymore, and she has no doubts the team will do well.

"We all get along really well. We cooperate and we always do the best we can at practice, so I think, if we do the best we can, we can qualify," said the youngest of four racing Hulberts, whose father Ben Hulbert also coaches the Gliders.

This has been the year of the relays for the Gliders; the team's coaches try to steer youngsters toward their best events, giving them a chance to qualify for regional and national competition.

"I thought, a bit selfishly I guess, that for my daughter, the way to get her to nationals was on a relay team rather than in an individual event, and it was the same for these other girls," said Helmers, whose daughter, Kim, will be a freshman at Aberdeen High this fall. "Individually, these girls might not be able to make it, but as a team, we thought they could get there."

However, Kristin Hulbert and Coogan also qualified for the AAU regional meet in individual events. Hulbert will run the 400- and 800-meters while Coogan goes in the distance events, the 1,500 and the 3,000.

On their 4 x 800 relay however, Hulbert, Coogan, Laughton and Kim Helmers have combined to drop 37 seconds since their first race of the season. Their fastest time of 11:17 could drop into the 10:40s, said coach Helmers.

For Kristin Hulbert, a two-time veteran of national competition, getting to Knoxville is a priority this summer. She hopes her teammates also have the chance to experience a national-level meet.

"I really like to meet the people there," said Hulbert, a freshman at Joppatowne High this fall. "I think it's better to have friends you know who you run against, and throughout the years I have met so many people. I don't always remember their names, but I remember them when I see them again."

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