Brisco's career bursts from blocks

January 28, 1994|By Chuck Acquisto | Chuck Acquisto,Contributing Writer

Just a year ago, Oakland Mills' Xavier Brisco was trying to find his niche on the school's indoor track and field team after having been recruited after school by coach Sam Singleton.

"I hung around after school because there was nothing to do," Brisco said. "One day Coach Singleton came up to me in the hallway and managed to talk me into coming out for indoor track."

New to running track competitively, Brisco did not find his stride, or even his best events, until the spring outdoor season arrived.

Today at 3:30 p.m., the Scorpions' senior leads a talented boys track squad, featuring senior captains Damon Ferguson (800-meter relay anchor), Eric Larson (3,200 relay) and junior miler Greg Curtis, favored to win a third boys title in four years at the county championship at Baltimore's 5th Regiment Armory.

"I coached Xavier in football and I thought last winter he would make a terrific high jumper or hurdler, but X just didn't have any technique," Singleton said. "He basically did nothing in indoor track last year. It wasn't until spring that he really blossomed."

Singleton's only problem was finding Brisco a suitable event. Singleton knew Brisco did not possess the speed necessary to run the outdoor 300, but thought 800 meters might be a perfect fit for him.

Brisco produced a time of 2 minutes, 15 seconds in his first 800 race last spring. He followed that effort with a time of 2:05.0 in his second meet. A few months later, Brisco won the state-final 800 in 1:58.0.

"Xavier's so fluid that he's basically effortless," Singleton said. "Potentially he could be world class, but reaching that plateau is up to the individual. You have to go out and set your own pace in a race, and right now he's not doing that."

Brisco's quick track success, in which he has come within three seconds of the state outdoor mark in the 800 at 1:51.0, was such a sudden burst that it astonished Singleton.

"In the state's 3,200-meter relay, he ran the anchor leg in 1:54.5 while chasing down a kid from Middletown," Singleton recalled. "I mean, Xavier got the baton 50 or 60 meters down and won easily by 55. It was unbelievable and effortless."

Success in the county, however, has spoiled Brisco, said Singleton.

"It's tough for him to get it into his head how hard he needs to work because he can coast right now in a race," Singleton said. "Until he gets pushed by somebody, he's not going to get better."

Brisco, who hopes to trim his 800 time down to 1:51.0 to attract serious Division I track scholarship offers, said he learned his most recent lesson at the Maryland National Guard Scholastic Games two weekends ago. He finished a disappointing second (2:04.7) in the 800 to a Walt Whitman High runner (2:02.6).

Brisco said football followed by indoor track had physically and mentally drained him.

"He can run 48 or 49 seconds in the quarter-mile, but he let the Whitman runner at the Guard Meet set the pace at 60 seconds and Xavier wasn't in shape where he could run the leader down," said Singleton, who added that Brisco had been slowed by a cold.

Brisco said: "But having last week off from practice because of the weather helped me out mentally. I needed the rest. With indoor track, it seems like you're always running longer distances in the events. It's so psychological."

Brisco was not the only Oakland Mills runner hampered by illness, mental lapses and sluggish times at the National Guard Games, as the Scorpions boys finished third behind Old Mill and Eleanor Roosevelt of Prince George's County.

"The intensity of the meet might have gotten to me," Ferguson said. "I hope to bounce back in the county championship by placing in the top three in my events [55, 300, 500, 800 relay]."

Curtis expects to challenge Centennial's outstanding senior trio bTC of Kevin Hill, Bobby Van Allen and Steve Olenick in the 3,200.

Centennial boys coach Al Dodds said: "Curtis is a hard-working young man that always seems to do well in the middle-distance meets. Beating Oakland Mills will be extremely tough because they have far more strength at every event than anybody in the county."

In his five years of coaching the Scorpions, Singleton already is predicting Curtis will wind up his high school career as one of the best distance runners to come out of Howard County.

"Right now, he's a step or two within Hill and he probably has more speed than Kevin," Singleton said. "But Hill really goes out and pushes a race, making the competition run his speed, which forces lesser runners to fall back in a feeble hope he'll come back to the pack. However, Hill just doesn't come back."

Despite missing practice all last week because of the weather, the Oakland Mills boys are confident of adding another indoor track title.

"Centennial should be our closest competition and that's if we're not conscious of what we need to do," Brisco said. "But the National Guard meet was a wake-up call to all of us, and we aren't about to let that happen again."

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