Raiders look to regain track glory

April 22, 1994|By Chuck Acquisto | Chuck Acquisto,Special to The Sun

The arrival of girls varsity lacrosse at Atholton a decade ago coincided with the Raiders' peak in dominating Howard County in girls track and field.

During the 1980s, coach Gray Webster directed a dominating Raiders squad that won six county championships, four regional titles and two state crowns in an eight-year stretch.

"I thought the tradition we had built in the '80s would help carry us for years," Webster said.

Tradition, however, proved to be a weak foe against the growing popularity of girls lacrosse. Soon after Atholton's last track and field championship season in 1988, Webster's spring tryout turnouts began to dwindle.

"After '88, we would have just 10 or 11 girls every year and that's it," said Webster.

After finishing sixth in the county a year ago, Atholton is showing signs of returning to its glory days thanks to a strong foundation of 18 young, talented athletes.

The Raiders' cornerstone might be sophomore middle-distance runner Dana Strickland. A three-sport athlete, Strickland is reminding Webster of several runners who led the Raiders to title after title.

"Dana reminds me a lot of Carolyn Forde [state record in mile], Suzie Stahl, Jan Woolson, Stephanie Stephens and Melissa Awkard," Webster said. "She has that kind of great dedication it takes to excel. Unfortunately, she has been slowed down by injuries."

Strickland, who has been nagged by hip, ankle and shin pains over the last two years, attributes some of the aches to her hectic pace. She was an All-County cross country runner in the fall and a starting forward on the varsity basketball team.

"My brother Michael and I also coach in the Junior Striders program, and I belong to a church group and the W. R. Grace Club at school," said Strickland, who has a 3.8 grade-point average.

To combat her injuries, Webster would like Strickland to develop more upper-body strength.

"I really see my one weakness being mental," said Strickland. "I sometimes psyche myself out against competition, but as I get older I'll get better."

Strickland, who dominated last week's Raider Relays in the middle- and long-distance events, lists the 800- and 1,600-meter events as her best, hoping to achieve times of 5 minutes, 20 seconds and 2:19, respectively, in those races.

"Besides Dana, we're really young," Webster said. "We have just one senior this spring and still we hope to finish among the top four in the county."

Atholton's 4x100 and 4x200 relay teams are led by freshmen Shelly Sinha, Amy Peters and Stacey Johnson. Sophomore Noosha Haghani is the fourth team member. Freshman Chelsea Hartz and sophomore Jessica Henry are the Raiders' future milers.

In the field events, sophomore Janine Dauberman long jumps 15 feet and triple jumps 31-plus feet. Sophomore discus thrower Jamie Brand has reached 75 feet, 10 inches, and sophomore shot putter Aisha Walcott has tossed it more than 26 feet.

As for versatility, Ammera El Sawi is a 5-foot high jumper and a 32-foot triple jumper who runs the high hurdles in 16 seconds and the half mile in 2:35.

"The girls ran against Centennial and Glenelg, two of the county's best, in the opening meet. They beat Glenelg and finished a close second to Centennial," Webster said. "Suddenly I realized, 'Hey, we have a lot more potential than we expected.'"

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