Mervo's On The Move For Records

April 28, 1994|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,Sun Staff Writer

Only a dropped baton in the Maryland Scholastic Association meet's 800-meter relay prevented Mervo's boys track team from sweeping last year's MSA, regional and 4A state crowns in the 400-, 800- and 1,600-meter relays.

Mervo became the first 4A team to win all three sprint relays at the state meet -- the 10th team ever to do that -- earning team titles in the MSA and the regionals.

The Mustangs (82 points) were 4A state runners-up behind Quince Orchard (83.5) of Montgomery County, with Old Mill (65 points) and Eleanor Roosevelt of Prince George's County (47) third and fourth, respectively.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

"It was very exciting for me as a freshman," said sophomore James Carter. "People didn't know us. We'd show up and they were like, 'Who are they?' "

Not this year.

Carter, senior All-Metros Anthony Stuckey and Ben Braswell, senior All-City hurdler Antwon Nelson and junior Dante Palmer are five of the six key players on last year's relay teams. Sophomore Mike Curtis, third in the states in the 1,600 run, bolsters the 3,200 relay.

While the Mustangs have the area's best times of the year in all four relays, Braswell (10.6 seconds in the 100 --), Stuckey (49.1 in the 400) and Carter (1:58.1 in the 800) also top the area clockings in their personal events.

Behind its sprinters' strengths, Mervo's squad is considered by many observers to be the best Baltimore City has produced since the Northwestern dynasty of the 1970s.

And Stuckey says Mervo is aiming to become only the third team -- the first in the 4A -- since Fairmont Heights in 1979 and Central in 1984, both of Prince George's County, to win all four relay titles.

"We think we can win all four. Actually, we know we can -- it's a must," said Stuckey, The Baltimore Sun's 1993 All-City Performer of the Year.

The Mustangs face their toughest challenge so far at thiweekend's Penn Relays, where only four Maryland teams have ever won a Championship of America race (a contest between the nation's eight best).

Poly won the 440-yard relay in 1918 (in 3:35.6) and in 1919 (in

3:35.8). Fairmont Heights won the 3,200 meters in 1979. In 1964, Kenwood's boys won the distance medley, but no Baltimore-area team has ever won the boys 400.

"We won a small trophy for winning our heat in 1982, but we really want a Championship of America," said Mervo's Freddie Hendricks, The Sun's All-Metro Coach of the Year in 1993. "We know we have only a one-in-5,000 chance because that's how many teams are there."

Mervo already has surpassed last year's 400 state-title finish (41.9) with an area best 41.8, as well as last year's 1,600 state-crown effort (3:21) with a 3:18.8 timing -- a full second off the area's all-time best (3:17.8).

The 800 squad's personal best this season (128.1) also edged last year's state title-winning performance (128.25). The area's all-time best is 127.0.

"We still haven't run our four fastest guys in the 800," said Ron Neal, an assistant with Ron Taylor to Hendricks.

"We're still in the preseason compared to most teams, having barely refined our handoffs," said Taylor. "It's like we're at the bottom of the hill still aiming for the top."

The 3,200 (with a personal best of 8:14.1) is comprised of senior Mahlon Thomas, sophomores Carter and Curtis and freshman Garfield Thompson and is once-beaten in the state.

The undefeated 800 squad is comprised of juniors Royston Lytle and Sandy Johns, Braswell and Stuckey. The twice-beaten 1,600 team (Lytle, Braswell, Carter and Stuckey) is undefeated in Maryland.

"We have so much more depth and talent," said Braswell, a two-time All-Metro pick. "All of us ran with Ed Waters over the summer, so by the time we get on the track, we're just focused on getting down the lanes."

The 400 team (Palmer, Lytle, Stuckey and Braswell) didn't fare so well last Tuesday, clocking its poorest effort of the year at the Marc Jenkins Relays in Washington.

At Jenkins, the 400 team (42.4) was a disappointing fourth behind winner Theodore Roosevelt (42.0) of Washington and Eleanor Roosevelt (42.2, second). A Mervo runner was slowed by leg cramps.

Stuckey, who teamed with Palmer, Lytle and Braswell for the 800 victory at Jenkins, said, "We know we're going to have our ups and downs. Hopefully, that was our one downer."

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