For Butler, versatile is the word

January 15, 1995|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,Sun Staff Writer

It's no wonder Western indoor track coach Jerry Molyneaux calls his prized performer, Gabriel Butler, a "female Bo Jackson."

Butler earned last year's Most Valuable Performer award for Western during the outdoor season and has proven as great an asset indoors.

She's a consistent four-event contributor, competing in the 55-meter hurdles and the 300 --, and running the opening leg of the 800 relay and the anchor leg of the mile relay.

"The other day she threw the shot put using the wrong technique, and she got it to go 29 feet. And she can high jump five feet," said Molyneaux. "If I asked her to, she'd do any event. Any coach would love to have a competitor like her."

A young senior at 16, Butler -- who won't turn 17 until March -- "got skipped in kindergarten because I could recite all the letters of the alphabet" among other things the average children her age couldn't do.

Butler is so talented that in her first high school tryout she earned a reserve role on last year's 4A state champion basketball team. She elected not to play basketball this year after indoor track was introduced to Baltimore's public schools.

Her personal bests in the 55 hurdles (8.6 seconds) and the 300 (45.0) are an improvement, but she's not satisfied.

"I think that competing in the winter will help me in the spring, and I want to earn MVP again," said Butler. "There's some pressure when people know who you are because of what you've done in the past, but it just pushes me to know people want to beat me. I love competition."

Competition isn't all she loves. "I love math, science and helping people," said Butler, who carries a 3.5 grade-point average and scored 1040 on the Scholastic Assessment Test.

Butler, who has been accepted by Coppin and UMBC, aims to major in pre-med.

"My mom and my grandmother are nurses, and my aunt is an operation room nurse," said Butler. "That's what I want to do someday."

In the meantime, however, she's got her hands full trying to remain a few steps ahead of her opponents. And over the first five meets, Butler was unbeaten in the 55 hurdles. She is still unbeaten in the 300.

Butler finished second in the 55 hurdles in her most recent meet Thursday at the Fifth Regiment Armory. It was a feeling she couldn't get accustomed to.

"I didn't get out fast enough and messed up on my first hurdle, then I lost my pace and started jumping instead of hurdling," Butler said. "I think I was too confident, maybe a little too cocky. But I think I've learned, because I definitely didn't like the feeling of being second."

That didn't happen very often for Butler last spring, when she was the city champ in the 100 and 300 hurdles and ran the third leg of the champion 400 relay team and the final leg of the 1,600 relay.

She was a regional runner-up in the 300 hurdles and helped the 400 and 1,600 relay teams win regional crowns.

Indoors, Butler routinely is the first runner out of the blocks on the 800 team and the final runner on the 400 relay.

"She's great at getting a lead for the team, but she also likes to go and get folks," Molyneaux said. "She's very strong and doesn't die in a race. She's been that way for two or three years and I wish I could have her for another season."

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