Jason Panniell started running track as a hurdler just two years ago during his sophomore season at Mervo.
He limped through an outdoor season last year with a fractured leg, yet, through sheer talent and determination, somehow managed to be among the state's best.
And despite having to eschew club running to hold down a job last summer when most athletes of his caliber were competing in national meets, Panniell is among the state's best indoor 55-meter hurdlers.
And this is Panniell's first indoor season.
"I was just hoping to use the indoors as a tuneup, getting in shape for outdoor and get my leg back in order," said Panniell, a B student who last year ranked in the top 10 percent of his class.
And with his success on the track, the senior has attracted interest from such programs as Penn State, Georgia Tech and Pittsburgh.
"I had no idea that I'd be doing this well, having one of the best times [a personal-best 7.4 seconds] in the state," he said.
"It's made me change some of my goals. Now I want to win a state championship."
Panniell, unbeaten in eight races against Maryland runners, also runs the second leg of the Mustangs' 800 and 1,600 relays. He suffered his only loss in a fifth-place finish at a meet in Delaware.
"It was very early in the season and we had just one meet under our belts," said coach Freddie Hendricks. "He only ran a 7.9 auto-time, but he got a chance to see some quality runners from some powerful teams like Ballou [in Washington] and some kids from Pennsylvania."
Panniell clocked a personal-best 7.4-second race Friday at the Baltimore City championships. He also won the high jump title at the Fifth Regiment Armory with an effort of 5 feet, 8 1/4 inches.
And the 5-foot-11, 140-pounder, who plans to major in electrical engineering in college, continues to shock his coaches.
"It's sometimes hard to believe that Coach [Ron Taylor] only put him in the hurdles for the first time when he was a sophomore," said Hendricks. "But he's really come a long way. I believe that in the hurdles he's found a home."
Despite missing half of last year's outdoor season with a hairline fracture in his right leg, Panniell rebounded in the 110-meter hurdles with runner-up finishes in the city and regional championships and a third place in the 3A-4A state meet.
All of his finishes were behind All-Metro teammate Antwon Nelson, who was second in the state meet.
"Antwon took me under his wing and taught me everything. He wasn't the fastest guy, but he just had such great form that it seemed he just flew over the hurdles," said Panniell.
"He was a good role model and sometimes I'd just watch him and say, 'I want to be just like him.' That was the point I wanted to get to, and I think I have a little bit of Antwon in me."
Hendricks, at least, thinks Panniell has surpassed Nelson.
"I'm not sure Jason knew this, but at the start of the season we actually had expected him to beat Antwon. He had the injury, but still, every time they ran Jason was right with him," said Hendricks. "I think at this point, he's a bit of a stronger runner than Antwon. He's just so smooth and natural at it."