Howard girls, Atholton boys run to top

March 26, 1995|By Rich Scherr | Rich Scherr,Special to The Sun

During this past indoor season, the Howard girls and Atholton boys showed just how far two unheralded track programs could improve.

Now, as the outdoor track and field season is set to sprint into high gear, the biggest question is whether anybody can touch the Lions and Raiders.

Howard, after finishing seventh in the county in 1994, had its best season in school history, winning its first county and region titles before finishing third in the state.

Less than four years after Atholton's program had hit rock bottom -- fielding fewer than 10 athletes -- coach Pat Saunderson's team completed its equally remarkable rise to prominence with county, region and Class 1A-2A state titles.

Both teams find themselves in the most unfamiliar role of favorites.

"Everybody else is now looking at us," said Saunderson. "I told the kids that they can't get overconfident. There are a lot of teams that would like to knock us off."

Among those who have the best shot among the boys are Oakland Mills, Glenelg and Wilde Lake. On the girls side, Howard will have to overcome challenges from Wilde Lake and Hammond.

;/ Here's a look at how county teams stack up:

Atholton Raiders

With talent and depth in nearly every event, the Raiders enter the season with high expectations.

Junior sprinters Jared Howard and Max Clifford are two of the best in the state.

Howard, The Baltimore Sun's All-County Indoor Performer of the Year this past winter, won 10 gold medals in the postseason -- mostly in long sprints and relays -- and has assumed the role of team leader. Clifford, another All-County pick, did the bulk of his damage in the dashes and sprint relays, and took home three medals at the state meet.

They will be joined by sophomore Keith Jefferson, who played basketball in the winter, and senior Ed Chang, a versatile performer who thrives at distances between 200-800 meters.

Junior Zach Tropf is the top distance threat. The All-County pick won the 1,600 at the state meet after earlier setting a school record in the 3,200. Senior Ben Rohde also will contribute in the 800 and 3,200 relay. Senior Adrian Valdes figures to challenge in the shot put and discus.

On the girls side, the Raiders will look to improve after taking seventh at the county indoor meet.

Freshman Shonte Wicks is an up-and-coming standout in the sprints, and junior Dana Strickland is the defending state champion in the 1,600.

Others to watch for include Lana Grigroiev in the 100 and 200, and jumper Janine Douberman, who holds the school record in the triple jump.

Centennial Eagles

Both the boys and girls teams are young and inexperienced, but both have a number of athletes who could make their marks.

Coach Beth Brown's girls team is led by All-County sprinter and hurdler Kare Fisher. This past winter, the senior was the only county girl to score in four events at the state meet, placing in the 55 dash, 55 hurdles and running a leg on the 800 and 1,600 relay teams.

Junior Stacy Cabanilla will be tough in the middle-distance events and junior Natalie Hoover will be strong in the longer races.

The boys squad lost a lot from last year, especially in the distance and field events.

High jumper Tom O'Connor has cleared over 6 feet, and junior Mike French will be a force in the 800 and 1,600. Seniors Matt Imbach and Keith U lead the way in the sprints, though U has been bothered in recent weeks by a pulled hamstring. Ben Cosgrove should be strong in the hurdles.

Glenelg Gladiators

The up-and-coming Glenelg boys team could pose the biggest challenge to Atholton and Oakland Mills.

The Gladiators are a bit young and somewhat small in numbers, but they also have a plethora of talent.

Junior Pat Tvarkunas continued the county's recent tradition of standout pole vaulters by winning the Class 1A-2A state title after taking second in both the county and region meets.

The team is well-represented in middle-distance events, with sophomore Chris Selmer -- who finished second in the state indoor 800 -- and senior Paul Bourg leading the way.

Others to watch are sprinter Damani Mitchell and All-County high jumper Charles Martin, who took second in the state this past winter.

Glenelg's girls team is dominated by freshmen and sophomores, but could make its mark.

All-County performers Lindsay Rupp and Beth Santilli lead the way.

Rupp, a senior sprinter, won the state Class 1A-2A indoor title in the 55 hurdles, and Santilli, a freshman distance runner, won the county indoor 800 and 1,600, and ran a leg on the county-winning 3,200 relay team.

Others certain to challenge are distance standout Carolyn Flowers and sprinter Tisha Leggett.

"They're very young now," said coach Bill Godwin, "but they'll be good in a couple of years."

Hammond Bears

The Bears girls team might struggle, especially after losing star sprinter Kisha Jett to graduation and several others who simply decided not to return.

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