Sullivan ready to show his tenacity in 10 events

April 21, 1995|By Bill Free | Bill Free,Sun Staff Writer

From the time he was 6 years old, Sean Sullivan never wanted to be second in anything.

Sometimes the McDonogh three-sport standout isn't even satisfied with first place if he thinks he did not perform up to his capabilities.

Now as a senior starring in football, basketball and track, the Sykesville resident often will say to his father while they are watching videotapes of a winning game or a winning pole vault: "Look at that. I was terrible out there."

No matter how many times he hears his son put himself down, Donald Sullivan still is slightly amazed.

"I was happy and came home bragging if I got third place," said the elder Sullivan, who ran the 220-yard -- and threw the shot put and discus at Poly. "Sean is never really satisfied. He is always striving for perfection. I guess he gets his tenacity from his mother [Carol]."

This 6-foot-5, 190-pounder is driven on the athletic field and in the classroom (3.8 grade-point average and 1200 SAT score).

Sullivan can throw a football 67 yards in the air, he can dunk a basketball, and some veteran track and field observers believe he is a potential Olympic-caliber decathlete.

But Bobby Sabelhaus and Dwayne Stukes also played football at McDonogh, and Sabelhaus played basketball.

Sabelhaus can throw the ball 75 yards in the air and was good enough to get a scholarship to the University of Florida.

It is understandable how Sullivan's clutch receptions as a tight end for the Eagles and his 10 points, 10 rebounds and five blocked shots a game for the basketball team might get overshadowed.

However, Sullivan's time has come.

After a quiet but outstanding three-sport career at McDonogh, Sullivan has been pursued by five major Division I schools and is close to receiving a track and field scholarship.

Virginia, Wake Forest, Virginia Tech, Navy and Princeton all believe Sullivan can be a successful decathlete at the highest collegiate level.

Virginia appears to have won the battle.

"It looks like I'll sign with Virginia in a few days," he said. "It's the best combination of academics and athletics for me."

With only three decathlon meets a spring season in college, Sullivan also will be used as an extra man for winter track meets.

After all, he holds the McDonogh school record in the pole vault (14 feet, 6 inches), has high jumped 6-4, has thrown the discus 141 feet, and run the 110 hurdles in 15.4 seconds.

But the grueling two-day, 10-event decathlon is his specialty, and Sullivan is ready to follow a dream that might lead to the Olympics some day.

He took second in the decathlon last summer in an AAU East Coast Invitational meet at George Mason. He also owns a third-place decathlon finish in an AAU Junior Olympics meet at Mount St. Mary's.

The second-place finish in the East Coast Invitational rates as Sullivan's biggest thrill among his many accomplishments.

"Sean Sullivan is obviously a fine prospective decathlete," said McDonogh track coach Jeff Sanborn. "He is strong, fast, agile and coordinated. He is a kid who can give his best performance on his last jump, and that is very important.

"He can raise to his highest level when the most pressure is on. The pole vault is one of the toughest events in the decathlon and Sean has what it takes to do it. It takes speed, strength, reckless abandon and you have to throw yourself over the bar. A lot of kids don't like it."

Sullivan thrives on it. It's something like living on the edge, he said.

"At first it was scary, but once I did it a few times and opened up right and stepped right, I had no more fear," said Sullivan, who decided a year ago to make track and field his No. 1 sport.

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