Howard finds her stride Obtainable goal: Sprinter Tominka Howard is chasing Athlete of the Year honors at Howard High.

January 07, 1996|By Stan Rappaport | Stan Rappaport,SUN STAFF

Tucked in a corner of Howard High's gym is a board listing students who have earned "Athlete of the Year" honors in various sports. In 1978, Mary Howard earned that distinction for her excellence in track.

"It was the year I was born," said Tominka Howard. "It makes me want to have my name on the board, too."

Howard is a senior at Howard High, and, like the aunt who preceded her, excels in track.

"So far I think I deserve it," said Howard. "But if someone else gets it because I mess up, I won't be upset. I'll congratulate them."

On a team loaded with talented sprinters, Howard is one of the best. This indoor season, Howard will run the 55 meters, 300, 500 and the 800 and mile relays.

"She's really blossomed this year," said coach Tony Holland. "She has the attitude that she's not going to let someone get the best of her. She is the hardest worker in practice."

Holland said Howard, who finished third in the county, region and state last year in the 55, has improved her time at that distance from 7.6 seconds last year to 7.3 this season. Her split in the mile relay has improved to 62 seconds from 64 last season.

"I expect her to win the states in the 55," said Holland. "She gives me that attitude that she's going to win."

Howard's growth as a runner, however, is secondary to her maturity into adulthood.

In fact, she says now: "I wish sometimes I could start high school all over again because I know I messed up some. I'm a lot smarter now."

As a freshman at Wilde Lake High, Howard was looking forward to running indoor track. But she never did.

"I got suspended from school for fighting," Howard said. "I was like a little tomboy. I used to beat up all the boys. I was bad. I would always be on punishment at home."

Taking away the one thing she loved hurt, and made a lasting impression.

"I learned my lesson," Howard said. "I really changed."

She transferred to Howard in November of 1994 when her parents moved. She welcomed the change because her new school had stronger competition, but she and Holland didn't hit it off right away.

"When she first came, we had a couple of disagreements," Holland said. "I even thought about putting her off the team."

"Sprinters are the best complainers in the world," said Howard, who was a cheerleader during the football season. "I used to hate practice. Then Mr. Holland said, 'If you don't put anything in the bank, you won't get anything out.' And that's what I think about all the time in practice. I love to practice now."

Holland said, "Since I told her about the bank, we've always been on the same page. She's become a shining star for our program and a true leader."

Howard is serious about her future. She has worked to improve her grades and wants to run track in college and become a nurse.

"I love it so much," she said of nursing. "I really enjoy working with the elderly."

Howard is enrolled in the nursing assistant program at the Howard County School of Technology, where she spends half her day.

"She has an excellent rapport with the patients," said School of Technology instructor Linda Stephens, who added that Howard was the Student of the Month in September. "She's very caring and compassionate. She works well with people and is very conscientious about what she does."

Howard stands 5 feet and weighs 104 pounds. She weighed 96 pounds entering her senior year and is glad to have the extra weight.

"I feel I can run faster," said Howard, who lifts weights at school and wears ankle weights at home. "I feel stronger and my endurance is better. I feel like I can run forever . . like Forrest Gump."

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