Old Mill uses power to be power Girls break mold: Patriots coaches credit girls' weightlifting program for track and field dynasty.

January 24, 1996|By Bill Free | Bill Free,SUN STAFF

They threw out all the stereotypes about girls not lifting weights or throwing the shot at Old Mill High long ago and got on with the business of winning indoor and outdoor track championships.

When 300 girls and 736 boys signed up for weight training at Old Mill in 1988, the school was featured in the Bigger, Faster, Stronger national magazine with a two-part, 14-page article that appeared in back-to-back months.

The article stated that Old Mill had more boys and girls in weight training than any high school in the United States. Nearly half of the school wanted to lift weights.

Boys lifting weights is old, old news. Girls lifting weights is a growing new fad and has been credited with the tremendous consistency of the Old Mill indoor and outdoor track programs.

This dynasty has collected 10 straight indoor and 15 consecutive outdoor Anne Arundel County championships in addition to producing three state 4A girls indoor titles.

The Patriots are heavily favored to win an 11th consecutive Anne Arundel County indoor girls championship today at 3 p.m. at the Fifth Regiment Armory.

"The stereotype is that a big, fat girl throws the shot," said assistant Old Mill girls coach Leon Walters. "But most of our girls have been slender and athletic. The success of our program is based on developing three kids for each event and to have three good ones for the shot gives us an edge."

The Patriots have the top girls shot putter, senior Cathy Porter, in the metro area. She has turned in a best area throw of 38 feet, 4 inches.

Her top challenger is teammate Renita Collins, a junior who has the second-best throw, 36-3.

"We'd have a riot in school if we got rid of our girls' weight training program," said Ron Evans, who has been running the lifting show for 20 years and is the head outdoor track coach. "Our girls maintain their weight through lifting, eating right and taking care of themselves. They know what they're doing."

Evans has an exclusive Power Club for the top 15 boys and girls lifters at Old Mill and he estimates that 60 to 70 percent of the club's members are usually girls.

Porter is the No. 1 girl in total lift (840 pounds) in the Power Club and is No. 3 in lifting according to body percentage.

"It [lifting] will hopefully get me a track scholarship to the University of Maryland," said Porter, who was a first-team All-County shot putter last season. "I'm 5-foot-9 and have a pretty big body frame, but I'm not overweight, thanks to lifting. I hope to surpass my personal record of 38-9 1/2 inches in the next couple of meets."

Lifting and winning indoor and outdoor track meets has become a way of life for Porter and her Old Mill teammates.

"It feels good to be part of a winning tradition," she said. "I feel we're good enough to win the county indoor title again this year. We've lost some good people and are rebuilding but the other schools are also down this season."

Walters said there are no big running stars such as Alison Ross of Annapolis, Christy Nichols of Arundel and Kristy Klima of Glen Burnie on the Old Mill squad.

"We tell our kids not to worry about beating someone like Nichols," said Walters. "We don't place a big emphasis on winning an event. Our philosophy is if we can't be first, be second or third. We tell our kids to do their best, compete to the fullest and the points will take care of themselves."

Another trademark for Old Mill has been the willingness of former athletes, such as Matt Burns, to return to the school and help

coach on a volunteer basis.

Burns coaches the Patriots' pole vaulters even though he wasn't a superstar in his days as a vaulter. "He knows the event and can coach it," said Walters.

Two other former Old Mill standouts, Mike Hinton and Chris Bowser, are assistant girls indoor and outdoor coaches to head coach Mike Marcus. Hinton was a state champion in the hurdles in 1984 and Bowser was a state triple jump champion in 1988.

Besides shot putters Porter and Collins, top members of the Old Mill indoor team are high jumper Sara Kirby, distance runners Beth Walker and Carina Sonberg and relay team members Tynisha Armstead, Natalie Durrett, Nakia Johnson and Jessica Miles.

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