French sets successful pace Big goals: The Centennial senior is aiming for a record in the 3,200 meters at the 3A West Region meet tomorrow, and an appointment to the Naval Academy.

February 09, 1996|By Stan Rappaport | Stan Rappaport,SUN STAFF

He is the middle child. His sisters are named Renika, Corrin and Jade. His brother's name is Sayer.

His name?

Mike.

"My dad named me," said Mike French. "My mom named the others. She likes weird names."

The traditional name fits the Centennial senior as well as the Navy sweat shirt and Navy jacket he wears.

"I like structure," French said. "I like to see where I'm going in life."

French is going to Hagerstown Junior College tomorrow. There, his Eagles' teammates will join Howard, Mount Hebron and Atholton and nine noncounty teams in the 3A West Region indoor track and field championships. The top five finishers in each event advance to the Feb. 20 state meet.

French will compete in the mile, two-mile and half-mile at the regional. He would rather skip the mile to be rested for the 3,200 meters.

"I want to get my name in the record books for the 3,200," French said.

He not only asked Centennial coach Al Dodds if he could miss the event, he also gave his coach a letter listing several reasons.

Dodds put the letter on his wall. He also said no.

"I'm doing it for him," said Dodds, who told French he would run only the 3,200 and 800 at the state meet. "I think it's going to be good for him. It will force him to work a little harder and I think it will pay off for him in the state meet."

French had never run more than a mile indoors when he captured the 3,000 at the National Guard meet last month. He won in 9 minutes, 11 seconds and figures the added 200 meters will take 35 seconds. His projected time of 9:46 is 10 seconds off the state record.

Is 10 seconds too much to make up?

"Not in the two-mile," said French, a two-time All-County cross country runner who this season finished third in both the county and state meets. "At the National Guard meet I felt relaxed and strong. If I can go through some pain, I think I can get the record."

And if he does?

"It'll prove to me that all my hard work finally has paid off," he said.

And if he doesn't?

"I don't like to think negative," said French. "If it's within my grasp, I think I'll get it."

Attending the Naval Academy certainly is within his grasp. After a second-place finish in the state cross country meet last year, the Academy began showing interest in him.

His initial reaction?

"There's no way I'm joining the Navy," French said.

Today, French can't wait to join.

"If I get that [appointment] letter I'm signing it," said French, who has a 3.89 GPA and plans to focus on electrical engineering.

He spent last Thursday and Friday at the Academy with 15 other recruits. He returned with a new sweat shirt and sense of belonging.

"It felt like home," said French, who has grown from a 5-foot-6, 110-pound freshman to his current 5-11, 150 pounds. "I follow the same lifestyle and patterns they do: eat breakfast, go to class, have lunch, go the class, have track practice, eat dinner, study and go to bed."

French, who ran a marathon in eighth grade, competed in indoor track for the first time last year. He finished ninth in the mile and 11th in the 800 at the state meet.

"It was the worst season ever," said French, who had to contend with an injured hamstring.

This indoor season has been more successful, with a third-place finish in the 1,600 (4:37.6) and a second-place finish in the 800 (2:08.3) in the county meet.

"I run because it helps me physically and mentally," said French, whose father, Don, was a sprinter at BYU and got Mike interested in the sport in eighth grade. "It helps me think clearer and that helps my academics. And it makes me feel good about myself."

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