Oatts chasing lofty goal Indoor track: Atholton senior, with encouragement from others, is taking his ability in the sport seriously now. Could today's regionals be a stop on the road to the 2000 Olympics?

February 07, 1997|By Stan Rappaport | Stan Rappaport,SUN STAFF

Atholton's Cian Oatts considered not running indoor track this season.

"After football, I didn't want to be burned out for the spring," said Oatts, who played varsity football for the first time and scored five touchdowns from his running back position. "And I usually don't do that well indoors."

But two weeks into the indoor season, Oatts joined the team, and now, as he leads Atholton into today's Class 2A-1A region meet at the 5th Regiment Armory, he's happy with that decision.

Said Atholton track coach Chris Rohde: "He was trying to convince himself that he could train by himself and be ready for the outdoor season. He was very uncertain about the whole thing, whether to come out or not."

Many people encouraged him to continue indoor track, something he had done since his freshman year. One of them was a previous coach, Richard Stebbins.

"He just told me to run," Oatts said. "He won a gold medal [in the 1964 Olympics as the third leg of the U.S. 400-meter relay team]. He's someone I look up to."

Oatts, a 6-foot-1, 175-pound senior, will compete in four events today -- the 55-meter and 300-meter dashes and the 800- and 1,600-meter relays. He won the county indoor championships last week in the 55 (6.4) and 300 (38.4), and ran on the 1,600 and 800 relay teams that finished first and second, respectively.

A year ago, Oatts won the 55 in the region but didn't place at the state meet. He missed qualifying for the state meet in the 300.

But that's history.

"I'm approaching it very positively," said Oatts about the coming region and state meets. "I'm doing my best now to prevent what happened last year from [recurring]. I think I've gotten a lot stronger. I think I've really improved." Oatts, a gifted runner with a muscular build and outstanding speed, said he uses the indoor season "to develop a base for the outdoor season."

An All-County performer last year outdoors, Oatts won four gold medals at the county meet (100 and 200 dashes, 400 and 800 relays). He earned seconds in the Class 3A East regionals in the 100 dash and 400 and 800 relays, and was third in the 200 dash. He was sixth at the state meet in the 100 dash.

Rohde believes Oatts' best outdoor event will be the individual 400 meters -- one track lap.

"I really think his future in college will be the 400 meters," said Rohde, who thinks Oatts will be a good captain and hopes he is nominated for the outdoor season. "He has great speed and the endurance to maintain that speed for a full 400 meters."

Oatts, who competed in the Amateur Athletic Union nationals last summer at Tulane University and finished seventh in the 100 and 10th in the 200 in the 17-18 age group, is running a 400 for the first time as a member of the indoor 1,600-meter relay team.

He looks forward to running the open 400 in the outdoor season.

Oatts, whose even-handed temperament helps him deal with the pressure of races, recognized his track potential in 10th grade.

"I didn't really know what I could do until my sophomore year, when I won the 100 at the county meet," said Oatts. "From that point on, I've never looked back."

Said Albert Merrills, co-founder with Quinten Wilson of the Columbia Express track club and Oatts' summer coach since eighth grade: "Cian's confidence level has improved drastically over the last two years. He's become a sprinter to be reckoned with. He runs with such strength and confidence."

Both Merrills and Rohde have been impressed with Oatts' growth as a young man, as well. "He's definitely grown a lot," said Rohde, with Merrills adding: "He's a great kid. Just a real joy. It's nice to see the maturity in him."

Oatts did not run outdoor track as a freshman because he was academically ineligible.

"It was a wake-up call," said Oatts, whose grades have since improved and who has a 1,000 Scholastic Assessment Test score. He hopes for a track scholarship.

"In 2000, I want to try to go to the Olympics," said Oatts. "I want to win a gold medal. And I want to try to make a career out of track."

Pub Date: 2/07/97

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