Owls going out fast despite late start Westminster nears debut for county in indoor track

January 08, 1998|By Jeff Seidel | Jeff Seidel,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The Westminster indoor track team could not start practice until one month after everyone else began. The Owls are in only their third week of workouts and still building a team.

So why did coach Jim Shank choose to have his team make its debut at the always-tough National Guard Meet in Baltimore on Jan. 17?

"Well, we could have gone in through the wading pool, but we went right into the deep end," Shank said with a laugh.

Shank is a big reason the Owls are in the pool at all. Indoor track had been dormant in Carroll County for more than a decade. He pushed to get it restarted at Westminster but needed the county school board's approval before practice could begin.

The board approved Westminster's request last month, and the Owls began practice on Dec. 15, even though other teams state-wide started Nov. 15. State rules require 20 days of practice before a team can compete, so Shank thought going against the best right away would be good.

"I don't feel like we're contending for any types of titles this season," said Shank. "But we do have some talent that will do well in the region and state."

The boys and girls combined should have about 50 competitors -- the outdoor squad had around 90 last spring. But this is just a season for building. Shank said some athletes unofficially trained during the past few winters but this is now a real team.

"It's good to know now that we're a bona fide program," said Westminster hurdler and high jumper James Joyce. "I don't think the late start hurt us. As hard as we've been working, it's not going to show."

The Westminster boys have a talented group of distance runners that captured their second straight Class 4A cross-country state title last fall. Runner of the Year Jason Santucci, Ross Bair, Josh Davis and Jesse O'Connell are on the team. Each will run well on his own in addition to making a strong 3,200-meter relay team.

Santucci, who won the county, Central Maryland Conference, region and state championships last fall, is one of the state's best runners. Novell Washington and Chad Hayes are the team's top sprinters. Beau Ridgway and Sean Valis will help in the shot put, and Joyce should score in the hurdles.

The girls team looks strong in the sprints and at middle distance. Thea Bayly will be a force in the sprints and relays. Carli Harris should score in the sprints and pole vault, and Courtney Beirne will be looked to in the middle distance and sprints.

Becky Kuchera has looked good early in the high jump and hurdles, and Beth Vigliotti should be the team's top distance runner.

Westminster remains busy after the National Guard meet. The Owls will host invitationals on Jan. 30 and Feb. 6 at the Carroll Indoor Sports facility -- where the team trains. Central of Prince George's County, Linganore, Thomas Johnson, Calvert Hall, Parkville, and others will compete as the Owls' schedule remains tough -- and Shank thinks of the future.

"It'll be a nice lead-in to the outdoor season," said Shank.

The Owls are giving the term "shoe-string budget" new meaning with their effort this winter. Shank, who has help from long-time Woodlawn coach Dick Estes, is not taking any salary.

In addition, he's donating practice time for the teams to use at his Carroll Indoor Sports facility. Other money is coming from the school's booster club. No money is coming from the county, but that could change next year.

"I would assume that if everything goes OK this year and funding is OK, then we could probably expand next year to any school that wants to do it," said Bruce Cowan, county supervisor of physical education and athletics. "But that's not a guarantee."

No other county schools have indoor track teams, but there is interest.

Pub Date: 1/08/98

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