Responsibility puts him on run Indoor track: The Wilde Lake coaches made junior Nkem Ohia a team co-captain, and he has taken to the role by becoming one of the county's top sprinters.

January 11, 1998|By Stan Rappaport | Stan Rappaport,SUN STAFF

It doesn't make sense what Errick Henlon did, and yet, it does.

Nkem Ohia quit last year's Wilde Lake indoor track team. It wasn't fun, he said.

Wilde Lake coaches Charlie Shoemaker and Henlon urged Ohia to try again this winter. And when Ohia, a junior, came to practice the first day, Henlon had a surprise for him: he made Ohia a co-captain.

"Maybe he knew what I could do," Ohia said.

It was a marvelous move.

"That was Coach Henlon's decision," said Shoemaker, now in his sixth season of running the Wildecats' track program. "At first I was wondering about it, but Nkem's done a tremendous job as captain. He's really one of the best captain's I've ever had."

"Coach Shoemaker and Coach Henlon really wanted me to try this year so I thought I would go ahead and give it my best shot," said Ohia, who was born in Nigeria and came to this country a year later. "When Coach Henlon made me a captain, it forced me -- even though sometimes I might not want to come because I'm tired -- to be at every practice. I have to be a good role model for the team."

Ohia not only is an excellent role model -- he takes advance placement courses and maintains a 3.8 grade-point average -- but a talented runner as well.

"This indoor season he's just made this metamorphosis and is a dominant sprinter in the county," Shoemaker said.

"This kid is good," said Henlon, who coaches the team's $H sprinters. "He hasn't discovered his true potential yet."

Does Ohia, who won the 300-meter run and was on two winning relays at last Wednesday's county meet, see what his coaches see?

"I'm starting to see it now this year with how well I'm doing," said Ohia, who had an excellent time of 1 minute, 10.9 seconds in the 500 at the Pangaea Meet last month. "I'm thinking that maybe I might have potential."

A key ingredient missing last year -- fun -- has be rediscovered. "This year it's fun being captain. People sort of look up to you," Ohia said.

Another positive change has been the support from his teammates. "Sachs [teammate Michael Sachs], he's always trying and he kind of motivates me. They [his teammates] all work so hard and it causes me to try and perform better for them."

Ohia, who also plays the bassoon in the school's wind ensemble, has a solid shot to win the 300 and 500 at the county meet. He wants very badly to help the Wildecats, who have dominated the first three county meets this season, to their first county indoor championship.

Then there is the question of the outdoor season. Ohia likes lacrosse, and was on the junior varsity team last year. So what's he going to do this spring?

"Coach Henlon keeps telling me I could be outstanding in outdoor and I'm sort of now starting to think about possibly running outdoor," Ohia said.

As much as his coaches have been praising his success this season and his potential down the road, Ohia isn't counting on track as his way into college.

"I don't think I really would want to get a [track] scholarship for college because if something happens and I can't run anymore then I might not get that scholarship money," Ohia said. "I'm trying to make it on my academics."

Ohia is as surprised as anyone about his turnaround. And he admits Henlon's astute decision is a key reason.

"I didn't think I would actually do this well or come to practice this consistently as I do," Ohia said. "Sometimes I'm tired and I don't want to come to practice but being captain you have to. It forces you to come. It's possible that's why he did it."

So why did Henlon make Ohia a co-captain?

"I thought the responsibility would do him some good and eventually help the team," Henlon said. "I really want him to be committed to the program this year. Sometimes when you're in a responsible position it brings the best out of you."

Thema Napier won three individual events and Ty Carter took two, plus a relay victory, to lead the victorious Long Reach girls team at last Wednesday's county meet at the Fifth Regiment Armory.

BOYS: 3,200 relay -- Wilde Lake (Jasen McMillan, Kurt Muller, Ben Coffman, Matt Daddio), 8: 40.6; 300 -- Nkem Ohia, Wilde Lake, 37.8; Shot Put -- Andrew Long, Oakland Mills, 51-2 1/2 ; 1,600 -- McMillan, Wilde Lake, 4: 47.5; 55 hurdles -- Mike Fambro, Oakland Mills, 8.2; Pole Vault -- Tony Pesce, Atholton, 11-0; 55 dash -- Duane Kerr, Wilde Lake, 6.72; 500 -- Matt Albritton, Hammond, 1: 13.6; 3,200 -- Steve Chu, River Hill, 10: 49.9.; High Jump -- Jason Turnbull, River Hill, 5-8; 800 relay -- Wilde Lake (Mike Sachs, Ohia, Todd Fleming, Kerr), 1: 39.26; 800 -- Coffman, Wilde Lake, 2: 07.7; 1,600 relay -- Wilde Lake (Daddio, Aaron Blum, Jason Eichmiller, Ohia), 3: 47.9. Team scores -- Wilde Lake 117, Oakland Mills 70, River Hill 60, Atholton 56, Centennial 40, Mount Hebron 25, Hammond 18, Long Reach 9, Glenelg 7, Howard 1.

GIRLS: 3,200 relay -- Wilde Lake (Michelle Smith, Princessa Brown, Ashley Etue, Alice Cheong), 10: 40; 300 -- Ty Carter, Long Reach, 43.1; 1,600 -- Meg Tilley, Hammond, 5: 36.8; High Jump -- Tenisha Chester, Atholton, 5-0; 55 hurdles -- Thema Napier, Long Reach, 9.0; 55 dash -- Carter, Long Reach, 7.24; 500 -- Napier, Long Reach, 1: 21.75; 3,200 -- Lee McDuff, River Hill, 12: 22.4; Pole Vault -- Shimul Patel, Atholton, 8-1; 800 relay -- Long Reach (Kai Freeman, Cindy Maxfield, Carter, Cynthia Nichols), 1: 56.78; 800 -- Napier, Long Reach, 2: 32.8; Shot Put -- Courtney Savoy, River Hill, 33-11; 1,600 relay -- Oakland Mills (Amber Day, Nicole -- Alpert, Molly Sunderdick, Danielle Stoddart), 4: 28.9. Team scores -- Long Reach 81, Oakland Mills 65, Atholton 61, Wilde Lake 60, River Hill 36, Howard 29, Mount Hebron 28, Centennial 25, Hammond 18.

Pub Date: 1/11/98

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