Woodlawn's Brown a top prep hurdler

Track and field: He's already been offered a full college scholarship, and at this weekend's Penn Relays, his national-level skills will be on display for all to see.

April 22, 1999|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,SUN STAFF

If Ron Neal were to make an instructional video on how to run the hurdles, he'd use Woodlawn senior specialist Joel Brown.

"Joel is flexible, uses his arms well between the hurdles, and when he goes over, he's not in the air that long," said Neal, an assistant coach at Mervo who coaches Brown with Ed Waters' track club during the summer.

"I've seen most of the best high school hurdlers, and Joel has probably the best overall technique," Neal said. "Plus he's got that fearless attitude, like, `I can't be beat.' He's a real blue-chipper."

Brown, a 5-foot-10, 150-pounder, earned All-Metro Performer of the Year honors in track last spring after leading the Warriors to the Class 3A state title.

Brown set state meet records in winning both the 110-meter hurdles in 13.9 seconds and the 300-meter hurdles in 36.4.

The speedster also ran legs of each of the state runner-up 400- and mile-relay teams.

"Joel's not that big, but he sure is powerful. And by the third hurdle, you don't even see his legs anymore. They're just a blur," said Woodlawn coach Gerald Russell, an assistant to Mike Sye. "He's such a versatile athlete. He can handle the sprint, the short sprint or the long sprint, and he's got the maturity to go as far as he wants in track and field."

So impressive is Brown that colleges such as Ohio State, Tennessee, North Carolina and Indiana have expressed interest in him. Ohio State has offered a full scholarship.

But athletic director Ralph Graham said of Brown, who has a B average and a 930 SAT score, that "as good as he is on the track, he's an even better role model."

Added Graham: "He's that rare combination of being a nice young man and a good student leader. In fact, he's led this team for the past four seasons."

Brown is blazing the trail into this weekend's Penn Relays, which begin today and ends Saturday. Brown will compete in the 400 hurdles in addition to running a leg of each of the 400, mile and 2-mile relay teams.

In various combinations, Brown's running mates on the three relay teams will include Woodlawn sprinters Antonio Thomas, Anthony Jenkins, Vincent Fuller, Clevon Johnson and Lex Rice.

Brown, who works a couple days a week at a Security Mall sports clothing shop, said about the Penn Relays: "I hope to finish in the top three, but I'm not sure how good the times will be, because it's supposed to be cold.

"We'll have to overcome some challenges in the relays. On one of our teams, one of the `legs' is hurt. In the 1,600-meter relay, we'll be running in the fastest heat, with the Jamaicans. We'll do our best, but it will be a challenge.

Coach Fye said he and Brown have talked about the high-profile weekend event.

"A lot of the schools that have recruited him will be there. He already has run one of the best times in the country in the 400, and if he believes he can do it, he'll do it again. I really believe he has a chance to win the whole thing. He's always been the type of kid who can rise to the next level."

Brown's personal best time in the 400, 51.9 seconds, ranks as the nation's second-fastest time this season. And his recent personal record time at 110, 13.85, is the fastest time on the East Coast, Neal said.

"Because of the weather, we haven't had him doing a lot of sprints until recently," Russell said. "But with the competition coming up, I think he'll really start kicking into gear."

Several area teams are sending athletes into this weekend's Penn Relays, including Mervo.

The Mustangs' best bet is jumper Norman Forrest, who is coming off of an indoor season in which he placed third in the national meet's triple jump. Outdoors this spring, Forrest already has has triple-jumped 47 feet, 10 inches.

Forrest also will run the third leg of the Mustangs' 400 relay, which will include Travon Morgan, Kevin Merrick and Odell Taylor. Mervo will use another combination of runners on its mile relay team, which likely will include Reggie Clark and/or Jabari Bush.

Pub Date: 4/22/99

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