Coming off a series of fine performances at the Eastern States Invitational Track Meet in Gaithersburg last weekend, 42 local youngsters, including some top high school competitors, will journey to Cleveland Saturday to compete in the AAU national age-group championships next week.
Sponsored by the City Department of Recreation and Parks and the Ed Waters Track Club, the Baltimore contingent will be led by All-Metro selections Tia Burley (Western), Alan McDavid (Calvert Hall), Kevin Merrick (Mervo) and several others who enjoyed fine high school track seasons.
It is in the lower age classifications where the club may reap its most success at the seven-day meet, however. For instance, 10-year-old Quantika Stepney will compete in the 400-meter dash where she was a gold medalist last summer. Her winning time at the regional qualifier conducted at Mount St. Mary's July 10-11 was 1 minute, 5.18 seconds. She also will compete in the 800 where she runs a 2: 30.
Two lads who have been competing together since they were part of a relay team that won nationally as 9- and 10-year-olds, Bili Lawal and Frankie Wright, have blossomed out to individual events as 13-year-olds, Lawal as a hurdler and pentathlete and Wright as a 20-foot long jumper.
The 22 girls and 20 boys, including relayists and alternates, have been among more than 200 athletes who have been working out three evenings a week at seven high school sites this summer as part of the Ed Waters Club program, which has been going for 28 years.
As director Ralph Durant points out, "About 90 percent of the kids who turn out to be winners in high school and in college probably started out with us when they were 8 years old."
Given a chance to score a medal in the 4X100 meter relay for boys 17-18 is the quartet of McDavid, Kline Green, Ramon Durant and Wes Lashley. "They can run under 41 seconds flat if things go right," says Freddie Hendricks of Mervo, one of several coaches with the team.
Burley, who captained Western to city titles both indoors and out and who begins studies at the University of Maryland next month, will compete in the 400 (57.04) besides running on the 4X100 and 4X400 relay teams.
In addition to duty on a relay team, McDavid will compete in both dashes in Cleveland while Reginald Stevenson and Juanita Gross are entered in the racewalk after finishing first and second, respectively, in the regionals.
Merrick, a sprinter and jumper at Mervo, has pushed on to the decathlon and scored 5,296 points to capture the event in Emmitsburg.
"He'll be doing 10 feet in the pole vault within a year after doing it for the first time just a few months ago," says coach Gene Hoffman of Curley. "Usually, it takes a vaulter two years to get to that height."
Other team members competing in individual events include: Jasmine Berry, Zakiya Bush, Dom Carr, Reggie Clark, Makura Compton, Michelle DeVaughn, Brittany Everett, Kyle Fuller, Jordan Harris, Chris Jones, Jonathan McMaster, Jimie Robinson, Cedric Weston.