Sprinter Falcone seems ready to justify hopes

Westen Maryland junior enters NCAA meet with one of top times for 200

Notebook

Colleges

May 25, 2000|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

There are two reasons to suspect Western Maryland's junior sprinter Jamie Falcone will have a better weekend than last at the NCAA Division III track championships, which begin today in Naperville, Ill.

The first is that the former Glen Burnie High standout now has experience in title meets, having reached the semifinals in 1999.

The second is that she's established herself as one of the best Division III performers in the country. At the championships, she'll compete in the 100, 200 and 4x400-meter relay. Her time of 24.02 for the 200 - run at a Towson Open meet two weeks ago - was the nation's best this year, as well as a surprise.

"I was so excited because I couldn't believe I ran that time," said Falcone, who wanted to atone for a false start that eliminated her from the 100 in that same meet. "My mind was so set because I was so angry."

On that day, joy replaced rage just as focus has taken the place of laxity with Falcone, a late track convert who took up the sport at the urging of her art teacher at Glen Burnie, Aaron Walker.

Walker, also the track coach, needed someone to run against a member of his team. Falcone, whose mother ran track, thought of her genes as she volunteered and did well enough so that the coach invited her to practice with the team.

She went on to earn All-Anne Arundel County honors in her last two seasons before going to Western Maryland.

WMC was her choice because of the small classes. Still, big school or small, the transition from high school to college was tough for Falcone, who fell behind in her classes, then on the track.

"I didn't do much practicing," she said. "I thought, maybe I could do just like I did at Glen Burnie."

It didn't happen. Only the success of former Western Maryland star Carrie Wilson - an all-American - was able to prod Falcone toward the potential that WMC coach Doug Renner believed she had.

"I envied [Wilson] because she was a fabulous hurdler and I wanted to have what she had," Falcone said.

Her training became serious, helped along by sprinting coach Mike Whitmore.

At the end of her sophomore year, she earned a provisional berth in the NCAAs, where she found herself in the outside lanes and wondering whether she was worthy.

"I questioned myself a lot," she said. "I was scared because I thought, `Do I belong here?'"

Renner said Falcone now plans on proving more than that she belongs in the NCAAs. "She decided that it wasn't going to be good enough to just go to nationals. She wants to win nationals."

Falcone will have company at the meet. Thea Bayly (Westminster), Stephanie McPherson (Woodlawn) and Aleya Horn will run the other three legs on the relay team, and Ifeyani Ani (Westminster) will represent the men's team in the high jump.

Lejarraga All-American

Jose Lejarraga of Washington College earned Division III All-America tennis honors earlier this week by making it to the quarterfinals of the national tournament.

Lejarraga won his first two matches before falling to Derek Fitzpatrick of California-Santa Cruz on Tuesday.

Towson on the ball

Towson's men's golf team enjoyed its trip to Fresno, Calif., for the NCAA regional tournament, finishing ahead of all eastern teams (UMBC and Navy among them) except for Princeton.

Tigers coach Bryan Yaniger was astonished by the level of competition, particularly the pedigrees of some of the players. He saw the sons of Craig Stadler and Johnny Miller, and the brother of Phil Mickelson.

Yaniger: "I have some kid who was a senior at Broadneck last year, but it was a lot of fun."

Miscellaneous

UMBC sophomore Jen Ecker (Mount Hebron) took a surprise second place in the 10,000 meters at an IC4A meet at Princeton last weekend. Ecker was seeded 10th of 15 runners entering the race, but ran a personal-best 36:09.83. ... Goucher's Jeff Olenick (Centennial), holder of a 3.8 GPA in secondary education and two-time Runner of the Year in the Capital Athletic Conference, earned male Scholar of the Year honors from the CAC last weekend. ... Ed Davis, Bowie State's women's basketball coach for the past eight seasons, was named head coach at Delaware State after racking up a 165-62 record.

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