Local spotlight

September 13, 2000|By PAUL MCMULLEN

James Carter

He took ill as a middle schooler, and after he was struck with myasthenia gravis, had his thymus gland removed. Carter went to Mervo, which had the state's best high school track and field program, but no track on which to practice. His premier event was the 400 meters, but as a senior in 1996 he wasn't even the Baltimore City champion. Carter took his national-class sprinting and jumping talents to Hampton University, but was academically ineligible as a freshman in 1997 and again this year. By then, Carter had found comfort in the 400 hurdles, and he capped a rapid emergence as a professional with a third-place finish at the U.S. trials. He will be the first product of an area high school to compete in track and field at the Olympics since 1972.

Michael Phelps

Tom Malchow is the world-record holder in swimming's 200 butterfly. At the U.S. championships last March, he sneered at Michael Phelps, who was 14 years old and maybe 6 feet tall. Now Phelps is 15, at least 6-4 and a certified phenom. He should be in the second week of his sophomore year at Towson High, but instead he's the youngest member of the American men's team since 1932. Phelps has lowered his personal best by seven seconds; with a little more improvement, he could be the youngest U.S. Olympic male medalist in swimming ever. Forget finishing in the top three. He and his coach are thinking victory Down Under, and paybacks for Malchow, who isn't sneering anymore.

Tommy Hannan

A daredevil who dives off 40-foot cliffs and imagines himself James Bond in a computer game, Hannan had a short-lived stint as a prep quarterback at Mount St. Joseph. He found more success as a swimmer. The 100 butterfly was not his forte during his sophomore season at Texas last winter. He was third in the Big 12 championships, but as spring turned into summer, Hannan found his niche in the event and went to the U.S. trials with an outside hope of qualifying. All Hannan did in Indianapolis was swim the third-fastest time ever by an American, 52.81 seconds. The U.S. record is 52.76. If trials champion Ian Crocker doesn't nail it next week, Hannan will.

Joanna Zeiger

Asked where her medical research would next take her, Zeiger said she wanted "to take one thing at a time," but she has managed to thrive in two disciplines. Zeiger was born in Baltimore 30 years ago, when her father was an intern at Johns Hopkins Hospital. She returned in 1995 to work on her Ph.D. at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and trains around Mount Washington. Zeiger says she is better suited to the Ironman test of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike and a marathon run of 26.2 miles, but she has stepped down this year and admirably handled the Olympic triathlon distances, a .9-mile swim, a 24.8-mile bike and a 6.2-mile run.

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