Penn State's Olkowski not your average sprinter



May 30, 2002|By Bill Free | Bill Free,SUN STAFF

Tall and slender, Ryan Olkowski already knew he didn't look like the rest of the nation's top 200-meter sprinters when he went out to warm up for the NCAA indoor track and field championships in early March in Fayetteville, Ark.

"All those guys are about 5-11 or 6-foot, really ripped with muscles bulging everywhere," said the 6-foot-4, 180-pound Penn State senior from Calvert Hall.

Then the top-ranked 200 sprinter from Kansas walked up to Olkowski and reminded him of another difference, "You know you're the only white guy here. OK, let's see what you've got.' "

After Olkowski raced away to a Penn State school-record time of 20.98 seconds for an eighth-place finish that earned him All-America status, the non-qualifying Kansas sprinter congratulated him and said, "I knew you must have something in you or you wouldn't be here."

And guess what?

Olkowski had a lot more in him last week at the Big Ten outdoor championships in Madison, Wis.

He bolted to a career-best 20.59 finish, capturing the Big Ten 200-meter title and qualifying for the NCAA outdoor championships in Baton Rouge, La., yesterday through Saturday.

That performance in Madison rates as Olkowski's top collegiate moment, and it was an emotional one.

Olkowski pointed toward the sky to remember his mother, Jayne, who died in August. His father, Chuck, came racing up and gave his son a big hug.

"My mom always said I got my track skills from her," Ryan said. "She ran everything in high school in New Jersey. I was talking to her after I won that race. She went to all my meets."

Ryan Olkowski said he uses his long stride to make up for his slowness out of the blocks.

"I really come on strong after 50 meters and pull away from people," he said. "I just have to work on different techniques to overcome my problems out of the blocks caused by my height."

O'Connor walks walk

George Washington's ace reliever/closer Mike O'Connor backed up his pre-Atlantic 10 baseball championship series talk by shutting down Richmond for three innings and getting the 6-4 victory Saturday in the third and deciding game of the series.

"Except for a couple guys, they're not that great a hitting team," said O'Connor, a senior lefty from Mount St. Joseph who has 10 saves this season.

The first-team All-Atlantic-10 pick allowed just one hit and one walk while striking out two after coming on in the sixth inning with the Colonials trailing 4-2; he left after the eighth with GW up 6-4.

Freshman catcher Joe Michalski (Mount Hebron) also played a major role, going 2-for-4 and stealing a base. Junior left fielder Tony Dokoupil (Severna Park) contributed one hit in four at-bats in the title game, and sophomore first baseman Jeff Fertitta (Loyola) reached base twice when he got hit by pitches.

Now, it's on to the NCAA tournament for the Colonials, who open play at 7 p.m. tomorrow in Winston-Salem, N.C., meeting host and seventh seed Wake Forest.

Roesch rises

Virginia senior swimmer Megan Roesch (Wilde Lake) is eligible for national Verizon Academic All-America honors, having been selected to the CoSIDA/Verizon Academic All-District III University Division women's at-large first team.

Roesch, a sprint freestyle specialist, was a tri-captain of the Cavaliers' swimming and diving team that finished 12th at the NCAA championships in March.

Et cetera

Freshman Rebecca Sandler (Park School) has been named the Patriot League's Rookie of the Year after leading the Colgate women's lacrosse team in scoring with 30 goals and 13 assists this season. Sandler was also a first-team all-league choice. ... Tracy Mullaney (Dulaney) scored more points than any other freshman in University of Connecticut women's lacrosse history this season. Mullaney had 30 goals and 11 assists and was a first-team All-Big East selection. ... Temple's Rachel Clinton (Oakland Mills) has been chosen to the Atlantic-10 outdoor track and field first team after winning the conference's 100-meter high hurdles in 14.10. Clinton is a freshman. ... Sophomore Katie Babcock (Dulaney) was selected to the All-North Coast Athletic Conference lacrosse second team as a defender for Wittenberg (Ohio) University. Babcock had the most ground balls on the team (55) and caused the most turnovers (35).

Have an item for Postcards? Contact Bill Free by e-mail at or by phone at 410-833-5349.

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