Blood runs thick for track star cousins

Mervo: Not much separates teammates and best friends Ronald and Frankie Wright.

High Schools

April 21, 2003|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

Let's clear the air right now: Frankie and Ronald Wright are not twins. They're not even brothers.

They're cousins who just happen to be two of the most prominent athletes on the top-ranked Mervo track and field team.

But that hasn't stopped the queries that seemingly follow the Wrights wherever they go.

"Everybody says we look alike. Everybody thinks we're twins," Ronald Wright said. "It's cool. I grew up with him. It's like we're brothers."

Indeed.

For as long as Frankie and Ronald Wright have been alive, the two have been nearly inseparable as best friends, classmates and teammates.

And for the past three years, Frankie and Ronald Wright have been the foundation for a Mustangs program that has long dominated the track and field scene in the Baltimore metropolitan area.

Frankie Wright is a two-time Class 4A state champion in the triple jump and the defending titlist in the long jump. Ronald Wright is the favorite in the 100- and 200-meter dashes.

Both also ran legs of Mervo's 400 and 800 relay squads that collected state crowns last spring.

It's enough to make Carver coach Walter Cole lean back and wonder.

"At states, they'll probably win the long and triple [jumps], and in the 4-by-1, the 4-by-2 and the 4-by-4, they'll be first or second because of their abilities," Cole said. "People would love to have them. I would take one of them - either one."

Running has been a central feature in the lives of Frankie and Ronald Wright. Separated by just two months and three days - Frankie's birthday is Feb. 1, 1985, and Ronald's is April 4 - one of the cousins' earliest memories involves the pair chasing each other up and down the streets of their Edmondson Village neighborhood.

When Frankie Wright was 8 years old, his speed caught the eye of a neighbor, who told Frankie's mother, Donna, to enroll her son with the Ed Waters Track Club.

After watching his cousin at track meets, Ronald Wright followed suit when he was 9. Together, the two joined two other teammates to capture a national championship in the 400 relay.

After spending most of their childhood and their years at Alexander Hamilton Elementary School together, Frankie and Ronald Wright split up for middle school.

Donna Wright, whose brother Ronald is Ronald Wright's father, sent her son to a private school to follow his sister, Veronica Green, and to better his education.

Ronald Wright and another cousin attended Calverton Middle. It was the first - and only - time Frankie and Ronald Wright would be separated.

"They would tease him about his uniform," Donna Wright recalled. "He was pretty OK with the education he was receiving, but I know he wanted to go to Calverton with them."

For high school, Frankie and Ronald Wright enrolled at Mervo, where they took slightly different paths to stardom.

Frankie Wright immediately made the varsity, carving a space on the relays and jumps.

Ronald Wright took a more circuitous route, making the jump to varsity in the latter half of his sophomore season, said Mustangs co-coach Freddie Hendricks.

"He was in his growth spurt," Hendricks said of Ronald Wright, who gained 3 inches and 40 pounds between his freshman and sophomore years. "He had a gangly run, but eventually it turned into something that's real powerful."

Though aware of his cousin's obstacles, Frankie Wright said he never lacked confidence in his cousin's talents.

"I wasn't sad for him," he said. "I knew Ronald was going to make it. I knew he was going to come up, because he always comes up with something."

Ronald Wright proved his cousin to be a master prognosticator when he upset teammate Jabari Bush, a two-time All-Baltimore City/County selection, two years ago in the 200-meter dash at the state meet.

At 6 feet 2 and 180 pounds, Ronald Wright has a muscular frame that resembles a free safety in football, which happens to be one of his favorite sports.

Frankie Wright's 6-0, 150-pound body is lean and wiry, giving him the speed and power necessary to perform in the jumps.

Because their body types have led them to compete in different events, the two rarely race against each other. But they produced a lasting memory in the 200 at last spring's Baltimore City championships.

In that event, Frankie Wright shot out of the blocks and eventually opened a 30-meter lead on the rest of the field as he rounded the curve. But Ronald Wright caught his cousin with 5 meters to go and edged him at the finish line.

"I thought it was over right there," Frankie Wright said. "I thought I had it until I saw him right there" - as he looked to his right - "at five meters. He just popped up on me."

Added Ronald Wright: "It was funny because I didn't expect to catch him like that. I thought I would close the gap, but I didn't know I was going to pass him."

Frankie Wright returned the favor in the 300 at the city indoor championships last January, but Mervo co-coach Ronald Neal said the cousins don't compete to outdo the other.

"I've never heard them say, `I'm the fastest' or anything like that," Neal said. "They're basically [saying], `As long as we beat everybody else, we're fine.' That's a team philosophy. We don't care who on our team wins as long as somebody on our team wins."

As their high school careers wind down, Frankie and Ronald Wright said they plan to attend the same college. Florida, Miami and North Carolina have expressed interest in the duo.

"We just got to be together," Frankie Wright said. "If he doesn't come to school for one day, I'm like, `Man, where is my cousin at?' It just doesn't feel right."

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