Mervo's Hendricks heads for finish line

Coach takes first steps in decision to step down on Feb. 1 after 31 years

Indoor track and field

High School Sports

Winter Preview

December 05, 2003|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

Freddie Hendricks is ready to say goodbye.

After 31 years of building Mervo into the track and field powerhouse that it is, Hendricks will step down as the Mustangs' head coach on Feb. 1.

Hendricks has already set the wheels in motion, turning over the coach's whistle to Garfield Thompson, Ronald Neal and William Vaughan and deliberately missing practices to avoid any confusion.

But even Hendricks admits that walking away from a sport he has loved for half of his life is more difficult than he ever imagined.

"A part of me still wants to be involved," said the 62-year-old coach, who will be an assistant this winter and possibly next spring. "I'm having withdrawal symptoms right now, but I know this is best for the program in order for it to have continued success."

Since Hendricks started coaching at the northeast Baltimore school in 1972, Mervo has won seven Maryland Scholastic Association titles and, since joining the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association in 1993, three outdoor state crowns and an indoor state championship in 1997.

Jerry Molyneaux, the architect of Western's highly successful track and field program, said Baltimore City will miss Hendricks' presence.

"We're going to lose a pioneer in track and field in this city," said Molyneaux, a 1984 Olympian. "Freddie Hendricks has been around for quite a while, and he's one of those guys we looked to for guidance and structure."

Hendricks has coached 2000 Olympic gold medalist Bernard Williams and 2002 U.S. 400-meter hurdles champion James Carter, but Hendricks is most proud of a record that includes helping 12 of 13 Mervo graduates enter college this past fall.

Hendricks said he plans to spend his free time playing golf and taking a few fishing trips, but will attend the Mustangs' meets.

"They'll see me at a lot of track meets," he said. "They'll probably see me at all the ones that they run."

With as few as six weeks before the start of some county championships, the race to gold has quickened the pace for many area teams. Here is just a look at the competition. (Harford County does not have a county championship meet.):

Anne Arundel County: Two was the magic number for the Annapolis boys and Broadneck girls teams, both of which captured their second straight county titles last season.

The Panthers have the sprinters and distance runners to improve on last year's second-place finish at the Class 3A-2A state championships, but developing a field corps could be the key.

Old Mill has depth in all three areas and could pick up the baton if Annapolis falters. Broadneck's hopes depend on finding sprinters, while Meade and Southern-AA must fill holes left by graduation.

The Bruins girls have added quality sprinters to their mighty distance corps, making them a favorite again.

Severna Park can keep up with Broadneck in the distance events, while Chesapeake-AA is formidable in the field events. The sleeper could be a rising Southern-AA squad.

Baltimore City: For the first time in a long time, the Mervo boys and Western girls teams' holds on the city title is showing some cracks.

Graduation depleted the Mustangs, who have collected five consecutive city championships. With 50 boys on the roster, however, Mervo has the numbers to rebuild quickly.

Carver's strength in the sprints will be pivotal, while City returns a young lineup. Poly's development makes the Engineers a dark-horse candidate.

Like the Mustangs, Western took a hit from graduation, losing at least 32 points from last season's Class 4A-3A state meet. But the Doves - who have won the last nine city titles - have a remarkable tradition of rebounding instead of rebuilding.

Mervo has momentum from upending Western at the city cross country championships.

Baltimore County: Woodlawn has returned to the top of the boys standings and that could be just the beginning.

The Warriors, who have grabbed six of the last seven boys county titles, field a squad blessed with experience and leadership.

Dulaney should be a thorn in Woodlawn's side as the Lions boast depth in the distance and field events. Hereford and Loch Raven could make some noise.

On the girls side, Dulaney is poised to reassume its former status. The Lions, who had their seven-year reign snapped by Milford Mill last season, graduated just three athletes.

Only two years removed from winning the Class 3A-2A North region crown, Towson has the talent to overtake Dulaney.

Carroll County: The Westminster boys team has won all five county titles since the sport took hold during the 1998-99 season.

But upstart Winters Mill is beginning to blossom, and Liberty will borrow runners from its Class 2A state champion cross country squad.

The girls race is headed by North Carroll, which drew a program-high 40 athletes as the Panthers seek their third consecutive county title.

Howard County: As many as four boys teams have a legitimate shot at the county title.

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