Eldersburg 9-year-old set to go distance in N. Mexico

Early-start track club put Danny Austin in motion


December 12, 2003|By Bill Free | Bill Free,SUN STAFF

Danny Austin was like any other Eldersburg third-grader with an abundance of athletic ability until volunteer PTA mom Barbara Beane came along and started a track club for third- to fifth-graders.

Danny had immersed himself in indoor and outdoor soccer, basketball and indoor and outdoor baseball, the usual fare for an elementary school-age youngster in America.

The then 8-year-old never thought he would soon have a chance to pursue another favorite athletic endeavor, running.

After all, elementary school track clubs are not exactly a routine part of American sports culture.

Now, thanks to Beane and Danny's father, Mark, the 9-year-old is flying to Albuquerque, N.M., this week to compete in the USA Track and Field Junior Olympic Cross Country Championships.

"I always liked running," said Danny. "And now I enjoy it even more. If I get a good time, I like to see how excited people around me get."

Danny will run in the 9-10 age group 3-kilometer (1.86-mile) cross country bantam division race tomorrow. If he finishes in the top 25, he would gain All-America status.

However, even Mark Austin, who coaches his son, says a top 25 finish is primarily a goal for next year.

His son qualified for the Albuquerque race two weeks ago in Mechanicsville, Va., by running the 3K in 13 minutes, 13.82 seconds, tying for 20th place tie in Region 3, one of 16 regionals.

It was an outstanding effort for Danny, who was running his first 3K, but Beane said she is never surprised by her fourth-grade standout.

"Danny's a natural," said Beane. "He has a lot of speed and endurance. He's a sprinter and a distance runner. Whatever race I put him in, he excels, and he is not just running to show off. He's doing it because he really loves it."

Beane said it is unusual to find a 9-year-old who likes to run distances because "most of them like speed races."

Danny's father was a sprinter in high school, but Mark Austin said he had "no endurance." Mark Austin and Beane both realized that Danny had a special gift last spring when he ran a 5K race (3.1 miles) in 24:07.

Beane finalized plans for a track club for youngsters at Linton Springs Elementary School last spring when the new Century High School opened across the street.

Beane, a running enthusiast and mother of three, felt it would be a great opportunity to take advantage of the expansive Century track facilities in the afternoon before the high school students used them.

"We had 25 kids apply for the club right away," she said, "and we have a waiting list because we can't handle more than 25 because of the supervision that is needed to cross the road."

Also scheduled to run tomorrow in Albuquerque in the same race as Danny is 9-year-old Patrick Rollo of Owings Mills.

Patrick qualified with a time of 12:36.39, which placed him 13th in Region 3.

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