Mervo's Stepney steps into a leadership role

Track and field: Freshman Quantikia Stepney is an example as well as an indoor state champ for the Mustangs.

Girls Track And Field

High School Sports

March 19, 2004|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

Some people call Quantikia Stepney champ. Mervo coach William Vaughan prefers another title: coach.

Stepney, who is a freshman, became the Mustangs' first female state champion this winter when she captured the 500 and the 800 at the Class 3A-2A state meet.

Stepney, who swept the 500 and 800 at the Baltimore City and Central region levels, also ran a leg of the team's fourth-place 3,200-relay squad and contributed 24 of Mervo's 26 points and fourth-place showing at the state championships.

Just as important for Vaughan, however, was Stepney's leadership.

As an administrator in charge of tabulating results at city, region and state meets, Vaughan had little time to talk or prep his athletes the way many coaches did.

Coaches Garfield Thompson and Ronald Neal were busy, as well. That's when Vaughan relied on Stepney to direct the team.

"She's like an assistant coach almost," Vaughan said. "She helps people get to their events because she understands that we're busy. ... Having her on the team is a lot easier for us."

Stepney's knowledge of track and field is based on her experience in the sport - in which she has competed since she was a precocious 7-year-old on the Ed Waters Track Club.

According to her mother, Alice Galloway, Stepney set Amateur Athletic Union national records in the 400 at the age of 9 and the 800 at the ages of 9, 11 and 12.

That experience helped Stepney as she competed last winter against athletes as much as 4 years older than she.

"I wasn't really that nervous," said Stepney, who spent many AAU meets checking in alone and mentally steeling herself for races without any adult guidance. "I knew I was going against faster girls, and I knew I would have to try hard against those girls."

Jerry Molyneaux, a coach at the Ed Waters Track Club and the head coach at Western, said Stepney is a freshman only in age.

"She's been running longer than some of the girls out there," he said. "She will run against whoever right now because she has been trained that way."

Galloway said she witnessed her daughter's speed when a particularly menacing neighborhood dog escaped its owner's yard and headed toward a group of children that included a then-5-year-old Stepney.

"Everybody was on top of the cars but her," Galloway recalled. "She was two blocks up the street and around the corner. She was gone."

Her competitors found out what her mother and Vaughan have known for a long time: that Stepney's strength isn't her leg speed, but her stamina and will to overpower her rivals.

"She'll go out with them, and they can't maintain that pace for that long because most of those athletes aren't used to somebody being there with them the whole time," said Vaughan, who usually saves Stepney for the middle-distance races. "When they're starting to die, she's still going because of her strength."

Freshman Brittany Everett, who has been running with Stepney since they were 7, said she has benefitted from training with Stepney.

"It's getting me better," Everett said. "I've gotten more focused and now I'm like, `If I keep training, I can be [as] good or even better than her one day.' "

Stepney's experience has taught her the importance of preparing for a race, stretching the muscles and getting focused before the starter's gun is fired.

She has shared that with her Mustangs teammates, who initially were suspect about her intentions, according to Everett.

"Some people said, `She acts like she's everybody's mother,' " Everett said. "But they get over it because they see how she tries to help."

One thing Stepney is still getting accustomed to is the adulation with which her classmates at Mervo have showered her.

"When they see me in the hallway, they'll ask, `Are you still breaking records?' " Stepney said. "I'm still surprised by that."

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