Filling in gap in resume drives Graybeal to wire

Track: State indoor championships in the 500 and 800 are not enough for the Glenelg star, who's pushing hard to add an outdoors crown.

High Schools

April 27, 2004|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

Drew Graybeal could use a breather.

Six days a week - every week - Graybeal, a senior middle-distance runner at Glenelg, puts himself through a regimen of workouts on the Gladiators' track.

Whether it's sets of the "pyramid" - a 400-meter run followed by a 300 and a 200, then repeating the process back up to 400 - or completing a four-mile jaunt, his legs never stop.

Yet Graybeal, a two-time Class 2A-1A state indoor champion in the 500 and a state indoor titlist in the 800, said he can't afford to take a break. Not when he has one final shot at something that has eluded him: a state outdoor crown.

"This is my last season, and I really want to leave some kind of mark behind," said Graybeal, who forged his name in the Class 2A state record book by winning the indoor 500 in 1 minute, 5.65 seconds this winter.

"It's already happened with indoors, but because of the way things have worked out with outdoors, it's never really happened."

That may change this spring. Graybeal, who has battled injuries and missed opportunities during the previous outdoor seasons, has already posted some of the area's fastest times.

He's on schedule

He won the 400 at the Falcon Invitational on April 3 in 50.0 seconds and the 800 in 2:02.2, upending reigning Class 2A state outdoor champion Brian Leiter of Francis Scott Key.

It's safe to say Graybeal won't sneak up on the competition, according to Wilde Lake coach Charlie Shoemaker.

"Everybody knows who Drew Graybeal is," Shoemaker said. "He's a perfect example of how you don't have to be the biggest kid or necessarily start off as the fastest kid.

"But if you have some ability and work hard and let Mother Nature take its course and grow a little bit and stay with it, you can become a champion, and I think that's the greatest part about Drew Graybeal."

His career began in the sixth grade as a member of the Howard County Junior Striders program. Graybeal, who was regarded as the fastest player on his soccer and baseball teams, won a one-mile race at Mount View Middle School as a seventh-grader.

But the following year, he experienced intense pain in his right knee. Several examinations revealed he was suffering from Osgood Schlatter syndrome, a knee condition associated with growth spurts, usually among teenagers.

It is believed that the tendon attaching the quadriceps muscle to the knee joint fails to grow in pace with the lengthening bone and pulls tight, putting strain on the bone.

To Graybeal, that meant giving up all athletic activities until his sophomore year at Glenelg. It still is one of his worst memories.

"You're used to doing athletic things all the time and then all of a sudden, you have to slow down and take things easy," he said, noting that the best treatment for the syndrome is time. "It was a scary thing."

He didn't return to sports until the winter of his sophomore year, when he joined the Glenelg indoor track team. Gladiators coach Phil Johnson said he remembers Graybeal's debut vividly.

"I knew he was fast just by the kind of times he ran in practice," Johnson said. "And the kind of intensity that he had was unusual with a young guy. ... He was one of our better runners as a sophomore."

After failing to qualify for the state meet in both indoor and outdoor track that year, Graybeal burst onto the scene by winning the 500 at the Class 2A-1A state championships in his junior year.

But after winning the 400 and the 800 outdoors at the Howard County and Class 2A West region levels last spring, he strained his hamstring in the region meet and finished sixth in the 800 - his only race at the state championships.

`Great work ethic'

That's why he has re-committed himself in his final shot at a state outdoor crown. Graybeal, who spent four days of his week-long spring vacation in Florida training by himself at a high school, said he allows himself to rest only on Sundays.

"There's always going to be people better than you," he said. "You always want to work as hard as you can to become the best runner you can be, and the only way to do that is by practicing. You really don't want to miss any practices or anything because you miss that opportunity to become better."

That lesson is not lost on some of his teammates.

"He's got a great work ethic," said junior Ben Krekeler, who is being groomed by Graybeal as the school's next middle-distance standout. "He gets along with everybody on the team and still gets them to do what they need to do."

Graybeal said he has applied to and been accepted by seven Division I colleges, but only UMBC and George Mason have expressed interest in his athletic achievements. He is open to enrolling at a Division III school such as Elizabethtown and Goucher and joining their track programs.

Either way, Johnson said Graybeal's legacy has already been cemented.

"What Drew does on a meet-to-meet basis is as impressive to me as what anybody else in the state does," Johnson said. "I think he can be one of the better runners this area has seen in the last few years."

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