Callahan's fast feet create options

On High Schools

High Schools

February 25, 2005|By MILTON KENT

LANDOVER - The day will come when Ryan Callahan probably will have to make a pretty important decision, namely about how and where he runs, either behind a bunch of behemoths on grass or straight ahead on a synthetic surface.

For now, Callahan, Old Mill's star running back and sprinter, is too busy moving too fast to think about it.

"The only real difference is when I play football, I have all that equipment," Callahan said. "But when I'm here, I'm just running free. That's the only difference. With everything else, I'm good to go."

"Here" is the track, where Callahan, a junior, has become a force in just three years. During Tuesday's state Class 4A-3A finals at the Prince George's Sports & Learning Complex in Landover, Callahan had a solid day, finishing fourth in the 300-meter dash in 35.62 seconds, a shade off the 35.5 that he ran in the Anne Arundel championships last month, tying that county's record.

In a meet with runners from Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties the week before the county championships, Callahan won the 55 and the 300 and was part of Old Mill's winning 800 relay team.

That's not bad for a guy who hadn't run in the indoor season before. To someone unfamiliar with track, running may be running, indoors or out. But for those in the sport, there's a different mentality to running within four walls than to running with and against the wind.

"The athletes enjoy it more outdoors. We run outside in the cold all winter long, so if you're not a big fan of the winter, it's not really an enjoyable sport," said Old Mill track coach Janet Liimatta.

"It's a long season. It's broken up into Thanksgiving, then there's the holiday break, then we have exams, and it's one thing after another. It's very hard to get any kind of continuity. The only short event indoors is the 55 and maybe the 4-by-200, so [the outdoor season] gives the athletes an opportunity to run more events. They can run the 100 and the 200, so there's more for a pure sprinter to run outdoors than indoors."

The outdoor season is coming, and Callahan, who has lettered there for two years, will try to improve his personal best times of 10.7 seconds in the 100 and 21.7 in the 200, while taking part in the 400, 800 and 1,600 relays.

The track seasons are warm-ups to Callahan's sport of choice, football, where his numbers are even gaudier.

Last fall, Callahan set four Anne Arundel County records, running for 200 or more yards in a game six times, including two games in which he ran for 341 yards. In two varsity seasons, Callahan already has piled up 3,200 yards and a whopping 53 touchdowns.

His exploits have drawn notice from a few Division I-A schools, such as Maryland, Marshall, Connecticut, Syracuse, Kent State and Navy. Towson and Delaware from I-AA have sent out feelers, too.

It's pretty likely that with his 5-foot-7, 148-pound size, Callahan will have to do double duty in college, playing football and running track. His former Old Mill teammate, Kevin Barnes, sat out last fall's football season for future eligibility at Maryland, and Liimatta said the Terps' track coach is encouraging Barnes, who did the high jump and long jump in high school to join the team.

"It's kind of that same tradeoff," said Liimatta. "Florida State and Miami, they require all of their wide receivers and runners to do track, too. The track coaches are more likely to give scholarships to a distance event or a field event kid, because the other kids are going to come in on a football scholarship, anyway. There's more money out there for football."

Liimatta thinks Callahan could make track work at the Division I level.

"It's just a question of whether he wants to try to do that balance," said Liimatta. "Speed-wise, he definitely has the talent, and he could do it. And if it doesn't work out with his size in football, if he doesn't get to go where he wants to go there, then he could pursue the track option."

Callahan, who has played football since he was 10, appears to have made up his mind.

"If it came down to it, and I couldn't play football, and there was a track scholarship offered, I'd take it," said Callahan. "But I want to play football, and everything will work out. I hope I'll have the choice."

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