Rauser cleans up his act, quickly

Track and field: Old Mill senior Kyle Rauser has gone from playful freshman to state champion and leader.

Sports Beat

Anne Arundel County schools

April 20, 2005|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

After the "Jordan Rules," there were the "Kyle Rules."

Early during his track and field career at Old Mill, Kyle Rauser was the typical freshman: playful and mischievous. Sometimes he became so rowdy that the Patriots' coaching staff invoked the "Kyle Rules," which usually meant Rauser wasn't allowed to talk until practice had ended.

"I was so childish back then," Rauser said with a grin.

Those days are long gone. A senior, Rauser has established himself as the leader of Old Mill's track and field program, which is ranked No. 1 in the metropolitan area and enters this spring as the reigning Class 4A state champion.

Winning state titles in the 800 meters last spring and this past winter naturally had something to do with Rauser's progression, but Patriots coach Janet Liimatta said she has witnessed an evolution in this past winter's Anne Arundel County Performer of the Year in indoor track.

"I think he's grown," she said. "He realizes that this is his team, and he's channeled that into, `In order for my team to be successful, I personally need to carry the team.' ... He always brings up the tradition of the school and the longstanding track tradition and wants to make sure that he does it justice."

Many tutors have helped Rauser blossom into a co-captain (senior Ethan Burney is the other). During his freshman year, Doug Spatafore counseled Rauser. And for the past two seasons, the foursome of Kevin Barnes, Larry Contrella, Darnell Dixon and Anthony Littlejohn helped shape Rauser's perspective.

But Rauser isn't the type of leader who speaks just to hear his own voice.

"I try not to boss people around," he said. "People will ask me questions, and I'll work with them on the [starting] blocks or on handoffs. I like that leadership role where I know how to help people."

Track wasn't originally a part of Rauser's athletic plans. A versatile athlete in basketball, football and baseball (as a 12-year-old, he was a member of the Maryland Orioles Little League team that won the Dizzy Dean World Series), Rauser picked up indoor track during the winter of his freshman year when he was the last applicant cut from the junior varsity basketball team.

After whittling nearly 10 seconds off his time in the 800 and slipping under 60 seconds in the 400, Rauser was encouraged by Liimatta and Spatafore to stick with track for the spring. Rauser's decision didn't exactly excite his father, Mark.

"My dad wasn't real happy about me not playing baseball because that was my whole life," Kyle Rauser said. "But he knows that I love [track] and that I love to come out here and practice and that I love all the guys out here."

Said Mark Rauser: "My reaction was I always liked him as a baseball player. But I knew that he's always been fast."

So Kyle gave up his baseball glove for running shoes. As it turned out, Rauser's best event - the 800 - was also a preferred choice for Littlejohn.

Even though Littlejohn generally beat Rauser in the 800, the two worked side by side during practice and would even lift weights after practice together.

"He would push me so hard that I couldn't even walk after practice," Rauser recalled. "He was my inspiration."

Rauser's watershed moment took place in the 800 at the Class 4A state meet last May. Seeded behind Littlejohn in the event, Rauser grabbed the lead late in the race and held on for his first individual state crown in 1 minute, 56.22 seconds.

"I always knew I was capable of doing it," he said. "But I was waiting for Anthony to come down because every race, Anthony would always hawk me down."

Even by his own admission, Rauser defies the image of a middle-distance sprinter. He's tall and skinny, and his quads wouldn't scare anyone. When he runs, he runs on the heels of his feet and leans slightly backward.

Despite adding a Class 4A-3A state title in the 800 and finishing second in the 500 at the county and Central Region championships this past winter, Rauser has received little attention from colleges. Rauser said he had to call Maryland to find out if the school received his application and then learned that someone there misplaced his application essay.

UMBC has expressed interest but wants to convert Rauser into a distance runner. James Madison is the newest interested party but may not be able to help Rauser with tuition until his sophomore year.

"I realize that Maryland isn't known for track and field, but I don't know what else he could've done," Liimatta said, noting that Rauser will be competing in the 800 and the 400 and running a leg of the 3,200-relay team. "I try to keep stressing to the [college] coaches that we don't just put him out there in one event and let him get a [personal record] and try to blow the competition away. We're trying to win as a team, so we have to use him in multiple events."

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