Sprinter finds success in a flash

In his first year of participating in track, sophomore Justin Murdock of Glen Burnie has wasted little time in establishing himself as one of the best runners in the state.

April 12, 2006|By LUKE BROADWATER | LUKE BROADWATER,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Glen Burnie sprinter Justin Murdock would like to watch himself run. But every time his mother, Vernell Shaheed, tries, she can't seem to catch Murdock on videotape.

"I really try to videotape his races, but I get too excited and I start jumping up and down," Shaheed said. "I just can't do it. [The footage] is just all over the place."

Shaheed isn't the only one who has had trouble catching up with Murdock. The state's best sprinters have encountered a similar problem.

In his first season in track and field this winter, Murdock, a sophomore, shocked the area running community by winning county, regional and state championships in the 55-meter dash.

"I didn't expect that," Glen Burnie track coach Aaron Walker said. "I knew he was fast and that if he came out for track he could go places. But I didn't know he could get that far, that quick. I didn't assume that he would show up and be a state champion. I couldn't be happier for him."

Murdock, who also plays football, could not participate in either sport as a freshman because he was academically ineligible. But his coaches in both sports assisted him in improving his grades so that he could participate in athletics as a sophomore.

"My coaches helped me. They got me on track and they got me to go to tutoring," Murdock said. "That was the main reason I got my grades up."

With his grades improved, Murdock tied an Anne Arundel County record this winter with a time of 6.2 seconds in the 55 meters at the county championships. He notched times of 6.76 and 6.47 to win Class 4A-3A regional and state crowns.

Now, Murdock is focused on taking home the state championship in the 100 meters in the outdoor track season this spring.

"Outdoor is more competition and the 100 is a test of true speed," Murdock said. "The 55 is short and some people can't accelerate in that amount of space. I'm going to try to prove myself in that race, too."

Running comes naturally to Murdock, who was always the fastest kid in every sport he played, his mother said. "The first time I saw him play football, he was like - Bam! - running by the other kids," she said.

Said Murdock: "I think it's natural ability. I've always been the fastest person in elementary school, middle school, and high school."

Still, Murdock acknowledges he knew little about track when he went out for the team this winter.

"My first start I used to stand up and run," he said. "I had to get used to the blocks. I've still got a long way to go."

His coach agreed.

"When he first came out for the team, he didn't even know how to start," Walker said. "The great thing about Justin is that he's still learning. If I'm the coach of a college team, I would want someone with the talent he has. He's never done any of this before."

Walker has been integral to Murdock's success, the first-year sprinter said.

"My coach, he makes me work just as hard as everybody," Murdock said. "He built up my acceleration in drills. He gave me extra time to work on my starts. That was the main reason I won the state championship, because I got my starts faster."

With Murdock's immediate success in the sport, he has become a strong practice partner for the team's other sprinters.

"We try to beat him, but he's too fast," said sprinter Andre Pitts, a junior. "He's quick, he's powerful and he's hard to beat. If he plans on trying to beat you, he's going to do it. He always wants to be in the front. When we're practicing, he usually goes fast and tells us we've got to increase our speed."

Said senior sprinter Korey Nicholson: "He's always had speed; he was born with speed. I always knew Justin was fast. That's why we work out together, to make me fast like him. We're always right beside each other, pushing each other to go faster."

Murdock's success on the track also has earned him acclaim at Glen Burnie and increased the school's attention to the sport.

"Our track team got more fans. Before nobody really paid attention to it," Murdock said. "When I won the states, the principal put it out on the marquee in front of school. I was shocked when I saw that."

So was Murdock's mother.

"When I was driving to the school, I saw it," she said of the marquee bearing Murdock's name and state title. "I thought, `Oh my God,' and I started to cry. Then I took out my camera phone and took a picture of it."

This time, she got the shot.

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