Locals can't keep the pace

Few Maryland runners medal in Junior Olympic championships

Track and Field


Former Park School sprinter Elan Hilaire took a quick glance at the Hughes Stadium scoreboard shortly after crossing the finish line in yesterday's intermediate girls 400-meter race, but it only confirmed what she already feared.

Hilaire, a 16-year old who transferred to Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt this spring, ran a personal-best 53.98 seconds but finished third behind runners from powerful track clubs in Texas and California.

That was the trend for much of this week's USATF National Junior Olympic Track and Field Championships, which concluded yesterday at Morgan State. Local athletes ranging from ages 8 to 18 competed for national titles in several events, but ultimately fell short to opponents from states with more renowned track programs.

"I don't think we have as much support as teams in California and Texas do in this sport. I think if we had more support for track and field that we'd have better results," Hilaire said.

Perhaps her assessment was a little harsh, considering representatives from clubs in the Potomac Valley Association medaled in several events this week, but the top spots on the podium were typically reserved for athletes from Texas, California, Arizona and Florida.

The Woodlawn Track Pack's Kristen Brown (14.57 seconds) had the best finish for a local athlete yesterday, taking second place in the youth girls 100 hurdles behind Southern California Cheetahs runner Kori Carter (14.50).

Brown's teammate Theresa Lewis - who was the city's top hurdler at Western this year - finished fifth in the young women's 100 hurdles (13.87), as three of her opponents broke a national record of 13.39 that had been in place since 2001. April Williams of Dallas claimed the championship with a 13.07 on what was a fast track all week.

But the challenge of facing opponents who are able to train outdoors all year isn't always a bad thing for the state athletes. The Glenarden Track Club's Krystin Lawson finished third in the intermediate girls 100 and credits her personal best time of 11.70 to the level of competition.

"It's challenging," said Lawson, a 16-year-old who will run at the new Henry A. Wise High School in Upper Marlboro this year. "I think, if anything, these girls help push me to get a faster time."

Top finishers from this week will be in the selection pool for next summer's World Junior Championships, where this state likely won't be well represented on the national roster.

Hilaire is the only athlete from Maryland on this year's United States junior team, which will travel to Beijing in two weeks for the world championships. And knowing that helped the rising junior shake off her third-place finish in the 400 pretty quickly.

"I know I have to represent an entire state," Hilaire said, "And I really take pride in that."


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