Vincent Mercer Jr., Cardinal Gibbons, track

Q&A --


Last Wednesday, on the first day of the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association track championships, Vincent Mercer Jr. anchored Cardinal Gibbons' gold-medal-winning 800-meter relay team to a come-from-behind victory in 1 minute, 31 seconds. On Saturday, Mercer earned two more gold medals in come-from-behind fashion. First, Mercer won the 100-meter dash in 11.22 seconds; then he anchored the Crusaders' 400-meter relay team to a victory in 44.78.

The 5-foot-8, 160-pound senior's versatility extends beyond the track. A member of Cardinal Gibbons' student council, as well as the National Honor Society, Mercer carries a 3.5 grade point average. A singer with a tenor voice, he traveled with the Maryland State Boychoir to Maine last summer. In March, Mercer played the role of Kenickie, the second male lead in the musical Grease. Mercer is also a black belt in the martial art, Katshodo, which he has practiced since he was 5.

Mercer plans to run track at Charleston Southern, where he will major in psychology. "I think one of the most painful things for me is to see a child suffering," said Mercer, 17, who lives in Baltimore near Walbrook High. "Eventually, I want to become a child psychologist."

What is your pre-race ritual?

I always pray and sing before I run. The song is one from church called, "Guide My Feet." It goes, "Guide my feet, Lord, while I run this race, because I don't want to run this race alone." Then I pray. The most significant part of the prayer goes, "Dear Lord, please help me to fly."

Did winning last Wednesday's 800 relay prepare you for Saturday?

Yes. Going into the 100, the first race on Saturday, I had more confidence and determination than I've ever had. My teammate, Terrence Major, had beaten me already this season. I was in Lane 4, Terrence was in 3, and a kid from Curley was in 2. We all crossed the line together. But when they announced the winners in the order of 4, 3 and 2, I knew I had won on the lean.

Were you as confident in 400?

I was definitely going for the trifecta. But a couple of weeks into the season, I had pulled a groin muscle that affected my right leg. Usually, I could only handle one full-out race a day before I started to have trouble. But I prayed for the leg to hold up for the very last race of my high school career, and, thankfully, it did. I wound up coming from behind to catch the kid from Loyola and to beat him by more than a lean this time - but not much more.


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