Lansdowne's Yelnats Calvin won the 500 meters, finished… (Karl Merton Ferron / Baltimore…)
Lansdowne High School, according to indoor track coach Charles Pridee, had not scored a point in the Baltimore County indoor meet in more than a decade entering this season. But last weekend, the Vikings scored 32 points and finished fifth out of more than 20 teams.
Leading the Vikes was junior Yelnats Calvin, who joined the team as a sophomore and who has become its leader. He won the 500 meters (1 minute, 11.10 seconds), finished second in the 300 and helped the 800-meter relay team to second place and the 1,600-meter relay team to third place. Calvin has a 4.0 GPA while attending Lansdowne for its engineering and information technology academies.
A member of the National Honor Society, he is looking at Ivy League schools, particularly Columbia and Pennsylvania, and is interested in studying civil engineering.
But one of the most unusual things about him is his name, which is a play on his father's.
"If you spell Yelnats backward, it is Stanley," said Stanley Calvin, who moved with his family to the United States in the late 1970s from Jamaica. "One day, maybe he'll turn it around."
Question: Did you know when you joined the indoor track team that it hadn't been very good for a long while?
Answer: What the team had done in the past didn't enter into it. I didn't know it had had a kind of drought. I was on the outdoor track team in the spring, and I'd played basketball in ninth grade but decided to try indoor track because I was told I'd have more success with indoor track than basketball, and it was true.
Q: Is it running that you like?
A: I wouldn't say that. There is something different about track. It's athletic, and I'm an athlete. There is a lot of work to do to be good at it, but you can see rewards more apparently and more quickly. It also helps when you know what you can do. I know I am fast and have stamina, but, at the same time, I don't like running long, long distances. That's why I picked the sprints.
Q: You're team did so well this season. What was the one thing that made a difference?
A: In practice our new coach [Pridee] really pushed us a lot, a lot. And he has a reason for each workout each day. I like working hard, and I think if you keep working hard you'll see the rewards, especially in track.
Q: How much time do you put into track practice?
A: I spend five or six days a week at practice, which is about an hour and a half, and then before I go to bed at night I do 50 push-ups, 50 pull-ups and 50 sit-ups. It takes me about a half-hour.
Q: Besides track, do you have other interests?
A: I'm in the National Honor Society, and I'm in the school jazz band. I play alto sax. I've been playing it for six years.
Q: Six years, I'm guessing you're pretty good at it? Who is your favorite artist?
A: Yeah, I am good. I'll probably play it in college with a college jazz band or group. I like jazz and hip-hop and reggae, and my favorite is Bob Marley.
Q: Do you practice the sax every night, too?
A: No — on weekends. When I get home from school, most days it's around 5 p.m. and I have homework. I spend two hours or more a night on that. I don't mind. I like it and I like watching the news, CNN. I've been watching the protests in Egypt. I think it's fine and good as long as it's not a violent revolution.
Q: Do you watch the news just because you like it or is it because you use things you learn from it in your classes?
A: I just like watching it. But it helps with English and history classes too. A lot of the AP English classes are history-oriented. It's good to connect history with current events, and we do write a lot. I guess I use it as an indirect application.
Q: You go to Lansdowne because of the engineering academy. When did you know you had an interest in engineering? How did you know?
A: I've always wanted to do something engineering-oriented since third grade. I played with Legos a lot. It was a clue. I used to want to be an architect, then a chemical engineer and now a civil engineer. A civil engineer can be in any part of the picture — designing, building. It combines logic and creativity. I like that.
Q: Your coach said you scored 2100 on the SAT. Is that true?
A: I scored 219 on the PSATs. They say you can add a zero onto that and have a pretty good idea about your SATs. But I took the SATs Jan. 22, and I should be getting the results soon. I don't know what my score will be, but I was happy with the test. I was comfortable with it. I don't like studying for tests. If you make all the connections along the way, you shouldn't have to think too hard. I see other people stressing over tests and exams. I don't. But I have my own worries. I get the jitters before a track event. That's where I get mine.
Q: I don't know if at age 16 you need the opportunity for a do-over, but if you had the chance, is there anything you'd like to take back and do again?