Brothers Robert and Ronald Brown say they have a "very close" relationship. But Bishop McNamara High School track coach Frank Gulino still wishes his two star hurdles might rub off a bit more on each other.
"Ronnie has classic form. Robbo (as Robert is called by his friends) has power and determination; he charges forward," Gulino said of the brothers who live at 1708 40th St. in Southeast Washington. "Ronald runs like a gazell. If he had that fierceness, that aggressiveness of Robbo, there wouldn't be any question in my mind that he would be a supreme hurdler."
For now, Ronald, a 16-year-old junior, must be content to watch his older brother beat him across the finish line in most races. Robert, 17, a senior at the private high school located in Forestville, Md., has begun what he hopes will be an assault on the area record books despite only 15 months of track experience.
Robert has set his sights on breaking the Washington metropolitan marks for the 60-yard high hurdles indoors and the 120-yard high and 330-yard intermediate hurdles outdoors. Having clocked 7.3 seconds (a school record) for 60 yards earlier this season, he is already only a shade off the 7-year-old 60-yard mark of 7.0 seconds set by Larry Shipp of St. Albans School of Northwest Washington. With best times of 14.7 and 40.2 (another McNamara mark) for 120 and 330 yards, respectively, Robert still has a way to go to surpass the standing area standards of 13.5 for the 120, set by Shipp in 1972, and 37.0 for the 330, established two years ago by James Little of Gar-Field High School of Woodbridge, Va.
"I'm going to get them (the records). I know I'm going to get them," Robert predicted for the outdoor season which starts shortly. "My goal is to run 14 (seconds in the 120) every meet. In the 330s, I'd like to get down to 37 or 38.
Robert did set a record this month against a strong field in the hurdles with an 8.5 clocking for the unusual distance of 70 yards at the D.C. Invitational Track Championships at the D.C. Armory.
Having the two talented brothers on his team makes coaching both easier and harder for Gulino, 58, a retired government accountant who coaches at McNamara in the afternoons. Robert competes in seven events (when allowed by meet regulations) for the Mustangs, anchoring the 440-yard, 880-yard and mile relay, as well as long and triple jumping. Ronald is entered in six of those events, passing up the long jump.
Robert singly scored more than half of the Mustangs' dual meet points during last year's 4-1 outdoor dual meet season and the brothers were responsible for McNamara's strong third place finish in last year's Maryland private school championships.
The dedication of the pair, particularly Robert, has forced Gulino to put in extra hours on the job. "If he (Robert) says he wants to run under 14 (in the high hurdles), I'm going to have to go to work," Gulino said. "They'll keep me to 6:30, a quarter of seven sometimes. Sometimes I'll want to go home and eat or something. But I promised these boys that as long as they want to work, I'll stay."
Ronald, who after having some success against his brother last season, has not beaten Robert yet this year, often placing second or third to him in the hurdles. Ronald does not get much solace because it's his brother that he's finishing behind.
"I don't really feel different losing to him than anybody else," Ronald said. "Just the next time, I'll try to beat him. I know I can do better than I'm doing now."
If things go as planned, after Robert has gone off to college on a track scholarship, "Ronnie could surpass all his times," Gulino said.
Robert said he would like to be judged for his feats alone. "I would rather be known just for what I did," he said. "But if Ronnie did good, I wouldn't want him to be left out. If they remember me, I'm sure they'll remember my brother, too. But if he does what he's supposed to, they'll just remember him. My name won't be in the record books, his will. Next year, they'll just be talking about him."