Tomi Rucker, 18, of Coolidge and Renee Gordon, 18, of McKinley could focus national attention on the District this spring as the outdoor high school track season gets under way. Adrian Dixon's Coolidge team is expected to dominate the girls Interhigh track scene, as usual, while H. D. Woodson, a perennial power among the boys teams, should also continue to be in the lead.
Rucker has dominated the Washington metropolitan area in her specialty, the long jump, since her eighth-grade season. Already holder of the nation's ninth-best long jump ever for a high school girl, she ran cross-country in the fall and went easy this winter to build for what could be her finest outdoor season.
Rucker and Central High's Karen Woods rewrote the area's record books with their performances in the intermediate hurdles last season, and both are back again, threatening to break the high school girls national record of 41.91 for the 300-meter hurdles. Rucker can also run a strong quarter-mile, where she will battle for dominance with Woods, Gordon and Blair High sprinter Michelle Collins.
McKinley's Gordon, a middle-distance runner, broke 2:14 in the half-mile last year and that appears to have been just the beginning. She always has been consistent as a member of McKinley's 1,600-meter relay squad, but no team is expected to be able to keep up with Central's national indoor record-setting mile-relay foursome this spring.
Gordon's McKinley teammate, Wanda Eades, a junior, will be worth watching in the sprints, where she could face her toughest Interhigh competition from Rucker and Coolidge's Kelly Jackson.
This year, among the boys teams, Woodson should continue to dominate, but not with the depth it had in 1981. For the last six years, the Warriors have been almost untouchable in the Interhigh. Every year, there has been a superstar to lead the Woodson crew. Last year, Woodson had two. Senior Dwayne Pugh, the Washington area's top long jumper (24-8 1/4), also can high jump (6-7), and sprint (21.3-200 meters). Because of Woodson's depth, Pugh's toughest Interhigh competition last year came from his teammates, senior Darwin Cook, the national leader in the indoor 60-yard dash (6.23--a Washington-area record) and sophomore Tommy Woodruff.
This year, Mullins has a handful of budding stars. Last year when Pugh wasn't competing in the long jump, sophomore John O'Brien usually won the event. He was relatively consistent at the 23-foot mark and at one meet fouled on a jump well over 24 feet. Woodruff patiently waited in the wings last year as Cook and Pugh dominated the sprints but this season he should be the District's top sprinter.
At the Naval Academy indoor meet, Woodruff ran 6.43 in the 60, losing only to Oxon Hill senior Luis Morales, who had the nation's fastest indoor clocking this winter of 6.31 to win the Eastern States Championships the first week in March at Princeton University. Blair's Norman Edwards also should be a factor in the race for the best Washington-area sprinter.
O'Brien will have to battle with southern Maryland standout John Parker of Calvert and Fairfax, Va., junior Roger Bennett for the long-jump and triple-jump titles. Woodson also should have the top half-miler/miler in junior Eugene Singletary, who ran a 1:56.0 half mile last year.
Among the sleepers to watch this spring will be Woodson's Lisa Fenell, who could challenge Gordon and Rucker in the girls' 400- and 800-meter events. Coolidge junior Jeryl Fitch and teammate Christine Harrison should be with the leaders at 800 and 400 meters, respectively. Among the boys, Matthew Weeks and Terry Moore of Woodson and Ballou High teammates Vincent Phillips and Laton Palmer are top prospects in the 400 and 800. In the sprints Woodson also has football standout Andre Turner, while Ballou has Curtis Hardy, returning after convalescing with a collapsed lung.
Coolidge also has junior Michael Howell, the reigning Interhigh high-jump champion, and versatile Jon Nicolaisen in the hurdles and the long and triple jumps. Anacostia's Morris Moore will be his strongest challenger. Rucker could be challenged in the long jump by Melanie Robinson of Ballou.