Roger Bennett has been waiting for the outdoor track season. The lanky Fairfax High School junior leaped 48 feet 7 1/2 inches in his specialty, the triple jump, last season, but had to settle for runner-up in the Washington metropolitan area and runner-up in the Virginia state outdoor championships.
Since then, Bennett has let it be known that he does not plan to stay second best. At the Naval Academy Invitational this winter, Bennett lost on the final jump of the competition to state champion Nick Dillard, of Albermarle, who jumped a then-nation leading performance of 49 feet 3 inches. But at the Virginia state meet in February, Bennett beat Dillard, jumping 50 feet 4 inches and setting a Washington-area indoor record and registering the sixth best performance ever indoors by a high school student.
Bennett, however, should not be the only Northern Virginia athlete to crack the national ranking lists this spring.
Lake Braddock's Andrea Volpe ran a sizzling 2:34.83 for 1,000 yards at the Eastern States Indoor meet last month in Massachusetts and should be the top girl's distance runner in the metropolitan area. Her strongest competition will come mostly from other Northern Virginians.
The only event Volpe should have trouble with is the half-mile. It will take a small miracle for someone to break the 8-year-old record of 2:02.5 set in 1974 by former Eastern High runner Robin Campbell of the District.
Nevertheless, there should be several Northern Virginia runners nationally ranked at the half-mile by the end of the season. Contenders include District public schools champion Renee Gordon of McKinley, who led the area last season with her 2:13 performance; Coolidge junior Jeryl Fitch, of the District, who was under 2:16 outdoors last year; Maryland runners Donna Neale of Oakland Mills and Karen Woods of Central, who both ran under 2:20 indoors and are much stronger physically than last season; and Bowie's Kris Kavetski.
But other than those five, distance running should be a strictly Virginia affair. Tracey Johnston of Edison, Julia Reddick of Fort Hunt and Alisha Harvey of Jefferson have all run under 2:20 for 800 meters. Julie Leonard of Madison also is a distance threat. Margaret Harned, a senior at Fort Hunt, did not compete most of last year because of a series of injuries, but if she stays healthy this season she could muster a strong challenge for top distance honors.
At the longer distances, Yorktown's Charlene Burstrom, who was the area's outstanding freshman last year but missed most of the indoor season with injuries, proved that she's now healthy and ready to go with her 11:10, 3,200-meter win at the Virginia state meet.
Angie Jones of Groveton is a standout in three events: high jump, long jump and hurdles. And since her three specialties are all heptathlon events, a multievent competition for girls similar to the boys' decathlon, she has college coaches waiting in the wings.
Multitalented Robert Muzzio, a senior at Robinson, says he's going to learn to pole vault this spring; if he succeeds, he undoubtedly will be the finest decathlete ever from this area. Pole vaulting has been the only decathlon event in which Muzzio has not competed.
Already, Muzzio's versatility should allow him to score in as many as five events in the outdoor state championships, with shot put and discus his specialties. He won the Northern Region in the shot put and the high hurdles and finished second in the shot put in the state meet.