Track champions Darwin Cook and Sandy Chapman were archrivals throughout high school. Now, a year after they graduated--Cook from H.D. Woodson and Chapman from Spingarn--they are teammates on the U.S. track team.
The two schools have repeatedly competed for the Interhigh championship in recent years, with Woodson winning eight of the last 10. Cook was a high school All-American sprinter in 1980 and 1981. Chapman ran the third best time in the 800 meters for high school athletes, 1:48.9, in 1981--his senior year.
The two District youths were among 36 athletes chosen for the national team at the recent USA Track and Field championships in Knoxville, Tenn. Cook finished sixth in the meet's 100-meter event, and Chapman placed sixth in the 800 meters.
The top two finishers in each event automatically were selected for the national team, but Cook was chosen for the 400-meter relay team and Chapman for the 800-meter after the athletes who finished ahead of them chose not to run.
"The day I returned from the national meet, I was sitting at home, looking forward to relaxing at home this summer. Then I got a call saying I made the team," Cook said in a telephone interview from Indianapolis, where the team competed July 3 against a Soviet Union team.
At the meet, he ran on the 400-meter relay team that set an American record and beat the Soviets. Cook also ran on the winning 400-meter relay team at a June meet in Durham, N.C., where the U.S. team defeated West German and African teams. Last weekend, Cook ran on the 400-meter relay team that beat the East Germans at Karl-Marx-Stadt, East Germany.
Cook's track career had a minor setback in high school. He strained a right quadricep muscle running a 6.23 in the 60-yard dash at the Naval Academy Invitational in January 1981. His leg was slow to heal, causing him an inconsistent outdoor season.
Cook, who ran 9.4 in the 100-yard dash and 21.6 in the 200 meters as a high school junior, holds the national record for the high school 70-yard dash as a result of his 6.8 time at the D.C. Armory in December 1980.
He is now at the University of Southern California on an athletic scholarship. He made All-American there after finishing fifth in the NCAA 100-meter dash in early June. He said he chose USC "because it infatuated me. They've had so many good sprinters."
"At first I missed home, my family and my girlfriend, but I've learned to deal with being on my own so far from home," he said.
Cook's former high school coach, Stan Mullens, is not surprised by Cook's success. "From day one I thought Darwin could be a national-caliber athlete," he said. "He has great fluid motion. He has a good combination of natural talent and a mild-mannered temperament. . . . I wouldn't be surprised to see him in the 1984 Olympics."
For Cook's mother, Marselene, an elementary school teacher, her son's academic record makes her prouder. "He brought home two As, a B and a C," she said.
Chapman also had golden moments in high school. He won Interhigh Championships in cross-country in 1978 and 1979 and in the 800 meters outdoors in 1979 and 1980. As a sophomore in 1979, he ran a 1:51.0 800 meters outdoors in a relay.
Hubert Gates, Chapman's coach at Spingarn, said: "Sandy had learned to accept and challenge pain and then beat pain. We used to have a saying: 'The race doesn't start until you're tired.' He's been able to conquer mind over matter. I've never coached anyone like him before."
Chapman said ever since he ran a 1:48.9 at a University of Maryland meet, "My dream was to make the national team."
"After I ran the 1:51, people were wondering when I was going to break loose," Chapman said in an interview from West Covina, Calif. He is a sophomore at nearby Mt. San Antonio Junior College. "I never thought I could run 1:48. Everything fell into place at that Maryland meet. Then I just wanted to make the national team. I kept plugging and trying harder."
But Chapman's dream to compete with the national team will have to wait. He was scheduled to run the 800 against the Soviet Union July 3 and East Germany last weekend, but he was scratched from both meets after contracting infectious hepatitis. Chapman and some teammates at Mt. San Antonio became ill a couple of weeks ago after eating at a restaurant in Sacramento where they were participating in the California Junior College Championships.
Chapman is used to setbacks: He was disqualified to run for Spingarn in his senior year because, at 19, he was over the age maximum. He ran the 1:48 as a member of Club Northeast where he was coached by Charles Torpey, an assistant track coach at Maryland. "Sandy is a very tolerant athlete, he's willing to sacrifice alot," Torpey said. "I see him progressing to be the top half-miler in the country."
He was offered scholarships by several major college track powers, including Maryland and Villanova, but was not accepted because of his high school academic record. Chapman, who said he "misses home a lot," went to Mt. San Antonio "to see another part of the country," he said.
At Mt. San Antonio, Chapman ignored knee problems that cost him three months of training. He won the 800- and 1500-meter at the California Junior College Championships in May. Earlier that month he qualified for the national meet after running the 800 in 1:47.86 at the Mt. Sac Relays at his school, finishing sixth against top international competition.