Early season performances are usually a fairly accurate indicator of things to come in high school indoor track and field.
Most distance runners have been competing through the cross country season and have established a pecking order. And by the first meet, although most sprinters are not in championship shape, they are fit enough to offer a good indication of how well they'll fare at the end of the season.
with that in mind, Central's boys might not dominate as easily as they did last season. A year ago, the Falcons opened the indoor season winning five races at the towson Relays (not a team-scored meet) and went on to score a 62-point decision over the rest of Class A for the team's first state indoor title.
At Towson earlier this month, Central was not nearly so impressive. Cliff Massey, John Robertson, and Dulaney Richardson were each members of two victorious relays. They won the descendo (four laps, three laps, two laps, one lap) with Kevin Hall and the mile relay with Doug Lowe as the fourth member.
Walter Johnson's senior-dominated boys team had only one less first place and a surprising number of seconds. Senior Dave Huffman, the Spartans' only returning state champion, cleared 6 feet 8 inches in the high jump relay. The Class A indoor record stands at 7-0, set four years ago by Central's Scott Dunham, and Hoffman's leap is the highest anyone can remember this early in the season. Huffman's best last year was 6-4.
At Towson, Huffman also demonstrated the versatility that propelled him last year to score (among the top six finalists) in three state events, pole vaulting with Dietrich Nebert and Henry Poirier to second place and first among Class A teams.
Walter Johnson squads also finished second in the distance medley, the sprint relay and shot put relay. All were Class A bests.
Last year, the Central and Crossland girls shared the spotlight at Towson. This season, Crossland wasn't in the picture, but Suitland definitely was.
The Rams, who stormed the 1983 AA state meet, captured four events at Towson and defeated second-place Oxon Hill by 36 points.
Last year, after taking three races at Towson Central's girls went on to score their third indoor title in three years, winning Class A by 44 points. Once again the Falcons have started the season with a three-event run at Towson.
Central Coach Ed Bowie and Suitland Coach Fletcher James are known for cultivating talent, and this year is no different.
In the Towson meet, Central won the spring and mile relays led by Nicky Young, its only returning state champion. As a freshman, she captured the indoor 55 meter title last year. At Towson, she teamed with Sharon Spriggs, Krystal Scofield and Kelly Roberts to win the sprint and mile relays. Jeanette Johnson was the fourth member instead of Young on the victorius descendo relay.
Senior Alicia Jackson, coming off the finest cross country season of her high school career, set the pace for the rams, winning the two-mile relay with Farris Gilliam, Sherrill Carter and Latonia Hall. Carter joined Tracy Mines, June Frontuto and Alicia Bynum for the shuttle hurdles victory. Mines and Gilliam teamed up for the high jump title and Mines returned again with Julie Lanbert and Veronica Womack for the shot put title.
"It's not going to be easy this year; it wasn't easy last year," James said. "I have so much respect for the other Prince George's County schools. We'll just have to do a lot of things right, like stay (academically) eligible. We have the 2.0 point rule (a C average). We will also have to work hard because PG teams are usually the tougher competition in the county and state."
Posing as one of Suitland's stiffest rivals in AA will be Bowie, which scored victories in the Towson district medley and two-mile run (freshman Robin Quinlan). Prowess in the distance events, led by senior cross country all-Met Natalee Kavetski, is Bowie's strong point.
Several of this year's competitors earned all-America honorable mention last year.
Gaithersburg senior Charles Gassaway, state champion outdoors in the horizontal jumping events, is competing indoors for the first time. He'll be trying the hurdles and sprints, said Coach Fran Perry.
Three speedsters from Friendly made the all-Americalist and are returning. Rod Scott and Erwin Matthews finished first and third in the state 55-meter race last year. Along with fellow all-America honorable mention Doug Daniels, the threesome added Ed Walden for an uncatchable spring relay at Towson earlier this month.
Senior Neal Anderson is the only returning member of Bladensburg's sprint team that carried the Mustangs to a indoor state championship.
Sherwood senior Ginny Hanlon, defending indoor and outdoor state champion as well as record holder, was the only girl to make the list. She returns this year strengthened after running cross country.
Her sister Beth won the Class A mile as a freshman last year and returns ahead of last year's pace. She is as yet unbeaten in early season competition.
One of the few returning state champions is senior Steve Styles of Forrestville (Class B 55-meter hurdles).
The fact that neither of Class A's top distance runners won a state title indoors last year makes for exciting competition this year.
Central's Kirk Young and Walter Johnson's Peter Scherr are seniors and should do well. Scherr didn't run the mile last year. He and Young finished third and fourth in the two-mile. Thus far this year, Scherr has dropped down to the 1,000-meter and demonstrated a blossoming talent in the event, while Young is still on course from his state champion cross country race.
Whitman's Eric Meleney has apparently no one in his way for a state championship in either the mile or two-mile. He was missed last year's indoor season with an injury, but won the state cross country championship indicating he is ready to run indoors this year.