After a limited number of meets, area indoor track teams are preparing for regional competition.
Maryland's 16 potential regional meets (classes AA, A, B, C are each divided into four regions) have been consolidated into seven contests from today to Feb. 8, all to be held at Baltimore's National Guard Fifth Regiment Armory.
Class B/C Region III teams open the regional competition. Washington-area teams in that region include Class B Atholton, Centennial, Forestville, Glenelg, Hammond, Howard, Leonardtown and Oakland Mills along with Poolesville and Wilde Lake.
The area's Class B Region IIteams -- Damascus, Einstein, Magruder and Woodward -- compete along with the C-I teams at the Armory Feb. 4. Sophomore hurdler LaDonna Gooden of Einstein, who finished third in the 55-meter hurdles and fifth in the dash in last year's Class B state competition, returns, along with teammate Tracy Lake, who took second in the state shot put competition. Magruder's sprinters and Woodward's middle-distance runners are expected to qualify for state berths.
Broadneck's boys, the defending Class A cross country champion, are expected to qualify at least three competitors in each of the 1,600-, the 3,200- and the 800-meter runs out of the Class A Region III. The 3,200-relay will have the toughest of the three Tuesday against Douglass, Gwynn Park, Surrattsville, McDonough, Andover and South River.
Andover's Nancy Murray finished second in the National Guard shot put and has thrown more than 35 feet, making her virtually uncatchable in that region.
One of the most hotly contested regions should be the AA-II meet, which runs Wednesday with the Class A Region I teams at the Armory. AA-II is populated by the state's traditional indoor track powers, Prince George's AA teams. Last year, Bladensburg won the boys AA state meet, leading five other teams from its region in the top 10 state places; and Suitland won the girls, sparking a AA-II sweep of the top three team slots.
Bladensburg won't be returning in the boys, but in its place, Friendly, Eleanor Roosevelt and Bowie will be vying for the top berth.
Friendly's strength lies in its all-America-caliber sprinters Rod Scott and Erwin Matthews, while distance points come from Mike McCusker. But Bowie sprinter Phil Brooks, second to Scott in last year's state, demonstrated he's out to even the score as he beat both Friendly sprinters at the National Guard meet.
Bowie, which won the AA cross country title this fall, won the 1,600-meter relay at Baltimore. Shot putter Tom Mattras has yet to be lose to a public school thrower in Maryland.
Roosevelt has a strong one-two punch in the distance events with Jeff Merkowitz and David Ward. They are helped by teammate Terrance Shephard, who finished among the top three in both the 300 and 500 at George Mason.
Central, whose boys and girls won the National Guard meet, will be attempting to hold off the rest of Class A Region II on Feb. 8 for the boys' second consecutive regional crown and the fourth one for the girls.
Central's strengths are many. Kirk Young should win the 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs. And outside of the hurdles, the Falcons should place highly in every other track event, including a victory in the 3,200-meter relay.
On the girls' side, Central has a good chance of winning most events, except the hurdles and the 3,200-meter relay.