For one of the few times he could remember, David Terry was eager to get to school. It was the morning after Cardozo High School's first major victory in track and field in more than a dozen years and he and his teammates couldn't wait to hear their names on the loudspeaker.
"We hadn't won anything in a long time, and it was sweet hearing your name on the speaker," said Terry, a sprinter and a junior. "It was a wonderful feeling."
Terry, Boris Goins, Kenneth Wood and Tim Hennigan upset other highly regarded Interhigh teams to win the 4x100 relay in last week's D.C. Relay Championships at Coolidge. Coach Dr. Mike Gallion thinks that the victory will help restore the school's enthusiasm in sports and induce other students to try out for teams.
"We talk to our friends in the school," Terry said, "but some are just not interested."
"Some have after school jobs," Hennigan said. "Others believe Coach Gallion works the track people too hard. Others just don't care."
Gallion, who had big teams when he took over as track coach 17 years ago, no longer hunts through the halls for potential milers or discus throwers.
"We just haven't had the numbers lately for one reason or another," he said. "So rather than try to convince kids to come out, I just work with the few I have and get the most I can from them. This group I have now is talented and, although it will be tough to win any championships, we should do well in individual events."
The Clerks have what they call their "Super Six-Pack Plus Two," which consists of three sprinters, one middle distance runner, three field specialists and one all-purpose performer.
But Gallion has worked with each of his eight athletes in one, two and sometimes three events.
"Each of our guys learns another event and our eight actually turns into about 16," he said. "If each of our guys does what he does best, we could score a lot of points."
The most versatile athlete is Goins. A trumpet player in the band when he isn't running track, he is among the best long jumpers in the nation. He has jumped 24-2 and expects to pass 25 feet before the season ends.
He also runs 100 meters in 10.7 and 200 meters in 21.5. He is trying to add the triple jump to his repertoire.
"I didn't have a good sprinting year last year," he said, "because I didn't have the endurance and kept pulling (muscles). Coach changed my diet and put me on the weights. He kept working with me until my sprint times started dropping."
Right behind Goins in the 100 and 200 meters are the 5-foot-6 1/2 Terry and the 5-10 Wood. Hennigan, who prefers the distance races, is the other member of the sprint relay teams.
"Since we don't have the numbers, Coach Gallion had me sprinting in case," Hennigan said. "And my times came down and they needed a fourth man. He really pressed me to work and it paid off."
Junior Clenso Brennon, a distance man, already has run in area marathons. Sophomore Chris Gibbs, an all-league linebacker, and senior Jeff Chappell throw the shot and discus; and senior Keegan McIntosh throws the discus and fills in on relays.
"Winning that one race and putting a good team on the track has gained us respect from other schools," Hennigan said. "Because we are small in number, we are a close-knit group. Maybe these guys don't know it, but I consider them my brothers."
Most of the athletes work out daily by competing against Goins. The sprinters measure their progress by the distance between them and Goins.
"I've beaten him once or twice, but racing with him has really helped me," said Wood, a football and basketball player trying track for the first time. "He has the perfect attitude. He works hard and talks to us about what we're going wrong. He is always trying to help us improve."
Steady improvement is all Gallion expects.
"I just ask each athlete to better his last time or distance in the next meet," he said. "If they do that, they know they're improving. They can see it themselves."
Cardozo hasn't finished higher than fourth in the league championships in 17 years. Gallion, the eternal optimist, is also realistic.
"I feel we can do a good job in the (East-West) Division championships," he said. "But in the league championships, we just don't have the numbers. We'll win a few races though."