It's possible this year's spring track and field season will be even more productive than last year's, when seven state records (seven in Class A, one in AA and one in C) were established.
State records are only recognized when achieved in state meet competition, but many athletes already have exceeded state marks in practice or in early-season competition. In addition, two of last year's record-breakers are returning.
Central's Kellie Roberts and McDonough's Jackie McKendree posted Class A records in the 300-meter intermediate hurdles (43.5) and the 100 meter hurdles, respectively, as sophomores.
Roberts also won the Class A 400 meters and has an excellent chance of lowering that state standard this spring.
"The quarter in 53-54 is a realistic possibility for Kellie," said her coach, Ed Bowie. Roberts' winning time in the 400 last year was 55.5, one second off the state record. Indoors, she demonstrated her ability to run record times when she clocked the second-fastest school girl time ever in the nation for 500 meters.
"She's also way ahead of pace hurdles-wise; she's more proficient," said Bowie. "In the past, she was a runner first and a hurdler second. Now her hurdling ability is starting to catch up to her running. She's really going to make a good impact on area times this year."
McKendree undertook the 100-meter hurdles last year for the first time. She won the Class A state title in a time of 14.8, beating the previous record by a tenth. Coach Larry Johnson said McKendree is looking forward to another record in the hurdles, but it won't be something she will concentrate on exclusively.
"So far it looks good for her," he said. "She's already run a 15.0 this season. She's just going to take it in stride, though and she won't dwell on it. If it happens, it happens. She's first and foremost a team player."
Her teammate, senior Kelly Joyce, already has thrown the discus more than 133 feet this spring. The Class A record is 131-8, the overall state record 138-1 1/2.
"She's talked of hitting 140 feet this year in the discus and a 42-45 in the shot put," said Johnson. Such marks in the shot put also would be a state record.
Along with Roberts, Bowie also coaches one of the top male quarter-milers in the area, senior John Robertson. A bout with bronchitis truncated a good start during indoors. He is beginning to regain his strength, and by the championship portion of the season he should be capable of running some of the leading times in the area.
The boys AA and state record in the 400 stands at 46.8. Largo's Robert Bailey, who won the state title last year at 48.4, tops the list of record hopefuls. In the opening weeks of the outdoor season, Bailey, a senior, already has equaled his best of last year.
"Robert can see a 46.8 this year if he wants to," said Coach Sal Vespoint. "I've seen a lot come and go and he's as good as any I've seen. He's got the stride, the pace, the mentality to run that time. He's the type of kid that makes the coach look like a genius."
Another Largo runner, senior Keith Crawford, has been dueling with Suitland's Bart Bailey over the hurdles for the past three years. Bailey's technique usually has held Crawford at bay, enabling him to remain one step ahead of Crawford throughout the indoor season and giving him a tie for the state record in the 55-meter hurdles at 7.3. This season the competitors renew the battle over the 110s (high hurdles), putting the record of 13.8 in jeopardy.
Bailey's best in the state meet last year was a second-place 14.1. A week later, he ran a 13.8 in Junior Olympics competition. This year he has added weight training and strength running to his workouts, which will make him stronger for his usual meet schedule of both hurdle events, the mile relay and the long jump.
"Bart's biggest asset is his technique," said Suitland Coach Fletcher James. "This year we've been training a lot with strength work and working a lot with the quarter. Training for the quarter is going to be an asset in the highs, where you really need that strength, and for the intermediate hurdles, which is a matter of putting both hurdling skill and strength together."
In the longer hurdle event, Crawford is the more experienced, finishing second in the state last year, less than a second shy of the record of 37.6. Competition in that event also will come from Friendly senior Jerome Smith, who was one tenth of a second behind Crawford last year.
Last year's top boys and girls sprinters have graduated. Richard Montgomery senior Kevin Geer and Gaithersburg junior Gene Cann finished 1-2 indoors. Geer was the runner-up in last year's Class A outdoor state meet. His best time was a 10.6. The Class A record is a 10.5.
"Kevin's got record-breaking potential," said Coach Mike Parrish. "He's in good shape, no ailments and he's put on a lot of muscle since last year."
Gaithersburg Coach Fran Perry also sees a time of 10.5 well within Cann's range.
Among the girls, Gaithersburg senior LaShawn Haythe, the defending AA champion in the 100 and 200, and Magruder junior Wanda Evans, the defending B champion in the long jump and the indoor champion at 55 meters, are the top contenders for sprint marks this year.
"An 11.7 [state record] is easily attainable," Perry said of Haythe. "She ran 11.5 last summer and she's also broken a 24.0 state record in the 200 this summer. She should be able to go 23.5-23.6."
Evans, a 19-foot-plus long jumper, is expected to exceed 20 feet, said Coach Don Gooden. In addition, he has broadened her training to include the hurdles, sprints and triple jump, events she eschewed in the past to concentrate on the long jump.
"She can go a state record in the 100," he said. "She's done a 12 already."