When Lakisha Brooks first stepped on a track at age 12, she wore basketball shoes. Now a sophomore at Largo High, Brooks still practices in shoes considered too bulky for sprinting.

Perhaps it helps. There's little doubt that Brooks has become one of the top sprinters in the Washington area--in 1998, she finished third in the 200 meters at the prestigious East Coast Invitational in the 13-14 age group. Last summer, she finished third in the 200 (25.21) and sixth in the 100 (12.54) in the 15-16 age group at the same meet.

"I knew she was going to be good, but I did not know she was going to be this good," Largo Coach Darryl Hamilton said. "Especially with the range that she has."

Brooks, 15, also anchored the winning 4x200 and 4x400 relay teams as Largo won at the Pangaea International track and field meet on Dec. 9. She also ran the anchor leg on the winning 4x200 relay team at the F.I.T. Relays over the weekend at George Mason University in Fairfax. And she explains her shoes simply by saying, "I just went out there to have fun and I just chose those shoes."

Said Eleanor Roosevelt Coach Larry Colbert: "[Brooks] will be one of the strongest runners in the area. Lakisha is going to be a strong lady this year."

Hamilton's training should help Brooks's strength. She says she loves running, but not the nine consecutive 300-meter sprints Hamilton has his team run in practices.

"It hurts real bad, but I'll do whatever my coaches say," Brooks said. "It makes me think 'Why did I chose to run track and why do I do this to myself?' "

Brooks first anchored a relay team during the Maryland 4A outdoor championships, helping her 4x200 team finish second. Brooks's teams may do well, but that doesn't mean she likes running the final leg.

"I hate to be depended on," Brooks said. "I don't like to be in that position, but whatever my coach asks me to do I'll do it."

At the same time, Brooks seems to appreciate her talent. She said she aspires to run as fast as a couple of the greatest female track stars of all-time, Florence Griffth-Joyner and Marion Jones.

"I want to get times like Flo-Jo and Marion Jones," Brooks said. "My goal is to go to the Olympics."

Said Hamilton: "[Making the Olympics] is a good goal for her, and she has the talent to go further in track. It's up to her."

This season, she can focus on team goals. Largo is in good position to unseat five-time champion Eleanor Roosevelt as the Maryland 4A/3A indoor state titlist.

"We are going to get them," Brooks said. "We have a lot of new people and they are really good. . . . Everybody is doing well, and that is why I know we are going to win."

CAPTION: Largo sophomore Lakisha Brooks's goal is one of Olympic proportions.