At the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference indoor track championships two weeks ago, the Westlake girls' 4x200-meter relay team was running second to McDonough heading into the anchor leg.

That leg, however, belongs to Westlake junior Jaquay Evans. She had the Rams right where she wanted them.

Just as she had done at the Calvert County Invitational less than a week before, Evans burst from 10 meters back to overtake McDonough for a one-second Wolverines win, in 1 minute 50.70 seconds. The victory helped Westlake win the SMAC championship and added to its reputation as a program blessed with sprinters -- led by Evans -- who are able to win even in come-from-behind fashion.

"Honestly, I think she likes to be behind in a race and then go after the girl," Wolverines Coach Beth Shook said. "I think it comes from the fact the 55 dash is over so fast that she's still not sure how to pace herself [over 200 meters]."

Evans also seems to have the 55 within her grasp, having placed second (7.42) as a sophomore at last year's Maryland 3A/2A indoor championship, two-hundredths of a second behind Hammond junior Shade{acute} Smith. Her main competition this year again is Smith, Long Reach senior Damara Parrish and Douglass senior Shani Boone. But Evans's work ethic has doubled this year in preparation.

"Last year, I saw what I can do with natural talent, but I knew I had to work harder this year," said Evans, who was forced to train alone on a treadmill leading up to yesterday's 3A/2A East Region Championship because of snow days. "This year, I know there is more competition out there, and it's pushing me to work harder, because I want to be the best."

Being a year older has boosted Evans's confidence, which she admitted was a question mark at last year's state meet.

"To be honest, I didn't expect second, because there were seniors and juniors ahead of me," Evans said. "But I went in focused, so this year I'll probably take first."

If Evans does finish first, part of the credit should go to freshman teammate Nakia Allen, who was runner-up (7.64) by a tenth of a second to her in the SMAC championship.

"She keeps me focused, because she's fast," said Evans, whose personal record in the 55 is 7.33. "I use her as a training tool. It's good working with her, because I know that if I drop, she'll be right on me."

Allen also runs on the 4x200 relay team, and her impressive rookie campaign has the Wolverines eager for a repeat 3A outdoor championship in the 4x100 relay. Vanessa Tyler graduated last spring, so Allen will join Evans, Kathryne Carter and Kaneeka Ingram for a combination that Shook believes will be as fast as, or even faster than, last year's winning time of 48.46 seconds.

Evans has tutored Allen in getting out of the blocks, although Evans does not count her block work as a strength. She relies on her upper-body strength and long legs. She also follows the guidance of her father, a former high school sprinter and hurdler from Portsmouth, Va., and her brother Recardo, a 2001 Westlake graduate now running at the United States Military Academy at West Point.

Evans, who hopes to run in college, will use this year's improved training regimen as a step to the next level.

"I think I have something that can go far if I work with it," she said. "I look at most races as being guides to train myself better. It's something I have to do to set a good example for our young team."

Westlake's Jaquay Evans overtook opponents to win the 4x200 relay at the SMAC indoor championships and Calvert County Invitational.