At today's Maryland 4A East Region track meet at North County High, don't expect Old Mill senior Anthony Littlejohn to slow down near the end of the 800- or 1,600-meter races -- no matter how far ahead he is.
And don't expect him to allow anybody to take a lead so big that he needs to stage what Old Mill coaches call a "Hollywood finish."
Those are errors Littlejohn has made in the past. And that, according to Old Mill track and field coach Janet Liimatta, means he will not make either again.
"He learns from his mistakes," Liimatta said. "He's very good about keeping those things in his memory bank and not making the same mistake twice."
Littlejohn's intelligence on the track, along with his hard work, picture-perfect form, natural ability and endurance, have made the senior one of the premier middle-distance runners in the area. He owns eight county championships in the 800- and 1,600-meter races -- he won two of them last week at Chesapeake -- and holds the county outdoor record in the 800. Littlejohn also has won a state title, in the indoor 1,600, and is hoping to add two more state crowns this afternoon, as well as lead the Patriots to a team state title.
Littlejohn first started running track as a freshman, and coaches immediately saw they had a potential standout. Though he had no experience, he was staying with the team's best runners that season.
"In general, boys don't stand out right away -- it's usually not until the end of their sophomore years or the beginning of their junior years," Liimatta said. "But right away [Littlejohn] was able to come in and run times that were equivalent to his peers'."
Not only that, but Littlejohn's times were comparable to former Old Mill star Victor Thillet's when they were the same age. "So I knew [when he was] a freshman, I had something special," Liimatta said.
Littlejohn found the 800 and 1,600 almost by accident. He started out running sprints and hurdle events, but thanks to graduation losses, was quickly tried at longer distances. "We never really intended to keep him there, but he just kind of developed," Liimatta said.
Littlejohn has developed as a leader as well, keeping "the bar high" when it comes to work ethic, according to Liimatta, and making sure teammates are prepared. That was evident at the county meet when junior Kyle Rauser, whom Littlejohn calls "his protege," did not want to run the 800. Littlejohn made sure he did, and Rauser took second, just behind Littlejohn.
"He's like a brother to me," Rauser said. "He pushes me more than I could ever imagine. And he teaches me so much about how to never give up. . . . When we go to practice, he gets the job done. You'll rarely see him not finish a practice. And when he comes to meets, he's always ready to go."
Littlejohn, Rauser and Old Mill have their sights set on the school's seventh boys' state title. Should they win it, it would be the Patriots' first since 1991. Suitland, Littlejohn said, should pose Old Mill's most difficult challenge.
"We're going to go for Suitland, go head-to-head with them," Littlejohn said. "But if we're going to do that, everything has to be perfect."
And everything starts today.
"Regionals, that's the meet we have to have our best day," Liimatta said. "You'd like to have your best day at states, but we have to get them there first."