Westlake rising junior Corryl Boyd knows the path to a college track scholarship is a numbers game. And those numbers have nothing to do with Boyd's sprint times or jump distances.
The numbers in question are plain to see. NCAA rules allow Division I men's track teams a maximum of 12.6 scholarships per year. That figure keeps schools in compliance with Title IX, the law requiring gender equity at institutions receiving federal aid.
The number of athletes on a Division I track team sometimes exceeds 50. It doesn't take a math major to figure out that Boyd's odds of landing a full track scholarship are not good.
"It's not easy," Boyd said. "There aren't a lot of track scholarships out there for men."
The numbers are not much better on the women's side. The NCAA allows each school to provide up to 18 women's track scholarships, and team rosters are usually the same size as the men's.
"With track, you've got to be able to have opportunities to get to the right meets," said Boyd's sister, Quiteelia, who graduated from Westlake in 2004 and just completed her freshman year at the University of Maryland Baltimore County on a track scholarship that covered her tuition but not room and board.
"If you really want to get seen, it's best to get into a summer league and go to national events," she said. "That's the hard part about it. If you want to be seen by a top school, you have to go to [a meet near the school]. That's what the summer meets are about -- you doing the traveling."
Football coaches such as Maryland's Ralph Friedgen can hop on a plane and visit a recruit on the West Coast on a whim. He has the recruiting budget for that type of scouting. Track coaches don't. Their recruiting is done at large national meets, where they can see dozens of top athletes.
"If you don't go to a national meet, they won't really hear about you," said Northern rising senior Keely Murphy, a distance runner. "They'll go to big national meets to see you, but they won't go to local meets."
Sometimes that isn't enough. Murphy's brother, Ryan, was recruited to run cross-country and distance races at Virginia. But he receives no scholarship money. Murphy said the Cavaliers have only eight scholarships for the men's track program.
This fosters competition among teammates for pieces of the scholarships.
"You want your teammates to do well, but you also want to beat them because you want some money," said Ryan Murphy, who redshirted last season. "People have an idea [of who's getting money], but no one knows for sure."
Unlike in other sports, the onus on recruiting in track rests heavily on the students. Because track coaches cannot get to see many athletes, Keely Murphy said, she has taken it upon herself to update coaches at schools that have shown interest in her, such as Penn State, Connecticut and William & Mary.
"I try to keep in contact with coaches because that's really important," she said. "Most coaches won't know about you unless you stay in contact with them."
But track athletes have an edge in providing information that athletes in team sports don't. Track and field success is measured in numbers. Your competition doesn't matter.
"If you hit a certain number, more colleges will get interested in you," Corryl Boyd said. "It's easy for me to set a goal in track that I can reach. . . . Track is more accurate than any other sport because you can control the pace that you improve upon."
In a team sport, prodigious statistics are usually met with a wary eye -- how strong was that opponent? Track athletes don't have to worry about that.
"There's no subjectivity to it," said Andy Bilmanis, whose three children, Andy Jr., Tim and Amy, all graduated from Thomas Stone and earned track scholarships.
Amy Bilmanis, an All-Met discus and shot put thrower, will receive a full scholarship at Virginia. "It makes it easy for coaches but harder for kids, because if you don't have some good numbers, you won't get anything. If you win a state championship in Maryland, it means nothing unless you have the numbers."
Scholarship money is out there, just not in places most track athletes readily look.
Football -- and its 85 scholarships per team -- is chiefly responsible for schools cutting back the number of scholarships in other men's sports. But football teams could find attractive a sprinter such as Boyd, last season's 3A/2A indoor champion in the 55 and 300 meters and 3A outdoor winner in the 400. Fast players have always found spots on football teams, and Boyd, who plays on Westlake's varsity football team, said he would gladly accept a football scholarship if it affords him the chance to compete in track.
"That does help," Boyd said. "It's another way to do it."
Another way is through a Division II or III college. Even though they may not offer full athletic scholarships, schools will take into account a strong athletic background when assessing a student's academic record.
"You have to ask, would it be better to go to a Division II or III school and get everything covered?" said Westlake track coach Beth Shook.
Ultimately, a track athlete's strongest selling point is versatility. Track meets are won on the basis of points earned in each event, and an athlete who can compete in multiple events is a good value for a coach with limited scholarship funds.
"How many different events you can provide points to the team, the better the shot you have of getting some money," said Andy Bilmanis, who added that when his sons, Andy Jr. and Tim, competed at Connecticut and Virginia, respectively, each team had only one athlete on a full track scholarship. "Multi-event athletes are dreamed of by coaches because of how [little] money they have."
Ryan Murphy knows that if he can register strong times in cross-country meets and long-distance track races, he will become a more desirable college athlete and perhaps a recipient of scholarship money.
He looks at Virginia teammate Alex Tatu, who excels in races from the 800 meters to the 10-kilometer run. "That's a huge range, and that's what I'm working toward," Murphy said. "Any athlete that's versatile has a greater chance" of getting scholarship money.