Gene Neal was caught between being a proud father and a proud track coach. So he chose both.
Neal's 10-year-old son, Derrick, won both the 100- and 200-meter dashes for his age group, and Neal's team, Montgomery County, ran the fastest 4-by-100 relay (49.28) at yesterday's Maryland state finals of the Hershey's National Track and Field Program at Largo Senior High School.
"Derrick ran well," said Neal, unable to conceal his pride, "but there are a bunch of talented kids on this team."
One of them is Lacoy Towns, who ran a 32.6 to win the 200 meters, a 1:13.7 to win the 400 meters, and jumped 6 feet 3 inches to win in the standing long jump. Except she wasn't officially entered in the standing long jump.
"Should we tell her?" Neal asked his assistant, and then answered his own question: "Nah, what for?"
The meet was a preliminary to the eastern regional championships Aug. 12-15 in Huntington, W.Va. Qualifiers for that meet will be determined by yesterday's times, not finishes, in comparison with the times of the 9- to 14-year-olds from the other regions.
Other double winners yesterday were Montgomery's Tracy Ambush in the 11-12 boys 800 (2:30.88) and 400 (1:04.2); Howard County's Cynthia Fikes in the 13-14 girls 200 (27:43) and 400 (1:03.19); Baltimore's Velda Greene in the 11-12 girls 50 (7.27) and 100 (13.82); and Montgomery's Troy Gardiner in the 13-14 boys 200 (25.88) and 400 (56.41).
Neal said that the times were slower than usual because of a wet track, and because the runners had to wear sneakers instead of spikes--a new rule for this year's event--and had no starting blocks.
"Derrick came back, saw his time in the 200 (29.1), and started getting all upset," said Neal. "I had to calm him down."
Some ominous thunder made tournament coordinator Mark Allen hold his breath once or twice.