Staff writer Donald Huff interviewed six All-Metropolitan athletes this week. The athletes -- who will be among those honored at today's Washington Post All-Met luncheon at 12:30 p.m. at the Washington Hilton Hotel -- reflected upon highs and lows of their high school athletic careers, academics and their aspirations.
Cathron Birge, Lake Braddock
Early in my high school career, I had to make the decision whether to continue playing soccer or run track. I had planned to play soccer, but I had a good indoor track season my freshman year and did well on the physical fitness test, so I decided to run. I've had no regrets.
This year, we won all three (Virginia AAA) state track championships, giving our school five straight state championships. I've won individual awards and set records but it doesn't mean as much if there is no one to share it with. There's no greater feeling to me than winning a team championship. Winning those team titles were my biggest highlights. Also, I've met athletes from all over the country . . . .
On the down side, everyone has a bad race now and then. Sometimes, there is too much pressure. When I first began running, people looked at me and began predicting I'd do this and do that. Sometimes, it was too much. But I had so much support from my family, coaches and friends, it sort of balanced out the pressure and made me forget about it.
I had no problems academically. A number of track athletes are good students. They know they can't run forever and usually strive to do well academically. I have a 3.8 and made 1,310 (out of a possible 1,600) on the SATs. I'm looking forward to attending Virginia because you get the opportunity to meet new people and face new challenges. But I won't forget what I accomplished in high school.
It might sound corny, but your high school years are some of the best years in your life and you should enjoy them. I made sure I did my schoolwork but I found time to enjoy myself. I wanted to succeed and do my best for the people who supported me all those years. Everything I achieved, I did for them.
Tandreia Green, H.D. Woodson
I wish I knew in the 10th grade what I know now. I would really concentrate more on my grades because now I realize just how important that is. Basketball was all fun and jokes in the beginning and you don't get serious until it's too late. When I got to high school, I thought about going to college but had no idea how I would get there. By my junior year, I realized basketball could take me there.
Athletes must realize how important grades are. In the future they will have to deal with the 2.0 GPA and 700 SAT score to get in school. I think it's a good rule because it will make you work hard in the classroom. On the other hand, it doesn't make sense if you don't need the same average to graduate. Athletes are singled out and I don't know how fair that is. The one important thing I learned was that academics are important.
My high school career has been everything I hoped it would be. Basketball was fun, challenging, and the skills and teamwork I learned as a result of competing helped me become a better person. My goals were to win a championship this year and just be the best person I could be.
I will always treasure my sophomore championship season and the out-of-area games over the years because of the experiences. We got chances to face competitive teams and I learned how to play and appreciate the skills and talent of other people.
I will miss all the attention basketball brought me here but I feel I've matured a great deal because of sports. I've learned how to take criticism and the value of hard work. I've gained confidence in myself and I know I'm not quite as shy as I was. What I've learned here at Woodson will benefit me in college.
Joe Hall, McNamara
One image I tried to dispel was that big football players were dumb jocks. I got a 3.5 and (teammate) Chris Maruca got a 4.0. When I came here, I was pretty big and sort of became a school leader because of my size. That leadership role sort of carried over throughout.
Being chosen All-Met was a great honor. . . . I enjoyed playing sports at McNamara and I think I got more out of competing than I anticipated. I accomplished everything I thought I would and more.
Playing sports actually helped me organize in the classroom. I seemed to study more or stay on top of my classwork during the seasons. I sort of got into a routine.
That should help me when I get to college. . . . Coping with all that freedom will be the biggest problem. You have to be independent. I think I've changed a lot since coming to McNamara and sports did that for me.
Paul Ludwig, Crossland
Making the All-Metropolitan baseball team was very special to me. Four years ago, I set my goal to make the team by my senior year. This sort of feels like a payoff when I reflect back on what I accomplished.
I thought about playing football also but decided against it because of a possible injury. I thought my best shot might be baseball. I enjoyed the challenge of the game. It was a good chance to channel your energies and get rid of all that aggression and emotion.
The one thing baseball taught me was sportsmanship. On the field, the other team is the enemy but when the game is over, it's over, and we are friends afterward.
I loved to play and there was no pressure to succeed on the field or in the classroom. Actually, when the season came around, I did better in the classroom. I think it would be nice if the schools set aside an hour for a study period for the athletes to make up the time they miss during the season. I think all the athletes would benefit from that hour.
For those students who have a serious interest in sports, they should focus on doing their best in the classroom and give 110 percent on the field. Just go out and do your best each time.
Curtis Pride, Kennedy
(Pride was born with a severe hearing disability and this interview was conducted with the aid of his father, John Pride).
Early in my sports career, I had some difficulty communicating with my teammates. They didn't know how to handle my handicap. But in high school, I didn't have a problem. The coaches and everyone were patient and helped me understand. From the beginning of my high school career, I think my biggest problem was getting along with the older students. But I played three sports and was accepted.
I had no problem at all competing in athletics and achieving academically. It was a matter of establishing priorities and sticking with them. You have to set goals for yourself, remember athletics are secondary to academics. I have a 3.47 GPA and was able to succeed in both athletics and academics. It takes a lot of hard work and you must give 100 percent. Do the best you can and good things will happen. . . .
My biggest achievement was being picked by the New York Mets in the baseball draft. Right now, I don't know what I'll do because I still feel an obligation to William and Mary, where I signed a basketball grant in aid. We are in the process of negotiating with the NCAA and William and Mary so that if I decide to sign with the Mets, I can still play basketball, too. I want to do both if possible.
I'll always remember my trip to China last year with the United States national youth soccer team. I assisted on the tying goal and scored the winning goal that beat Bolivia. I also broke the Montgomery County scoring record with 68 career goals. I'll also remember we lost to Churchill, 1-0, in the soccer state final.
I hope I've set an example for other handicapped students to follow. Maybe my overcoming my handicap will inspire other handicapped kids.
Mark Tillmon, Gonzaga
I enjoyed my high school career at Gonzaga. I'm a competitor and coming to Gonzaga from a public school made me compete that much harder. It was a big adjustment for me initially because of the different atmosphere. It was sort of a college atmosphere and you have to learn to live with all kinds of people. Gonzaga prepared me for that. It was tough academically for me in the 10th grade but once I realized what had to be done for me to succeed, I didn't have any more problems.
Before my junior year, basketball was all fun and a dream for me. Then I made All-Met. After that, I realized I could use basketball to make something of myself, go places. That All-Met status became very important to me.
I recently went back to my elementary school and junior high and spoke to the kids. They were excited and a lot of them told me they wanted to be like me. I said they would have to work hard as I did, especially in the books. I would tell anyone coming into high school: establish yourself academically, then worry about the sports and the social life.
I think the kids' feeling toward me is sort of a testimony of what I've accomplished. I know my biggest goal was to beat DeMatha and we did that three times last year. I was very disappointed we didn't win the city championship game but that's the way the ball bounces. We did get the chance to play for the championship. We worked hard and Coach (Dick Myers) kept us together. I thank God for what he has done for me and my team.
I have a burning desire to succeed and my father (Joseph Tillmon) was always there to push me. He told me I had the potential to succeed and make something of myself. He was a pro football player and he realizes what it takes to succeed. High school is over now and I am looking forward to the next step -- college. I don't really care what happens after college. It's a dream come true if you make the pros but I'm more concerned about getting that degree.