Elgin Gordon is the Washington area's fastest high school athlete of all time.
In the 100-meter dash, track's glamour event, the recent Eleanor Roosevelt graduate recorded a time of 10.36, third fastest in the nation this year and 12 one-hundredths of a second faster than the previous area record, set by Calvert's John Parker in 1982.
Gordon, undefeated against interscholastic competition in both the 100 and 200, captured both events and anchored two winning relay teams to lead E. Roosevelt to the Maryland 4A state championship last season.
He also qualified for the U.S. junior national team by virtue of a third-place finish in the 100 in the national junior championships in Fresno, Calif., June 30.
For Gordon, running has been the easy part. Getting to the more important meets frequently has provided a greater challenge, because he does not like to fly.
But Gordon, who says what he likes most about track is the opportunity it provides for him to travel, is learning to handle his fear.
"I've been afraid of flying, but I knew I was going to have to fly sooner or later," he said. "My coach and my mom have supported me a lot. Now, I just say my prayers and get on the plane."
Gordon boarded a plane two weeks ago for Orlando, Fla., where he began competition on the international junior circuit by winning the 200 with a time of 21.41 and running the third leg of the winning 4x100 relay team.
Last weekend, Gordon traveled to Columbus, Ohio, for a world championships tuneup meet before embarking on his first international flight, to Plovdiv, Bulgaria, to participate in the world junior championships, which begin Wednesday.
Gordon will attend Odessa Junior College in Odessa, Tex. After completing junior college, he hopes to attend the University of Florida, where he hopes to play football as well as run track.
Gordon always has considered football his primary sport. He says he began running competitively only because his neighborhood friend and classmate, Larry Colbert Jr., was running and "I had nothing better to do."
In 1985, at age 13, Gordon joined the Glenarden Track Club, headed by Larry Colbert Sr., who founded the club in 1982 to help his son and a few other area youngsters compete in local track meets.
Although Gordon excelled immediately under Colbert, he did not take sprinting very seriously until last year. As recently as last summer, he was quoted as saying: "I play with track. I don't come to practice much."
But that summer, Gordon recorded his first sub-10.4 time in the 100 and his attitude changed.
"Elgin is one of your more natural runners," E. Roosevelt track coach Diane Gentile said. "Until his senior year he was happy just winning. But he matured his senior year and started racing against the clock. Winning was not all-important. The medals meant nothing anymore."
Colbert, who coaches E. Roosevelt's sprinters in addition to his head coaching duties with the now 110-member Glenarden club, says he too has noticed a change in his star pupil.
"He's always had the talent to be a good athlete, but recently he has decided to excel," Colbert said. "He's willing to go through the pain, suffering and sacrifice necessary to cut each one-tenth of a second off his time."
Colbert is so pleased with Gordon's progress he has begun talking about the possibility of a U.S. Olympic team berth in either 1992 or 1996.
"He's good enough to be a future Olympian," Colbert said. "The chances are good for making the 1992 Olympic Trials. He's knocking on the door in the 100, 200 and 400."
"I don't get my hopes up for 1992," Gordon said. "I'm not trying to rush it. I'm more concerned with year-by-year goals and my goal for the rest of this year is to run a 10.18."
And, perhaps, conquer his fear of flying.
"He's going to have to get used to flying," Colbert said. "Because chances are, he'll be doing it an awful lot in the future."