For the past six weeks, the members of Eleanor Roosevelt's 1,600-meter sprint relay team -- junior Nathandra John, junior Wanakee Jackson, senior Tiandra Ponteen and senior Crystal Anyanwu -- have avoided anything that comes from a vending machine while drinking plenty of fluids.
Their dietary dedication apparently paid off yesterday in the Nike Indoor Championships at the Prince George's Sports & Recreation Center in Landover as the quartet won the gold medal on the same track where it practices with a time of 4 minutes 3.74 seconds.
"We figured this was our home turf, and nobody was supposed to come in here and beat us," said Ponteen, who also ran the fastest time (55.22) in the 400-meter preliminaries. "We just did what we needed to do."
Several other area teams and individuals came away with medals and all-American honors, including the West Springfield distance medley team.
Senior Jeff Day ran anchor as West Springfield's distance medley team won a national title, two weeks after the Spartans -- anchored by Day -- won the Virginia AAA 4x800-meter relay in a state-record time of 7:51.96.
Yesterday, the Spartans didn't set a record, but their time of 10:21.92 earned the foursome of Day, senior John Cook, junior Steven Tobin and senior Joseph McMahon all-American honors, national championship rings and gold medals. Jefferson came in third in 10:31.01, and Oakton finished fourth in 10:31.32.
"This right here is just icing on the cake," said Day, who ran his leg -- a mile -- in 4:16.7. "We came into this ranked second, and I was glad we weren't ranked first. It made us under the radar. We were confident, not cocky, but we just wanted to have fun."
Forest Park junior Cat Burton helped her team garner all-American honors as well, and she did it with only one shoe.
Three laps into her leg of the girls' distance medley, a competitor stepped on the heel of Burton's shoe. Instead of slowing to fix the shoe, Burton simply kicked it free and finished the remaining three laps in her 1,200-meter leg.
Burton joined senior Christina Lindsey, junior Karen Richardson and junior Beth Fahey to post a time of 12:27.94, good for sixth place and a spot on the medal stand.
Aside from a five-minute period Friday during which they worked on passing the baton, the Forest Park runners had not practiced the distance medley together, much less run it in a competition.
"We've never been to nationals before and this is the first time we've run together as a team," Burton said. "We weren't very good until this year, but we came here knowing we could place."
Senior Reynold Smith gave Forest Park another all-American when he finished sixth in the triple jump with a leap of 47 feet 3 inches. Smith, an All-Met who earned district, region and state honors, was happy to round out his collection.
"I really didn't expect to do as well as I did," Smith said. "I was just happy I could make it to the finals. But I really wanted to get all-American because I've gotten all of the other awards except that one."
Note: Day 2 of the Nike Indoor Championships begins today at 9 a.m.