If the “fledgling program” label still fit the Prince George’s Community College track and field program, those days ended on June 27.
Coach Richard Johnson was joined in the Largo campus’ Novak Field House that day by 17 new recruits who signed their letters of intent — part of a 26-athlete recruiting class that is set to start competing next spring.
In Prince George’s County, where a highly competitive club and high school track landscape has spawned some of the top athletes in the nation, PGCC’s track program laid dormant for three decades. The team was resurrected four years ago under Johnson and has excelled in spite of limited numbers. There were just six men and eight women listed on the roster in 2012.
With 26 new faces, the roster is limited no more. And the expectations already are limitless.
“It feels great,” Johnson said. “The kids in Prince George’s County, and even in Baltimore and D.C., are recognizing PGCC as a strong athletic school in track and field and also academically. They see they can move on to four-year schools with athletic scholarships.”
In spite of its small roster — and in spite of entering just nine of 22 events — the PGCC women’s team took sixth place out of 21 teams at the National Junior College Athletic Association Division III championships this past season. The women’s team will be bolstered by 13 new athletes, including Potomac High School graduate Sharvey Corley. One of Corley’s former 747 Track Club teammates is PGCC rising sophomore Coneisha Smith, who won the national title in 400 meters and took second in the 200.
“Being a freshman, it’s like starting high school all over, but on a whole new level,” said Corley, who took fourth place in the Maryland 3A Outdoor Championships in the 100 and 200 and ran with the Wolverines’ state champion 400 relay team. “I haven’t run since the state championship meet, but I’m going to start conditioning again and get ready for this year. I just want to do the best I can.”
Among the 26 signees, there are numerous athletes from Prince George’s County. The team’s success also brought two runners from New York, who Johnson said investigated PGCC on the Internet, came for a visit and decided to sign.
But for Suitland High graduate Alonzo Adams, the chance to start college close to home was too good to ignore.
“It seems exciting,” said Adams, who is joined in the recruiting class by fellow Suitland grads Natalia Leavell, Alexis Walston and Terika Lathern. “From all the things I heard [about the program], it got me really interested. We’ve got some Suitland people running here, so it’ll be some of the same feeling, but also a new feeling.”
Charles H. Flowers High graduate and Bowie resident John Reddick III, Largo grad Stephanie Nickerson, Gwynn Park grad Briana Page, Upper Marlboro resident Aubria Johnson and Bowie resident Eleto Smith also were on hand to sign with the Owls.
Richard Johnson is a deputy with the Prince George’s County Sheriff’s Department, which makes his coaching position at PGCC a part-time endeavor — but it’s part-time in name only. Dramatically increasing the size of the team was the result of spending plenty of time on the recruiting trail.
“It’s more than a part-time thing,” he said. “I was going to different track meets, talking to athletes from Baltimore to D.C. We recruited all across the board. It’s going to make us a whole lot more competitive than we were. We won’t have to run athletes back-to-back. Now we can spread people out.
“This year, I had people come to me. It was almost scary. I had emails from athletes wanting to come here. When I was at the state meet at Morgan State, I had coaches running up to me, and that never happened before. I had to call them. But walking around there, I felt as important as a Division I coach.”