Largo High School track and field coach Darryl Hamilton was asked Monday morning about Marcelle Preston.
Hamilton said he’d wait until Preston had won a couple state titles before addressing his junior runner.
By Monday afternoon — when Preston won 2A state titles in the 300 meters (35.49) and 500 meters (1:06.62) — Hamilton was ready to let loose about Preston, who transferred from Riverdale Baptist.
“He should have been at Largo, for real,” Hamilton said with a laugh. “He lives in our area. He just came to Largo. His sister went to Largo. The older brother went to Largo. So, he’s just a Largo kid.
“He knew that.”
And why did Preston know that?
“Ever since ninth grade, he’s been telling me I belong at Largo,” Preston said of Hamilton. “That’s where I need to be.”
But Preston, entering high school, was swayed by a scholarship to the private school and the recruitment of the Riverdale Baptist track coach. Preston stressed he didn’t want to say anything negative about his experience about Riverdale Baptist, but he yearned for the more intense coaching he knew Largo could provide.
“When I was back at Riverdale, I used to get beat a lot,” Preston said. “So, I was never really caring about track. I was never winning like this. So now, it’s very important to me, because it seems like the way I’m getting to college.”
University of Maryland, College Park inquired about Preston last week, and though he holds no scholarship offers, that was before winning two state titles.
“After this, he’ll get something,” Hamilton said.
Largo assistant Haywood Vaughn, who works with middle-distance runners, sat down with Preston this fall after the junior transferred. They discussed Preston’s goals, and Vaughn brought up Suitland’s Taivon Jacobs, who recently signed with Maryland for football, as a comparison of the level Preston could reach.
Preston actually ran with Jacobs during summers growing up, though in all their races, Preston never won.
“I was actually kind of nervous, because of coming into a public-school environment, where there’s more competition,” Preston said. “I was actually nervous with the times I was hearing.”
Monday, Preston actually beat the time Jacobs posted in the 500 meters during last season’s state meet (1:07.80), though he’s still a bit behind Jacob’s 300 meter time (34.71).
On the other side of their conversation, Vaughn wasn’t nervous at all. He came away very impressed after questioning Preston’s motivations.
“His response was, ‘I want to win,’” Vaughn said. “He said, ‘I can do you one thing, and that’s ... do everything you tell me to do.’ Right then, I just knew that it was going to be an instant win.”
Vaughn detailed Preston’s winning attitude, but wins on the track didn’t come instantly.
Preston ran 1:10.24 in the 500 meters in December, and he didn’t compete in a 300 meters until January, but Vaughn said Preston typically ran between 37 and 39 seconds.
But Preston has steadily improved, culminating in Monday’s double victory.
“I knew he would come out and dominate, because I knew he put in work this whole indoor season,” Preston said.
Besides track, Preston enjoys football — he returned kicks and played Wildcat quarterback at Riverdale Baptist as a sophomore — and was considering playing at Largo next year, but Vaughn advised against it.
“I have to listen to him,” Preston said. “He’s gotten me this far.”