Tuscarora High School senior Marcus Foster, upon realizing he had won a Class 3A state title in the 55-meter hurdles, raced to hug a man attending the meet.
They pulled their arms around each other near the finish line as cameras snapped photos of the emotional embrace, clearly one of the most heartfelt moments of the day.
“He’s my older brother,” Foster explained shortly after about Caleb Stennis.
Now, Foster explains a little more. He and Stennis are not biologically related. Foster has lived with Stennis’ mother, Nedra Dean, since his freshman year because, “We had domestic violence going on at home. We had gone through a lot of being poor.”
Marcus’ older biological brother, Keith Foster, and Stennis were close, and that led to them staying with Dean.
“Since then, she’s been treating me like if I was her son,” Foster said. “... She’s really like my mom. I call her mama.”
“No one can tell me he’s not my brother,” Foster said. “We act like we’re biological brothers.
“I don’t forget where I came from, though. Some of those things sometimes surprise people, because I’m always positive, regardless of what happened in my past.”
Tuscarora coach Ronnie Beard knows Foster’s positivity all too well.
Foster became a hurdler after winning an impromptu hurdling competition with a friend during his freshman year. But with his new event came a big responsibility. As everyone on Tuscarora knows, Beard, who set a state record in 2003 in the 55-meter hurdles at Frederick High School, treats his hurdlers differently.
“He doesn’t give hurdlers slack,” Foster said. “He doesn’t say, ‘Good job’ much, like he says to others. He wants us to be hungry.
“It works with me, because I just want to prove him wrong.”
Foster also wants to make Beard laugh. The hurdler does Bill Cosby impressions, impersonates animals and makes strange faces.
“There were times when I’ll crack a small smile and then just go back to having a straight face, and he’ll be like, ‘Ahhh,’” Beard said, imitating a sigh. “But cracking up on the inside.”
Foster — The Gazette’s boys indoor track and field Athlete of the Year who hopes to run track in college and has garnered interest from the University of Rhode Island, Howard University and the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore — has impressed Beard immensely. Beard notices how teammates often seek the advice of Foster, who likes to sing Temptations’ songs during bus rides.
“He’s like the wise old owl that’s part of the team,” Beard said.
Beard just wants to keep his tough-guy reputation with the hurdlers, so he outwardly rejects Foster’s attempts to humor him.
Finally, after Foster won his state title, Beard cracked.
“He had the biggest smile,” Foster said. “I thought he was going to cry. That’s what I saw on his face. It looked like he was going to cry. But he said he wasn’t going to, but to me, I thought he was.”
Foster also celebrated his victory at the Prince George’s Sports & Learning Complex with his extended family, and he’s forever grateful for what the Deans have given him.
“It was just that home feeling,” Foster said. “The welcoming, the love that I received. I’m just happy, satisfied where I am.”