Thursday, Jan. 31, 2008

Raiders aim for state berths

Roosevelt’s streak of county titles ends, but team focused for 4A East Region meet

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Raphael Talisman⁄The Gazette
This week may be one of the few times that you will ever hear Eleanor Roosevelt High School track and field coach Desmond Dunham say that he does not care about something associated with track.

‘‘I really don’t care too much about what times our athletes run or where they place,” Dunham said, as his team prepares for Tuesday’s 4A East Region Championships at the Baltimore Armory. ‘‘We just want to qualify as many of our runners as possible for the state championships.”

Raiders’ senior Daniel Edmunds could probably care less about how he places or what time he runs as he is coming off a career week. At the county championships on Jan. 24, Edmunds set a new meet record in the 800 meters and followed that performance with a second-place finish (1 minute, 56.3 seconds) at the Virginia Tech Invitational last weekend.

Dunham attributed Edmunds’ improvement to the senior’s willingness to think and train out of the box.

‘‘Cross country provided a strength base. I definitely have opened up to that and that has definitely given me the base that I need,” Edmunds said. ‘‘The weight room as well. I used to hate the weight room, but lifting has definitely helped me.”

The Roosevelt boys and girls both were dethroned at the county championships after sweeping the meet for three straight years. But several Roosevelt athletes are almost certain to qualify for the state championships.

The Raiders have runners to watch in the distance events, in Dominique Lockhart and Brian Faherty.

Raiders’ senior Tasha Stanley is fresh off a county title in the 300, with teammate Doris Anyanwu not far behind.

Senior Brittany Ogun-Mokun (500, relays) and Amirah Johnson (800, relays) also should fare well.

Murray ready to make mark

After a stellar performance in the long jump at last week’s county championships, High Point’s Leslie Murray will not get to compete in that event at Tuesday’s 4A East Region meet.

The Baltimore Armory, where the regional meet will be held, does not have a long jump pit, so Murray will concentrate on other events. But last week, he broke the county championship meet record in the long jump with a leap of 22 feet, 8.25 inches. He already has secured the chance to pursue a state long jump title because he has met the qualifying standard for the state meet.

Aside from his record-setting jump at the county meet Jan. 24 at Sports and Learning Complex in Landover, Murray also won the boys’ 500-meter run and took second in the high jump.

High Point coach Omar Sharif said Murray is as valuable an athlete as there is in the county.

‘‘Leslie is a phenomenal athlete. He has the capacity to run and compete in just about any event you put him in,” Sharif said.

Murray admits that the long jump is his passion, but more than anything he just wants to compete.

‘‘This season I’m just trying to get all of the [accolades] that come with running track,” Murray said. ‘‘I’m going to try to do better in high jump than I had in previous years and I’m pretty confident in the 500 now.”

Murray’s senior teammate Peter Gentles may be on the verge of becoming a champion himself. He finished just one second behind county 1,600-meter champion Brian Faherty of Eleanor Roosevelt. Only three seconds separated Gentles from becoming a champion in the 3,200, which Faherty also won.

‘‘I tell Peter he’s a soldier,” Sharif said. ‘‘He comes to practice every day with the attitude that he wants to get better. Any given meet he may run the 500 or the 3,200 and he expects to place every time.”

Elsewhere on the oval

While the rest of the county may not have been aware, Bowie juniors Casandra Bolden and Adrienne Tolson knew they could be a dominant tandem in the 55-meter hurdles.

The two have placed in the top three in virtually every meet and invitational they have participated in this season. On Jan. 24 at the Sports and Learning Complex in Landover, Bolden finished first and Tolson took second in the county championship meet. They hope to carry over their momentum to the 4A East Region championships.

‘‘They both have been doing tremendous this season,” Bulldogs’ coach Rick Andrulonis said. ‘‘They’re both juniors and both have put in a lot of hard work to get to where they are this season. I’m so proud of them.”

Bowie’s quartet of Tosin Babatundi, Dennis Thomas, Cyrus Britt and Emanuel Noumossie combined to win the boys’ 800 relay at the county championships and are taking aim at a spot in the state championships.

Henry A. Wise senior Krystin Lawson has dominated the 55 dash this winter and is hoping to win on both the state and national levels. Lawson is aiming to draw an invitation to the Nike Indoor Nationals to compete in the 60 and 200 dashes. In order to reach those goals, she said that success in an often-overlooked nuance of sprinting is essential.

‘‘My main goal is to get out of the blocks better,” Lawson said. ‘‘It’s of big importance that I do, especially in the 55, where you can win or lose your race. I’m not good in getting out of the blocks, but fortunately I can make up for that. It’s not easy and the whole strategy is a piece of work.”

E-mail Terron Hampton at thampton@gazette.net.