US news
2003 indoor

5th Nike Indoor Championships

March 15-16, 2003 at Prince George's Sportsplex, Landover MD


Press Release
Larry Colbert and the
Eleanor Roosevelt MD tradition

by Ricky Quintana

GREENBELT, MD March 10, 2003 -- Larry Colbert can't remember the number of
championships he's won in his thirteen years as Head Track Coach of Eleanor
Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt, Maryland.

" I can't tell you how many I won, but I can tell you how many I lost, " he says matter of factly. The track and field program he's built at Eleanor Roosevelt has won a staggering number of awards and titles; twenty-four indoor and outdoor Maryland state titles, 26 county indoor and outdoor championships, and 22 regional indoor and outdoor championships since 1989.

Larry Colbert at 2002 Penn Relays, where he coached and also ran in the masters 100 meters.
photo by Donna Dye

In speaking with Colbert, one sees there's more to him than championships
and titles. He's quick to point out the number of student athletes he's sent
to college and the number of college graduates he's produced as well. One
also realizes that his love of coaching extends beyond the Roosevelt campus.
His Glenarden age group program has 300+ members who come from all over
Maryland, Virginia and the Metropolitan area to be a part of his highly
competitive team.

Next week, Colbert brings his high-powered Maryland state
championship team to the NSSF Nike Indoor Championships to be held at Prince
George's Sports and Learning Complex on March 15th and 16th. The meet is one
that he has been attending for some years now. He and his athletes are
looking forward to the competition. "It's a great meet. They get to face the
best athletes and it gives them the exposure they need to get into college," he
says.

Colbert, himself, a successful master runner, stumbled into the sport at the
ripe old age of 35. An aching back suffered from a horse falling on him at
a young age, left him looking for therapy and running was the best thing for
him. Coach Stan Mullen, who still coaches him today, spotted him and the
rest is history. He was recently inducted to the Master's Hall of Fame for
his accomplishments on the track that include four still standing world
records.

His coaching career coincided with his rise as a master runner. With no
training partner, Colbert had to come up with innovative ideas to improve
his training. One workout had him chasing his young son up a hill on Delwood
Ave, the street that he lives on. His son would willingly participate
because Colbert would tell him that the workout was a "game." Soon there
were six boys wanting to "play." Colbert thought it was a good idea to take
the young runners to the East Coast Track Championships held on the Towson State
campus. Colbert made an event of the trip, buying the young boys uniforms
from K-Mart and entering them as the "Delwood Ave Striders." The boys, never
having had any formal training or track experience, were over matched. One
attendee told Colbert that one of his boy's form was horrible. They returned
home beaten, but the boys had fun and Colbert drew pleasure from the
experience.

On the following Monday, Colbert heard a knock on his door. He found one boy
asking about the "Delwood Ave Striders Track Club." Colbert replied that
there was no such thing, but the dye was cast. Colbert, never one to turn
anyone away, decided to accept the challenge and train the boys. Strangely,
in ending the story, he does not mention how they fared later on in track.
As is the case with most of his stories, he goes back to the covenant by
which success is judged in the Glenarden Track Club.

" Of those six boys, five went to college. The other went to the Police
Academy and is now an officer," he says with great pride. The Glenarden
track club now boasts 300+ members, an administrative staff, a booster club
and a coaching staff comprised of former members and that would rival most
college programs.

His beginnings at Eleanor Roosevelt were much the same. His son, again, was
the catalyst for the move to the high school coaching ranks. A member of the
track team, he asked his father if he would help out. Colbert who trained at
the Roosevelt track decided to. Initially assisting the sprinters, Colbert
inherited the program in 1989 and proceeded to win the boys' and girls'
state championship. He hasn't looked back since.

The national indoor championships hold a fond place in his memory. He's been
participating for quite some time now and remembers the early meets. He
recalls some of the great athletes he's taken including Suzianne Reid and
Jermaine Lewis (later a kick returner for the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens).
"Jermaine Lewis set the record at the championships in Syracuse and Suzanne
Reid also won the championship," he says with pride.

The meet is also a way to showcase his athletes to college coaches as they
compete against the nation's best. "They look forward to this meet
because it's another level of competition.
They see kids from California, Maine, Texas, and Florida, but they never get
to compete against these kids. When they get a chance to compete against
these kids, it motivates them. It moves them to another level of
competitiveness. That's why we go," he says.

This year, Roosevelt enters as the defending 4x200 girls relay team
champions. They are currently nationally ranked in the 4x 200m, the 4x 400m,
and the sprint medley relay Individually, their star is Tiandra Ponteen
who is the defending 200m champion. They also have nationally ranked 800m
runner, Crystal Anyanwu.

When asked what he tells his runners before the meet, he says "When you run
against the best, it will bring the best out of you. We are the state
champions now, but we want to be the national champions. That's the focus we
want them to have and we train them that way."

The meet also holds more meaning to him for another reason. As a member of
the coalition to build the Prince George's Sports and Learning Complex,
Colbert played a role in designing the facility which now hosts the NIC
Championships.

"The facility you see is what I thought a track facility should have. It's a
great facility!" he says with some bias.

As Colbert continues, he seems more interested in one of his most cherished
traditions he started years ago with the Glenarden team.
"We have a plaque that now has 55 names. Those are the names of our
Glenarden college graduates," he says.

Whatever the outcome of next week's races, Colbert will always have a
different perspective and memory of his athletes' accomplishments.

Nike Indoor Championships

 


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