Nike Indoor National Championships

March 11th & 12th, 2006

Prince George's Sports Complex - Landover, MD


By Pete Cava, National Scholastic Sports Foundation


January 25, 2006 -- Mention America’s First Lady from 1933 to 1945, and inevitably Franklin D. Roosevelt comes to mind.   

Talk about the track team at Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt, Maryland, and the conversation turns to fast women.

Sprinters, that is. 

The Raiders are renowned for speed, the way Boston is synonymous with the bean, the cod and the Red Sox.

Yet last December 3, Eleanor Roosevelt finished a surprising eleventh in the team standings at the Nike Team Nationals in Portland, Oregon.  

Eleanor Roosevelt runners tearing it up at a cross-country race?  Isn’t that like General Motors introducing a line of iPods?  Or a Vegan menu at Outback Steakhouse? 

For years, Eleanor Roosevelt girls have excelled at the National Scholastic Sports Foundation’s annual Nike Indoor Nationals – but always in sprint events.  The Raiders won the 4x200 meter relay in 2002;  the sprint medley relay and 4x400 relay in 2003;  and Tiandra Ponteen won back-to-back titles in the open 400 in 2002-2003.    

On last year’s high school indoor lists, Eleanor Roosevelt athletes produced national-caliber performances in the 4x200, 4x400, 4x800, sprint medley relay, the open 300 and the 55 meter hurdles.

But in the longer events?  Nothing.  Zilch.  Nada.   

Larry Colbert, Eleanor Roosevelt’s venerable track and field coach, said the Raiders’ seven-member squad at the Nike Team Nationals consisted of one senior (Tunisha Milner), a pair of juniors (Marika Walker and Jennifer Redman), one sophomore (Dominique Lockhart) and three freshmen (Teshika Rivers, Tyreka Arrington, Angelita Yarborough).  

“These are very young athletes,” added Colbert, who described the school’s newfound distance success as “tremendous.” 

The turnabout began when Desmond Dunham joined Eleanor Roosevelt’s coaching staff.  “He came on board the year before last,” explained Colbert.  “He’s the one who actually works with the middle distance and cross country kids.”

Colbert said Dunham has moved Eleanor Roosevelt’s distance program to a new level.  “He’s done a fantastic job,” said Colbert.  “This was a sprint school until Coach Dunham came in.” 

Dunham hails from Gary, Ind., and qualified for the Indiana state cross-country meet in 1989.  In college, he ran everything from 800 to 10,000 meters for Bill Moultrie’s Howard University track squad.  Dunham majored in education and remained in the D.C. area after graduation.  He currently teaches health and physical education at a public elementary school in Washington.    

Upon joining Colbert’s staff, Dunham saw potential.  “My initial year at the program,” he said, “we had a group that basically dedicated themselves to aerobics and training.  I’ve gotten most of the girls to buy into the fact there has to be an aerobics foundation.”

Perseverance and hard work paid quick dividends for the Eleanor Roosevelt cross country squad.  In 2004 they took second in the Maryland state meet’s 4A division.  This past year they finished first. 

The continuing improvement earned Eleanor Roosevelt a berth at the Nike meet, where Walker’s 20th-place finish in 20:56 led the way for the Raiders.  Rivers wasn’t far behind in 26th place at 21:02, followed by Lockhart (51st), Redman (67th), Arrington (112th), Milner (113th) and Yarborough (138th).    

Dunham offered capsule commentary on each of the seven runners:

“Tunisha Miller had phenomenal sprint speed but lacked an endurance base.   She’s willing to do whatever it takes.  She’s my captain now.  She has great leadership ability.

“Marika Walker is very dedicated and committed.  She broke her ankle playing soccer her freshman year.  Last year she was runner-up in the 3200 at the state 4A meet.  She just continues to improve.

“Jennifer Redman probably has the least natural talent of our top runners, but her work ethic compensates.  If we had a scale of who works the hardest and puts out the most effort in practice and competitions, she’d be at the top.

“Dominique Lockhart is a very talented athlete and a hard worker.  We wanted her to add one more thing to the equation – running with a killer instinct.  She was a very pivotal runner for us the whole season.   

“We’re still trying to figure out where Teshika Rivers came from.  We had no idea she would run to the level she ran to.  We were really impressed with her overall performance.

“Tyreka Arrington was someone we thought would start off on the junior varsity, but she wouldn’t be denied.  It’s a big thing, making the varsity lineup, and she set it in her mind that it was something she wanted to accomplish.

“This was Angelita Yarborough’s first year competing in cross country.  She ran for Coach Colbert’s Glendarden Track Club and wasn’t used to doing aerobic work.  It was a hard adaptation for her, but the other girls kept her motivated.”

Pointing to his team’s cumulative 3.45 grade point average, Dunham said:  “We have a group of girls who want to be successful not only in track, they want to be successful in life.  A lot of our girls realize the sport isn’t the end-all, be-all, but it can provide opportunities they might not have, otherwise.” 

On January 19, Eleanor Roosevelt won the county title at the Prince George’s Sports and Learning Complex in Landover.  They’ll be contenders in the Maryland state indoor meet and, on March 11-12, the Nike Indoor Nationals.  The two meets will also take place in Landover.

At the Nike meet, Dunham foresees competitive Raider relay teams in the 4x800, sprint medley and distance medley.  Nothing is etched in stone just yet as far as the distance races go, he said.

Dunham wants his runners to focus on effort at meets, and not place.  “But,” he added, “we believe as a product of our efforts, we’ll emerge as one of the powers in the middle and distance races.” 


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