Every team has back-of-the-pack runners, and that is exactly what Chris Brown was when he first joined the Good Counsel track team as a sprinter. But like many young men, Brown had a growth spurt and grew much stronger between his freshman and sophomore years. His newfound strength along with greater dedication earned him the role as the team's top sprinter his sophomore year. When sprint coach Buddy Crutchfield joined the team later into that year, the future began to look bright for Brown and the rest of the Good Counsel team.
Jelani Jenkins and Mike Wallace played football together ever since they were in the third grade. By the time they reached middle school, they were already aware of two other local football stars their age named Caleb Porzel and Durrell Miller. By chance, they all ended up playing football together for Good Counsel.
During their freshman year, the four athletes showed so much talent and leadership on the field that their coach nicknamed them The Four Horsemen. By their sophomore year, Jenkins, Wallace, Porzel, and Miller were all consistent contributing members on the varsity football team. Their efforts, however, were not enough to overcome the strength of the Dematha team, who defeated them in the WCAC Championship game for the third consecutive year. The four were disappointed but motivated to find an answer to Dematha's dominance. When they were approached by Crutchfield to join the track team to increase their speed, they believed that they had found their answer.
When Brown heard about the football stars joining the track team, he suspected that his role as the team's top sprinter might be in jeopardy. His suspicions proved to be correct when he found himself not even serving as an alternate in the 4x100 relay at the first meet. The Four Horsemen won the race at the Cougar Relays in 44.7 while Brown watched from the stands.
Durrell Miller suffered an early season injury and Brown was called upon to fill his spot in the 4x100 relay. In the next meet, they placed 2nd in 45.04, which was good enough for Brown to establish himself on the team for the rest of the year.
The highlight of the season came at The Penn Relays where they won their heat in the 4x100 relay in a time of 43.96. This overnight trip also served to strengthen the team's bonds.
Says Brown, "Rooming with them really let me get to know them on a deeper level instead of just knowing them because we were on the same 4x100 team. We have been great friends ever since then, and we always look out for each other."
All of the team chemistry, hard work, and dedication was still not enough to overcome the powerful Dematha 4x100 at the WCAC Championship Meet despite their season's best performance of 43.46. The next logical step was to turn to summer track and run under their high school coach Buddy Crutchfield on the Rockville Striders, but The Horsemen's football coach had other plans for them. He expected them to devote their time to football practice and weight training, but somewhere along the line, The Four Horsemen began to appreciate track as a competitive sport on its own. They had already achieved their goal of increasing their speed, but they found themselves dissatisfied. They wanted to get even faster. They had to see how fast they could get. And no one believed in them more than Crutchfield.
Crutchfield convinced the football coach to allow them to run summer track, but this would require a compromise on the part of the boys. Every day they practiced with the Rockville Striders for two hours in the morning. They would get a few hours off and head to football practice and weight training for several hours in the afternoon.
Balancing the two sports during the summer might take away from one or the other, but Wallace says, "Working extra hard at track is making me work extra hard in football."
Crutchfield laid out a rigorous summer schedule for his athletes. He put them against the best competition he could find. Every step along the way, he worked his athletes and challenged them to do more. He believed that they could be among the best in the nation if they put in the work.
They went to several meets and developed a summer rivalry with the New Wave Track Club, who also had speedy runners in the intermediate age group. This rivalry was fueled when New Wave was disqualified in the 4x100 at the Junior Olympic Regional Championship Meet. The Striders were awarded the victory for their performance of 42.59 before the title was returned to New Wave based on a DQ technicality.
Five months after outdoor track began at Good Counsel, Brown, Jenkins, Wallace, and Porzel found themselves at the National Junior Olympic Championship Meet in Walnut, California amongst the best athletes in the nation. Encouraged by their coach, they mingled with athletes from Houston and Los Angeles. They even nodded at the New Wave guys, acknowledging that both teams were there representing Maryland.
It was all business when race time approached on Friday. They won their heat by nearly a full second in their greatest performance to date, 42.45. They held the 3rd fastest time going into the finals, which also happened to be 0.01 seconds faster than New Wave's preliminary time. This was also a full second faster than their time at the WCAC Championship Meet two months earlier.
The boys got edged out by seven speedy teams in a very fast and very close race in the finals the next day. Their time of 42.80 was not their best, but they have no regrets. The horsemen from Good Counsel along with teammate Chris Brown are proud to say that they competed at such a prestigious meet. Just five months after outdoor track began at Good Counsel, Brown, Jenkins, Wallace, and Porzel stood on the finalist's podium with medals around their necks at the National Junior Olympic Championship Meet in Walnut, California.
Five months after track came into their lives, the horsemen will now devote all of their time to football. Caleb Porzel, who has emerged as the fastest sophomore in the county with a 100-meter PR of 11.06, is expected to be a top running back with his blinding speed. Jelani Jenkins and Mike Wallace, who play on both sides of the ball, will use their increased speed and agility to burn teams up and down the field. Durrell Miller will be a defensive force and will hopefully return for a healthy track season. Ironically, the long time track runner and soccer player Chris Brown believes that he may go out for the football team this fall because his relay teammates all believe that he would make an outstanding special teams player. The difference between this season and any other is that these players will complete their season in November in great anticipation for their new passion, track and field, and with that passion they will grow together and continue to achieve all of the glory that track has to offer.
1st Photo: Mike Wallace leading off 4x100 at WCAC Championship Meet; by Kevin Milsted
2nd Photo: 4x100 Relay after placing 2nd at WCAC Championship Meet, From Left to Right: Jelani Jenkins, Chris Brown, Caleb Porzel, Mike Wallace; by Maddie Bell
Third Photo: Caleb Porzel anchoring 4x100 at WCAC Championship Meet; by Kevin Milsted