Team Balance Key To Red Devils' Rise To Division Throne Rancocas Valley Has Put It All Together. Leaders Are Hurdler Edgar Gantt And Sprinter Terrance Howard.

Posted: May 15, 1998

In dual track meets, having one standout athlete, or two for that matter, doesn't guarantee much. Dual meets are won with balance. Rancocas Valley has it this spring, and that's why the Red Devils are 8-0 in the Burlington County League Liberty Division.

They clinched the title with a defeat of Holy Cross on Wednesday.

``That's what we've been able to do this year, put it all together,'' said Rancocas Valley coach Joe Holland. ``Usually, we've been good in sprints or distance or here and there, but we never have outstanding performers in all the areas.''

The Red Devils' outstanding athletes have been hurdler Edgar Gantt and sprinter Terrance Howard, the Inquirer's South Jersey offensive player of the year in football.

``Terrance, you can put him in four events and he can win all four,'' Holland said. ``Edgar, you put him in three track events and he'll win all three.''

Rancocas Valley's strength goes far deeper than that. Eric Todd, one of the better distance runners in the county, earlier this season set the school record in the 800 meters. Shot-putter Joe Hayes, distance man Mike Kutch, sprinter John Caffee, and pole-vaulter Mike Cramer also play significant roles for the undefeated Red Devils.

They were among the 18 letter-winners Holland brought back from last year's team, and they formed the heart of what Holland calls ``one of the best teams we've put together since the late '70s.'' Indeed, although the Red Devils won the BCL Patriot in 1995, when there were three BCL divisions, this is the first time the team has won the large-school Liberty title since the 1970s, Holland said.

The future, both immediate and long-term, is a tough call for Rancocas Valley. Dual-meet prowess is not always the best forecaster for the championship meets, such as the Burlington County Open tomorrow. And next season, Holland will be without all the athletes named above - Howard, Gantt, Hayes, Kutch, Caffee and Kramer - because they are graduating.

``I'm looking forward to the Burlington County Open and sectionals,'' Holland said. ``It's been a great ride.''

Win-win situation. Wednesday's Haddonfield Invitational wasn't simply another meet for Sterling's Marc Maccario. The senior was defending his 100-meter and 200-meter titles from last year's invitational and also trying to complete an undefeated run in the two events through his team's nine Colonial meets and the conference championship.

``When you're undefeated, everyone's trying to get you,'' Maccario said. ``This is what they wait for.''

They'll have to keep waiting. Maccario outgunned West Deptford's Cameron Atkinson, Haddon Heights' Shawn Price, and Woodbury's Paris Minor in the 100, and came back to outdo Haddon Township's Jan Hoover and Minor in the 200. The 100 was a fantastic race, with two-tenths of a second separating first-place Maccario, who won in 10.8 seconds, and fourth-place Minor (11.0). He is the first boy in the meet's nine-year history to repeat in the 100 or 200.

``He has the ability to pull away in the last 15 yards that's pretty amazing,'' Haddonfield coach Nick Baker said.

Reluctant record-setter. It started as a speed workout. A little more than four minutes later, Murad Campbell was the owner of a school record and an Olympic Conference meet record in the 1,600 meters.

Overbrook's silky-smooth junior ran the event in 4 minutes, 14.6 seconds Wednesday on his home track to beat the Olympic Conference meet record by nearly three seconds. And to think Campbell all but screamed and kicked on the way to the starting line.

``I didn't want to run the race. I kept asking [coach Larry Brown], `Why can't I run the two-mile? Why can't I run the two-mile?' '' Campbell said. ``My coach put the mind-set in me that this is just speed work. I didn't expect to beat the meet record.''

Two Fridays ago in the South Jersey Track and Field Carnival, Campbell beat Pleasantville's highly regarded Joe Lewis in the 800 when he turned in a time of 1:54.22. In the Olympic Conference meet, he again showed that he excels in more than the 3,200, the event in which he captured first place in last year's Meet of Champions.

Campbell's considerable talents weren't really on display in the Olympic Conference meet. With the Camden County meet and East Coast Relays looming tomorrow and Monday, respectively, Brown opted to run Campbell in only the 1,600.

It turned out to be one heck of a speed workout.

A natural. Woodstown's Chris Loufik set a pair of meet records in last week's Salem County championships. Loufik set standards in the 1,600 and 3,200 and also took the 800. The Wolverines earned their first county title since 1993.

Loufik, a junior, won the 1,600 in 4:34.0 to break the mark of 4:36.4 set 12 years ago. He won the 3,200 in 10:20.2, breaking a 1991 record of 10:25.6. He took the 800 in 2:08:0.

Woodstown coach Nate Watson calls Loufik ``the best distance runner I've seen'' in his 15 years at the school.

Watson hopes that Loufik, who has won six county titles and last year advanced to the Meet of Champions in the 3,200, can go under 4:30 in the 1,600 and 9:45 in the 3,200.

``He's a natural,'' Watson said. ``He'll train himself and he just runs and runs and runs. He never says it's too much for him.''

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