To build a successful high school track and field program, let alone a national-caliber one, takes time and patience.
But to maintain a consistent power takes a whole new practice: Skill.
And that's the hope out of DeMatha Catholic (MD) High School, where a strong tradition of athletic success in other sports--basketball and football--is now making a national crossover over to the track.
In 2015, there was Darryl Haraway, an elite sprinter who became the program's first outright superstar and who later went on to become an All-American at Florida State University. He owns the team's indoor 55m (6.24) and outdoor 100m (10.20) and 200m (21.00) records. He finished third in the 60m at New Balance Nationals Indoor in 2015, the team's highest individual place ever.
This year, the returning third-place 4x200-meter relay squad at NBNI returns not just one but a handful of high-yield athletes in the sprints, including two-way athlete Nick Cross, a four-star Florida State University football commit who's starting to get the itch for fast times.
"DeMatha Catholic has always had a great track program," said Buddy Crutchfield, 62, in his third year leading the Stags boys program's at the school. "But coming here and knowing the football and basketball programs were No. 1, it was a tall task. Saying that, it was an easy task, because most of the kids who played those sports also want to run track.
Crutchfield spent around eight years coaching at Good Counsel High School in Olney, Maryland, and produced some good teams, his best even competing at The Penn Relays.
By day he works as an administrator at a Washington, DC, Charter School that helps young teenagers and adults in the juvenile system work toward earning their GEDs.
"I have a lot of kids who are down and out and who have been kicked out of school and homes," said Crutchfield, who's coached for 30-plus years. "I have to say, it's really fulfilling job helping them find their way."
And in 2019, the Stags have all the signs of a deep squad. Right now seven boys are under 7 seconds in the 55m and six are under 38 seconds in the 300m.
Cross, who was eighth in the 60m at NBNI last year, opened his senior campaign with a win at Bishop Loughlin in the 55m (6.44).
Crutchfield is hoping to turn his green sprinter--Cross is just in his second year running track--into the same kind of talent Stewart became last year.
"He has seen what track has done for him," Crutchfield said of the senior two-way athlete. "He knows how well he can run."
When Crutchfield arrived at DeMatha Catholic in 2017, Stewart was coming off an outdoor season where he ran 11.65 in the 100m and 24.53 in the 200m--essentially average times.
But within two years Stewart improved dramatically, finishing with a wind-legal high school PR of 10.69 and 21.42.
"I always tell our kids, 'Trust the Process," Crutchfield said. "A lot of things my coaches will them, we tell them, 'You have to trust the process.' My son is really fast. And he can be fast. But right now he's running 12.2 or 12.3 in the 100m. That's not fast. But we can make him fast if he trusts the process."
Seniors Damon and Deion Green agree. The duo has been with DeMatha Catholic from the start of their high school careers. Damon, who holds the team's fastest 300m time of 36.27, recently gave up football, while Deion is just starting to get the track and field bug.
Both know that in order to improve, they have to listen to their coaches.
"As long as the season goes on, we just focus on what they tell us to do and we trust it," Damon said. "Hopefully by then we get our times down."
Deion added: "Everyone is really hungry. We don't want to drop off. We compete every day in practice."
But for every individual success, there's also a team component. With so many athletes vying for the same type of success and respect on the track, ideas become synonymous. Getting the call to be on the team's 4x200 relay 'A' squad has become a coveted honor for most athletes.
A year ago, the program set a school record of 1:27.55, with Stewart as the team's anchor. At Bishop Loughlin, the DeMatha Catholic boys threw down a 1:29.32.
Crutchfield said he still hasn't found his 'A' squad, but a few members of the boys team are headed to The VA Showcase from January 19-20 and the coach said he may finally reveal who his ideal team is when pitted against the likes of Bullis School (MD), Western Branch (VA) and others.
The thing is, though, the coach truly believes he can field two championship-level squads by the time nationals rolls around in March. At The 25th Hispanic Games, a handful of athletes ran significant times in the 55m.
"I can honestly say that I have two teams ready to qualify for nationals," he said. "We have 12 kids who I know can run at least 22 in the 200m."
Only time will tell if DeMatha Catholic can remain consistent at the highest level, but Crutchfield and his coaching staff are starting to build a up-and-coming program from the Northeast.
His long-term vision, as with any coaching opportunity, are to make his team as best as it can be.
"My goal is to continue making and developing very good athletes," Crutchfield said. "In the next 4-5 years, I'm hoping the track program will thrive and become one of the best in the nation."
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Cory Mull is a national editor for MileSplit USA. You can contact him at email@example.com or on Twitter @bycorymull