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Hubs freshman makes elders take notice

May 22, 2003|by ANDY MASON

We all know the politics of high school: It's cool to be a senior and not-so-cool to be a freshman.

Maybe the coolest thing about being a senior is that all those freshmen want to be you, while the only half-cool thing about being a freshman is that better times are around the corner.

North Hagerstown freshman Hemu Arumugam is one of the rare exceptions. His best times are better than those of most seniors, as has been the case on the track this spring for the 14-year-old distance runner.

Heck, Arumugam, who won't turn 15 until September, even has his own fan club, started by some of the girls on the Hubs' track team.

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"We just love Hemu and try to support him," said junior Jessica Hanlin, wearing her homemade "I Love Hemu Fan Club" T-shirt at last week's Md. Class 2A West Track & Field Championships. "He's so cute."

Sounds likes some upperclassmen should probably be taking notes.

Lately at least, they've been forced to take note of Arumugam, in their attempts to catch him.

Two weeks ago at the Washington County meet, Arumugam broke free from a pack of seniors late in the race to win the 3,200-meter title, one week after placing second in the event at the MVAL championships. Last week, he placed third at regionals, finishing less than a second behind winner Justin Myers of Middletown.

Still, Arumugam knows his place on the ladder, even though he's already battling for the top rung.

"I still look up to the seniors," he said. "I've learned from them, especially from Justin with his kick at regionals. You could tell he was a senior and I was a freshman."

But the discrepancy is not something Arumugam has given much attention.

"Just because I'm a freshman doesn't mean I shouldn't do well," he said. "And if I don't do well, it's not OK just because I'm a freshman."

Arumugam - the fastest freshman of all four classifications at last fall's state cross country meet - will face his most challenging test of the spring this evening, when he competes in the 3,200 state final at University of Maryland-Baltimore County.

If he achieves his goals, he'll have a place in the local history books to go along with a medal.

"I want to place in the top five," said Arumugam, who'll line up with a personal-best time of 10 minutes, 5.2 seconds. "And I really want to break 10. That's been my goal all season."

It's been 30 years since a Washington County freshman has cracked the elusive 10-minute barrier. Greg Holder, a 1976 Williamsport High grad, last did it in 1973.

However, Arumugam, who only began running to get in shape for basketball, is already looking at a bigger picture. He's not afraid to poke his head across the county lines.

"I'm not going to stop trying hard just because I do well around here," he said, "because when I look up stats, like out in San Diego, there are freshman that can really run. That's something that pushes me."

Very cool.




Andy Mason is a staff writer for The Herald-Mail. His column appears every other Thursday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2334, or by e-mail at andrewm@herald-mail.com

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