|Northcutt ready for first state track meet|
|Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor|
May 11, 2006 - Halfway through his 800-meter race, Graham Northcutt's parents know where to look for their son - close to last.
But, they also know where the SSHS junior runner will end up one lap later - at the front.
Northcutt, whose regional-winning time of 1:57.19 was the second-fastest in school annals, controls the race from the back of the pack.
He did it at the Class 4A, Region II meet two weeks ago. He was in 11th place after one lap, then won it at the tape with an incredibly strong finish.
His placing at state after the first 400 meters probably won't change. Northcutt has the third-fastest qualifying time behind Noe Hernandez of Mission and last year's silver medalist Robert Worley of New Braunfels Canyon, who were both about half-a-second faster at their regional meet. But, all eight runners are within two seconds of each other.
"It's going to be a dogfight," said distance coach Andy Holt. "Graham has only gotten second in one race in the 800 this year - that was the first meet of the year after he had ran the two-mile earlier that day. Since then, he's been first, so he's a competitor.
"He's going to compete and lay it on the line and give it everything he has. I think he will do well because he's a competitor."
His race strategy of running from behind wouldn't work if he didn't have the fortitude it takes to run his second lap almost as fast as his first. At regional, he ran a 57-second first lap and 60 seconds on his final lap.
Northcutt said he would like to shave a second or two off his first lap to be able to cut his time down.
"I want to go out just a little faster on my first lap, a second or two, because I know everybody else is going to go out fast," Northcutt said. "If I am in dead last, and I probably will be, at least, I will be close enough to them to catch them.
"I'm probably more focused on the place I get, and hopefully a good time will come with it. I'd like to run 1:57 or better, and I'd like to medal. My goal is to get a medal."
In winning the regional meet, he knocked out last year's state bronze medalist, Aaron Isham of Lancaster, and edged Dallas Lincoln's Alan Reed, who was sixth at state in 2005.
"Graham has a strategy. He ran his race at the regional meet," Holt said. "He didn't get caught going out too fast like some of the other guys, and I think that's why he was able to make such a dramatic turn around. He was in next-to-last and then made his move. He likes to make his move after the first 400, get in there and then in the last hundred, give it everything he's got."
That's what it takes to win at state, where some 20,000 people will be watching when the 800-meter runners take their marks at 6:40 p.m. Friday at Mike Myers Stadium on the University of Texas campus in Austin. This will be Northcutt's first state track meet, though he has ran in two state cross country events.
"I'm excited and pretty nervous too," Northcutt said, "but I think I'm ready."