By Kevin Wilson
Since 1996, Largo High School head track Coach Darryl Hamilton and Assistant Coach Michael Roberts have won countless county and state championships, with the support of former Largo Lion runners lending a helping hand. This 2A track and field program is a national powerhouse. And, this year, the Lions have a great runner who has been ranked number one in the 500 meter event during the year.
His name is Marcelle Preston.
Marcelle got his start in track after a friend, John Hightower, needed a relay runner on his summer track team. John’s mother called Marcelle’s father, Michael Preston, to inquire whether Marcelle could participate. Then just 11 years old, Marcelle joined Track Express.
That first summer track practice was an unforgettable experience. Everyone had to jog around a nearby college campus and three baseball fields, twice. “I was actually fast,” Marcelle said.
For the next five years, the slender speedster competed in the Junior Olympic Nationals for Track Express in the 100 and 200 meters, 4×100, 4×400 and the 4×800. “I enjoy the 200 meters the most,” Marcelle told High School Illustrated. In the 100 meters, he placed 8th as a Nationals representative in 2008.
Growing up, Marcelle was shy, and extremely soft-spoken. He played football, his first love, from ages 8-12 for the Kettering Largo Mitchellville Cougars and the Lake Arbor Seahawks. He began enjoying track in the 11th grade.
That same year Marcelle suffered a devastating blow, straining his right hip while competing in a 4×200 relay. He was out of practice eight weeks and missed his sophomore year of indoor track.
Marcelle transferred to Largo High, where his brother Michael and sister Parris graduated before him. Sister, Parris, starred on the Lions’ 2011 regional state basketball championship team.
In his new environment at Largo, Marcelle quickly bonded with his mentor and primary track coach, Vaughn Haywood. Discipline and paying attention to his coach and mentor, Mr. Haywood, were the key factors that opened the doors to Marcelle’s rapid success at Largo. It seemed that Marcelle matured overnight. Marcelle believed in Mr. Haywood’s philosophy and Mr. Haywood believed in Marcelle. “He changed my personality, my outlook on life, he instilled in me that I am a good person, I can go to class, I am a respectful person, and he encouraged me to take advantage of track,” Marcelle explains.
Marcelle departs for school at 7:25 a.m., takes his required academic course load, reports to study hall at 2:25 p.m. and practices from 4-6 p.m. Most of the time, he completes his homework during study hall. When he arrives home from practice, he’ll stretch, ice his legs, shower and watch some television. He loves English, and he is an avid reader.
Prior to his races, Marcelle listens to music on his headphones, or jokes with friends to relax. Admittedly, when he’s in his lane, he’s a trash talker to opponents he knows. “I really let my feet do the talking,” he concluded.
The first time Marcelle competed in the popular Penn Relays, he felt nervous. He ran the first leg in the 4×400 meters. “It’s in your mind to know that you can run with anybody,” Marcelle said.
He admires Olympian Tyson Gay’s running style and he considers Antonio Coleman (Bowie High) and Rico Gomez (Frederick Douglass) as his main competitors. For the past two years, in the 300 and 500 meters, Coleman and Gomez have challenged Marcelle to the end of each race.
“I love competing against him, he helps me to get better, it’s a friendly rivalry,” said Coleman, a junior. Coleman’s coach, Richard Andrulonis, added that Marcelle was an outstanding talent and well respected by athletes.
As a junior, Marcelle won the 2013 Prince George’s County Outdoor Track and Field Championship in the 100 meters (10.90) beating Brenen Garrett (11.03) of Henry Wise, and by twice defeating Devonte Williams of Frederick Douglass in the 200 meters (21.81) and 400 meters(48.49)
“I didn’t think he could do it, but after I saw his performances, I nicknamed him the showstopper,” said Haywood. Marcelle being named 2013 Gazette Athlete of the Year Outdoor Track caught no one by surprise.
Marcelle electrified the crowd at the 2014 Virginia Tech High School Invitational indoor meet, running impressively (1:03.93) in the 500 meters, becoming the best in the USA. On Jan. 16, he won the 2A finals indoor title in the 300-500 meters at the Prince George’s County Sports and Learning Complex. To finalize his indoor season, Marcelle won the MPSSAA 1A/2A State Championship in the 300 meters, with a time of 34.79 on Feb. 17.
“My family and I are extremely proud of Marcelle. Coming from a family of athletes, we know what it takes to be on top. Watching my little brother stride across the track into first place, I think in my head, wow, he just can’t lose a race, can he?,” said Parris Preston..
The college offers are rolling in from Mississippi State University, Penn State, South Carolina, Delaware, Tennessee, to Maryland. “They all have good 4×400 teams,” Marcelle said. Playing football again is a desire. He will major in computers and possibly minor in communications. With that radio-television voice, why not?
Outdoor track season is in session with seventeen to twenty meets. Coach Hamilton feels great about Marcelle’s success. “It shows that hard work pays off, it’s a big lift for our program, and for future kids who will be coming to Largo to run track,” Hamilton said.
Marcelle’s philosophical approach is clear: listen to what adults tell you, pay attention to your mentor and stay focused. When the kids and student peers pass him in the hallway, they say, “You’re No.1, you’re going to the Olympics.”
Marcelle takes everything in stride. And, for Vaughn Haywood’s remedy for helping Marcelle believe in himself, simply boiled down to building a rapport and trust. With those two ingredients, Marcelle Preston is thoroughly equipped for the next level.
Some FUN FACTS About Marcelle Preston
Q. What’s your favorite food?
A. Shrimp and Chicken Alfredo
Q. Who’s your favorite teacher?
A. Mr. William Chatman at Riverdale Baptist. He taught Algebra 1 and Law 101.
Q. What’s something that people don’t know about you?
A. I would say that I have great ability to talk and give motivational speeches, even though I’m a quiet person.
Q. Where is your favorite social hang out?
A. I would say at the Motorcycle Shop or Auto Car Shop. I’m just in love with cars and bikes, ever since I was a young boy. Just hearing the exhausts and trying to figure out how big the engine, how many liters and the max torque on a car is exciting.