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On a hot streak

Wharton's track standout heads into next month's state meets with a winning attitude and an undefeated record in sprints. And he's also going to Notre Dame in the fall to play football.

By TERRY JONES

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 1, 2001


PEBBLE CREEK -- Most of the fastest college athletes are recruited from warm weather states that allow year-round outdoor sports.

photo
[Times photo: Mike Pease]
Although he has only been at Wharton for a year, Dwight Ellick's winning attitude earned him praise from his coach.
Wharton senior sprinter Dwight Ellick may be an exception. After winning the 100-meter and 200-meter state track championships last year in New York, his family moved to New Tampa last summer.

Since joining the Wildcats this year, he has not been beaten in any sprint event in Hillsborough County or in the prestigious Bob Hayes Invitational Track and Field competition, running against sprinters from more than 140 high schools. He won the 200-meter race in the Bob Hayes meet on March 17 in Jacksonville.

Actually, the New York speedster is partly a Florida product. His father, Gerald, was a high school track star from Belle Glade who moved to Syracuse, N.Y., to marry and start his family.

"We all wanted to be closer to my grandmother," the Wharton athlete said. "I could have stayed in New York with family and friends, but I love being near my grandmother. There are a lot more quality athletes in Wharton than my school in New York, but I guess with my dad, I have enough of the Florida speed to stay ahead of most everyone."

Ellick's speed and athletic skill were recognized by many Division I colleges from his sophomore season in both football and track. He placed second in New York in the 400-meter race as a sophomore.

Notre Dame, Michigan State, Syracuse and Ohio State were just a few universities seeking his signature to play defensive back or running back in football.

Even though the Wildcats' football team didn't challenge for a state championship this season, his first on the team, many of the big-time Southern colleges sought his services. He settled on Notre Dame and will go back north in the fall.

"I selected Notre Dame for several reasons," he said. "No. 1, the quality of education, plus the exposure I can get in football there. They have a great schedule and are on national television every weekend. My folks can always see me."

Ellick loves to compete. When he joined the Wildcats, head coach David Watson said he automatically improved the performance of the whole team. Watson said Ellick brought in a contagious attitude.

"Dwight brought a whole new level to our team. He brought an attitude," Watson said. "As great as he is, he is not cocky. He sets goals, he is smart and he works extra hard. He is also polite. He knows how to say thank you and he listens to his coaches. The attitude he brings is one of winning. He simply does not accept losing, and his teammates are getting it."

Watson thinks Ellick is talented enough to play professional football.

His fastest electronic time on the 100 is 10.6; on the 200, it's 21.34 -- and Ellick's coach is confident those times will improve.

Ellick also helps his team on the long jump, triple jump, 4x100-meter and 4x400 relays. He could be the spark that helps undefeated Wharton become a contender in the state run next month.

He says he wishes he had one more year to play football at Wharton and another year of track.

"I have just the greatest teammates here at Wharton," he said. "They are talented and fun to compete with. I encourage them not to just run to win, but run to win big."

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