Man of Steele
This article appears in the March 2005 edition of SchoolSports magazine.
Edino Steele admits it wasn't too long ago that he was sort of a punk. He wasn't doing well in school. He considered himself a big track star. And he pretty much thought he was the man.
The 5-foot-9, 155-pound Kingston, Jamaica, native now knows he was not.
"My father says, ‘A humble man will always succeed,' and he's right," says Steele, a national-caliber sprinter and a senior at Pacific High, which does not field a track team. "When I was a freshman and sophomore, I used to be a showoff. I wasn't focused. That continued into last year, when I did so poorly in school I had to transfer (from Sheepshead Bay) to Pacific to take advantage of the less distracting environment and smaller classes.
"I think the real wakeup call for me came last year at nationals (the 2004 adidas Outdoor Championships)," adds Steele, who competes in area open meets for the Zenith Velocity club team and in national scholastic meets as an unattached runner. "I went there thinking I'm kinda good and I got destroyed."
Of course, Steele may have a slightly warped perspective of his performance.
All he did at adidas last June was finish fourth in the 200-meter dash (21.56) and seventh in the 100 (10.74), making him the fastest non-senior in the 200 and the second fastest in the 100 (behind All-American J-Mee Samuels of North Carolina). And that was after missing his scholastic indoor and outdoor seasons as a junior because of academic ineligibility and a school transfer.
Be that as it may, Steele sucked it up a month later and ripped off something more to his liking, finishing second in the 100 and winning the 200 at July's Blunt East Coast Invitational in North Carolina.
First, he cranked a 10.4 in his 100-meter semifinal heat, giving him one of the top 20 high school times in the nation and one of the top 50 IAAF World Junior times in the event last year. Then, his 20.99 in the 200 prelims gave him one of the top 15 prep times in the nation and one of the top 40 World Junior times of 2004.
"He's a gift from God," says Trevor Green, coach of the Zenith Velocity club team, noting that Steele was the USA Youth Championships winner in both the 100 (10.89) and 200 (21.24) last summer. "He's on another level as far as how good he is and how good he can be."
That's pretty impressive considering the guy's high school doesn't even have a track or a team. On weekdays, Steele makes the 15-minute walk from Pacific or hops the No. 53 bus to Brooklyn's Pratt Institute track, where from 5-8 p.m. he does the one thing he really loves in life. He runs.
It was by no means easy to get him to this point.
"He was too caught up in himself as a runner, and he was in trouble," says Green, 34. "What we've taught him is to be humble. We've taught him he needs to keep school in order, and we've taught him that just like he came out of nowhere and whupped up on everyone late last summer, the same thing could happen to him any time. He saw that with his own eyes at the high school nationals last year. He learned that being good in New York is just not enough."
Steele, who immigrated to the United States in 1997 and lived in Massachusetts until 2001, credits Green and the Zenith Velocity squad with his turnaround. The team takes care of him. Whether it's teammate Jean Pierre, who picks him up for school every morning, or sprinter Walter Smith, who engages him in heart-to-heart chats, or sprinter Joseph Blair, who invites Steele to stay over at his house all the time, the Velocity have Steele's back.
"It's a dream come true," says Steele, who turned 18 on Jan. 6. "Coming to Pacific and running with this club has been good for me. Coach Green gets me focused, and my teammates help me keep my head on straight."
Of course, speed solves a lot of problems all on its own.
Steele, who says he's leaning toward attending Brooklyn's St. Francis College next year, kicked off this indoor season in spectacular fashion, winning the Open Division 300-meter dash at the Metropolitan Athletics Congress Holiday Classic.
Though he nursed a right hamstring strain for most of the rest of the indoor season, Steele's rout of an impressive collection of collegians at the MAC Classic is a good indication that this outdoor season might be his national coming-out party.
"My top-end speed is what sets me apart," he says. "My first 90 meters are solid in the 200, but if I'm even with anyone at the start of my last 110, I'm gone."
"His speed and acceleration are unmatched," says Green, who previously spent one season as the head track coach at Rice High and guided the Raiders' 4x200 relay to a city and state title. "He takes people out of their race. They try to run with him, then all of the sudden, they're running his race. It's his determination and acceleration that amaze you. He does not like to lose."
Steele admits there's a part of him that wishes he could consistently race against scholastic competition — according to Green, the PSAL won't allow him in races because Pacific does not field a team — but he insists that facing elite competition every time out is his best preparation for the future.
After all, a sprinter has to believe he can beat anyone.
"It is kinda hard being a high school kid that can't even run high school meets," says Steele. "But I think I run better under pressure than against lesser competition. If I were in a race against Maurice Greene, I think I could beat him. You have to think that way."
Even a humble man has to show the heart of a champion if he wants to be one.