BY JOHN BURBRIDGE
jburbridge@nwitimes.com
219.933.3371
| Monday, February 18, 2008 | No comments posted.

MERRILLVILLE | Long-time Chicago Bears fans likely don't have fond memories of Darrell Green.

The Washington Redskins' lockdown cornerback -- and recent Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee -- helped spoil the Bears' chances for a Super Bowl repeat in the divisional round of the 1986 playoffs when he returned a punt for a touchdown while hurdling a would-be tackler.

Bruce Thomas is a lockdown cornerback for Pierce Middle School in Merrillville. And like Green, Thomas is a pretty good hurdler.

I was kind of nervous, Thomas said after winning a gold medal in the sub-youth 55-meter hurdles Sunday at the AAU Northern Indoor National Track and Field Championships at Merrillville High School. This is my first national meet. I really just started doing this to get better in football.

Thomas is a member of the Merrillville Track Club. Another local club participating at the meet was the Lakeshore Jets. And Bishop Noll junior Ian O'Boyle earned the Jets two gold medals in the young men's 1,500 and 3,000.

During the 1,500, O'Boyle made his move with two-and-a-half laps to go and passed Michael Sanchez, who was leading most of the race.

I knew I had a lot of speed left, said O'Boyle, who also earned a silver medal in the 800. Once I took the lead, I felt confident I was going to win.

O'Boyle first-place time was 4:23.90. Sanchez finished five seconds behind for second place. O'Boyle's Jets teammate, Phillip Carter, took fourth in the race.

There were several national indoor records set during the weekend. Alishea Usery of St. Louis had two of them -- in the young women's 400 (57.4) and 55 dash (6.96).

I've run a 55 (in the 400 indoors), Usery said. But my 55 dash time is a personal best.

One of the more impressive records set came in the girls 55 hurdles, in which 11-year-old Alexa Harmon-Thomas of Lawrence, Kansas ran an 8.90.

My mom ran track, so that's who got me started, Harmon-Thomas said.

With there being no Southern Indoor Championships this year, Tika Slay of Villa Rica, Georgia endured a longer trip. But it was worth it as she took three intermediate girls golds in the pentathlon, long jump and 55 hurdles.

This is the first time I've been here ... it's nice, Slay said of Merrillville's indoor track facility.

Tim Huber, 13, of Portage competed in his first national indoor meet and took third in the 3,000 and fifth in the 1,500.

It's a real challenge going up against the best in the nation, Huber said. It makes me go faster.