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The First Ladies of Mercury Track Club

The First Ladies of Mercury Track Club

FEMALE, FAST, FURIOUS AND A FORMIDABLE FORCE

Mercury Track Club was based in the Bankhead/Hightower/Hamilton E Holmes Dr/Collier Heights Northwest side of Atlanta, Georgia and was started by Charles Rambo. For most young men, African American young males who ran track on that side of town it was almost like a rite of passage for many of the most talented runners in the world: Tony Rambo, Chuck Easley, Stanley Blalock, Emanuel Blakeney, Winfred Jordan, Riccardo Pritchett, Antonio Smith, Wayne Copeland, Dexter Hawkins, Allen Buford, Sam Graddy, Antonio McKay and one, whom many considered the fastest man in the world, Stanley Floyd. While Coach Rambo and his staff produced some of the best male track runners in the world, on the female side there were also a few women who achieved success in youth track from Mercury: Eudoia Rambo, Sherelle Brown, Marion Starling, Penny Nichols, Allison McCrary, Demetria Broadnax, Sylvia McAfee, Kathy Harrison, and Gwen Torrence to name a few. Check out the interview as some of these women talk of their great time under Head Coach Rambo and the Mercury Track Club Coaching Staff. One Major story and fact that stands out with the First Ladies of Mercury Track Club was the 1979 Youth Girls 12-13 age group 4x100 meter relay that set a National record in Los Angeles, California at UCLA. This quartet of young ladies traveled over 3,000 miles under the guidance and tutelage of Coach Charles Rambo. The first leg, Demetria Broadnax, could get out of the starting blocks and run a curve with the best of teenage girls in the country, the second leg was a long l egged, slenderly tall, Marion Starling, one of the premier sprinters in country in both the 100 and 200 meters in her age group and could stride the straight away like no other, the third leg was Sherelle Brown, a previous 400 meters National Champion, that help hold this group of young ladies together with strength and speed, and the fourth leg, Loula Bell Hubbard would bring this thing home for this great quartet of youth female sprinters. What a group of Young Ladies. 

 

Penny Nichols

FIRST FEMALE STATE CHAMPION IN THE CLUB

When I was 11 or 12 years old, I used to go to the gym (Ben Hill) where everybody used to go play ball, I saw a man with some little boys, and they were racing goalpost to goalpost. He had one little boy he called Red and that was his star, so I got on the side and started racing up and down and me and Red were neck and neck. So, he asked who was that he ended up giving me a ride home and talking to my parents so, that was my first experience with Mercury. We went everywhere to run Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Knoxville, TN., and Westminster High School. In those days for me running at Westminster High School in the Westminster Relays was like traveling out of town it was extremely exciting for a kid to be able to travel and run. One of most memorable experiences were a meet at Westminster, against this girl we called super chic. We were so used to seeing African Americans, and it was my first time seeing a Caucasian girl running with the speed, that most African Americans had. We had never run in the same heat before this, so I was standing on the side and Coach Rambo asked me what was wrong. I told him I didn’t think I could beat her, Coach Rambo said, “Run Your Race” and don’t look back he said if she’s going to beat you, she will be in front of you. I usually spit before the race, but I didn’t have any. When we started Coach was at the curve and I heard him say “pick her up”, I just ran, and I actually beat her. The discipline and belief that Coach Rambo instilled in me carries on through my life now. It was an honor to run for Coach Rambo, the opportunity allowed us to do things like compete in the AAU Junior Olympics, Hershey’s National Track and Field Championships. He was hard, he was fair, but his discipline really helped me. He was a father figure for a lot of us. It was a great experience to be a part of Coach Charles Rambo and the Mercury Track Club Family. 

 

Marion Starling

NATIONALLY RANKED SPRINTER and Relay Champion

Around 1975, I was in the 4th grade, and I met Coach Rambo at our field day, and he talk to my parents about me joining Mercury. He said he saw potential in me, so my parents and I went to practice at Douglass High School, and from there I was with Mercury. I excelled in running track under him. I ran the 100, 200, 4x100 and the 4 x400 relay. One of my most exciting memories was when we traveled to West Virginia for a meet at the time Bruce Jenner had just won the decathlon and the meet was hosted by Hershey Chocolate Company which went on to become the Hershey’s National Track and Field Championships. Being a part of Mercury allowed me the opportunity to interact socially and open-up, having moved from Texas. Coach Rambo taught us good sportsmanship, perseverance, hard work always paid off. I still l look up to him, as a person that I did not want to disappoint. I ran track for Therrell High School and one of my main competitors were Sherelle Brown, who also ran for Mercury. We would battle during our track meets and l et our high school coaches get in our heads. Coach Rambo pulled us aside at a track meet and said we aren’t going to tear each other down and there is enough for everybody. So, we would alternate which events to run if I ran the 100 this meet she would run the 220 and vice versa. I never trained with my school, and I would j just train with Coach Rambo. I actually never ran in college, but instead played volleyball due to knee injury. One word to describe my time with Mercury Track Club was love and protected, it was a safe place for me. We knew we could come to the coaches for anything and they would help you. That’s how it was, just a great place to be. 

 

Sherelle Brown

NATIONAL CHAMPION-Individual and Relay

I came to Mercury Track Club in the 6th grade, I started with Robert McFadden, his daughter and I ran track in elementary school together. It was real to participate with the track team, we had the opportunity to travel. If there was a place, they were giving away trophies, I was determined to win one. My motivation was to win a trophy and go out of town. How I started about track was interesting. I had a classmate who ran and got attention, so I felt if I could beat her, I would get noticed. Since having a stroke, I always used the teachings and things I l earned at Mercury Track Club. I l earned about courage, intestinal fortitude, and determination. I ran track in high school and college, and that basically, paid for me to go to school. I was one of the great runners out of Mercury, we were about comradery we wanted the best for each other. We went to St. Louis and won 25 of the 27 events at girl’s AAU Track and Field meet. We had talent like no other, in my opinion. Coach Rambo tried to pull out the best in you and he wouldn’t allow me to cheat myself. This is engrained in my head now, and I will not accept anything less. 


 

Euodia Rambo

NATIONALLY RANKED SPRINTER/HURDLER-Relay Champion

When I think about Mercury Track Club, I had two perspectives one was as a runner and one was the coaches’ daughter. Coming behind my brother who was a good athlete and worker, the expectations for me were different. The family aspect not including my biological family was so important, I grew up with so many great athletes, and we trained and pushed each other. It was a family how we pushed each other, the laughter, and the joy. I just do not see that now as much because people spend time hopping around. When we were home, we didn’t really talk about my training and Tony’s training, I think he wanted to separate the two. When practices were good it was very light, when it was bad it wasn’t so light. One thing about my dad is he allowed the other coaches to coach my brother and me. When we didn’t have effort, the other coaches said something, this gave my father a lot of respect from the other coaches. One of the best trips is when we went to the nationals that was a special moment, we went to UCLA, a place we saw on television. We went to Miami and competed in nationals. The most memorable time we shared was love for each other and all the coaches, and I was just another runner. 

 

Sylvia McAfee

NATIONALLY RANKED MIDDLE-DISTANCE RUNNER, HIGH JUMPER

I got my start with Mercury Track Club, and I call it a club because I was there for a very long time. I started at nine years old in the 4th grade, my father was a basketball coach and Athletic Director at Morehouse College. He and Coach Rambo had done a few projects together. One day he was down in the equipment room, and asked me, “Was I interested in running track.” As a little 4th grader, I did not know all the hard work that went into running Track and Field and being successful. Once my father agreed, I found myself running up and down the hall at the gym. I was really excited just to be asked to join the club, it was pure coincidence. If I would have gone to my mom’s office who also worked at Morehouse that day, I probably would have never run track. So, I went to first practice to get acclimated, I started doing all the drills and then started to participate in the different events. He ran what now they call events like 100, 200 and Coach Rambo would send us out with various coaches. He would put you in many things just to see where you fitted in at. He realized that I could run distance, so I ran things like the 800 and the mile. He also got me to try other things. I love the most the high jump, I held the record in the state of Georgia for 4 years in my age group. As Coach Rambo worked with me, he showed me form, how to breathe, holding my arms and finger placements. He had a certain way he wanted us to run for stamina and speed. More so anything, Coach Rambo was not just a coach he was like a second father to me. It was so many things that he taught that I continue to use today which is part of my DNA. I would spend the night at his house with his daughter, Euodia and Marian Stallings. There are a lot of stories not based on the track team, but personal stories. One story that sticks out was, Coach Rambo would take us to track meets and have us run several events. On this day I qualified for the state in the 880-yard dash, which is now called the 800 meters, the relay, and the high jump. He wanted me to get into a long-distance event and I really did not want to run, so I counted the number of girls to make sure I did not finish in the top six to qualify. As I was running, I could hear Coach Rambo screaming at me that I was not trying to run. He was so upset he suspended me from the track team and the state track meet and some events I had qualified for. He talked to my father and told him what happened and said he did not want to see me… (as a coach). At the same time Euodia was having a party, Coach Rambo called me and asked me was I still coming to the party. He said you still my daughter and Euodia’s friend that was completely different, that is my coaching thing that is not my father thing. If you ain’t here in a few minutes, I am going to pick you up myself. He was like a father, and I put him on an extremely high pedestal.