Lonnie Maull: a student and a sprinter who is gone too soon

October 21, 2022

Lonnie Maull - Sometimes nicknamed “Train,” Lonnie left this earth for the greater universe Oct. 11. Being born in 1963 makes him almost 60, yet he was always a nice kid in my memory. He was an athlete on my track team and a student in my class. He was quick out of the blocks both in the 100 meters and a 45-minute class period. If you curbed his enthusiasm for even a second, you needed to look for a new job. Unlike most sprinters who saunter and shuffle slowly when not racing, Lonnie floated through atmospheres both stale – inside – and brisk – outside. I could always make him laugh in less than 10 seconds. He was a 1982 Cape graduate, and I have a vivid memory of gathering a group of college prep seniors around a circle of tables and introducing the album “Hair,” a hard-hitting cultural phenomenon. The satire was crazy – somewhere between biting and hilarious – and it could make you uncomfortable. Lonnie was the only Afro American in the circle, but all these 1982 seniors grew up together and went to school together. There is a song called “Colored Spade” that introduced the character Hud, a “militant black man” who sings about racial slurs. I told Lonnie, “If this makes you uncomfortable, I won’t play it, and if you want me to stop, just say stop!” The song began, and Lonnie laughed. It went on, and he said, “Turn it off!” I reflect on that moment because I see the smart athlete kid from a small town surrounded by friends, part of a great family, yet harshness infiltrates the lives of all of us. I saw sadness in his eyes, like, “Why does the world even contain such harshness?” I followed Lonnie as an athlete, a quarterback who couldn’t throw and a point guard who couldn't shoot. But he was a prime-time performer because of leadership and quickness and intelligence; the game sped up and he went with it. Lonnie was a winner and a great teammate. And as a defensive assassin, he could drop the biggest rumbling runner like a bad habit. And he was one of my guys. A tribute to a departed sprinter ... gone too soon.

Who takes the hit - There’s a common expression heard from coaches, “I just have to do a better job.” It’s also called falling on your sword. “I’m only human after all, don't put your blame on me.” - Rag’n’Bone Man. Some situations in sports defy explanation; some teams habitually lose, but it seems they shouldn’t. I saw Caesar Rodney football lose to Cape varsity on Friday night 41-13 to go 0-7 on the season. The following Monday, the Caesar Rodney junior varsity team lost to Cape 34-0 to fall to 0-5 on the season. The varsity squad has 88 kids on the roster, while the junior varsity team has 29. There are 47 on the freshmen roster. A Sussex County accountant – a cock-a-later (chicken joke book) – knows that adds up to 161 players. There are a dozen coaches on the CR staff led by Dan Candeloro, a former Delaware State All-American. Everyone I know who knows Candy just loves the guy. Pundits become demographers – “the school population has changed” – or social psychologists – “the kids have changed.” And sometimes it's just hard to explain.    

Magical Mystery Tour - Dover hockey upset Cape Sept. 12, 2017, on their home turf and went bonkersville. I waded into their celebration to absorb the energy. I was the Cape guy and needed to be slapped around to feel my blue and gold unbiased bones rattle. Fans were surprised to see me, but shared their enthusiasm. I call it implosion therapy; if your worst fear is making someone’s season by losing to them, you should wrap yourself in the entire enchilada. Since that loss, Cape hockey has beaten Dover seven times, including two times in the state tournament, by a combined score of 44-0. Sports are just inexplicably crazy.

Snippets - I’m not sure if I’m chasing my own tail or losing my shadow at night; I just know in my life as a photojournalist, it is show up, then catch up later. And if my creaky crawler self can still do it, then the younger coaches and athletic directors can make sure their digital data is entered on the websites4sports database, the clearinghouse for scholastic sports results in Delaware. The system is in place; member schools just have to use it, to play ball, so to speak. Beacon field hockey is 7-0, having outscored opponents 70-0, with all those games played on a slow field. Mariner field hockey is also 7-0. The teams will play each other – some think it’s not a good idea – Tuesday, Nov. 1, at Champions Stadium to close out the season. All the Cape district middle school sports teams play each other at season's end, so check out to see how football, volleyball, cross country, soccer and field hockey have been doing. Shields came down almost level with the ground, and a new (third) middle school is going up, so I wonder where are all these kids coming from, because no young families can afford to live here that aren’t already here. Go on now, git! 


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