"Pigeon-toed, bowlegged . . . I don't know what you'd call it," saidOld Mill junior Rocky McMillan, trying to describe the way he has walked ever since he can remember.
His left foot is fairly straight as he walks, but his right foot dips sharply inward, "about 6 inches," Old Mill track coach Ron Evans says.
McMillan's right knee bends slightly, and his upper torso swings a little as he makes his way through the Old Mill High hallways.
McMillan, who finds humor in his footsteps, said his classmates call him "the robot" "because my feet look like one is going right over theother."
But as the Anne Arundel County Sun's 1991 Male Track Athlete of the Year, McMillan flows across the hurdles as gracefully as his gait appears awkward.
"Everybody cracks on my feet and the way I walk -- and it's funny," said McMillan. "I've seen baby pictures, so my feet have always been that way. It feels natural to me, like I'mwalking straight. But when I first started running track, I was like'I better not run too fast, man, I might trip over my own feet.' "
So far, however, McMillan hasn't missed a beat.
Having won county and regional titles this year in both the 110- and 300-meter hurdles, McMillan has developed a steadfast, reliable method of clearing the hurdles.
He stretches his lead left leg forward and snaps his trail right swiftly up and over.
"When I run the hurdles, my coachestry to tell me to bring that foot up flat across the hurdles -- but I can't do that," said McMillan, a 5-foot-10, 155-pounder. "Somehow, I get it up far enough that even if it's hanging down a little bit itgets over and never hits the back."
Until his picture appeared inthe paper this year, McMillan had not taken a good look at the way he runs -- and when he did, even he was surprised at the way his foot looked as he sped down the track.
It's a wonder, said McMillan, that Evans recognized his abilities when he first sauntered onto the track as a freshman.
"I got on the track and the first thing Coach Evans said was 'You've got natural talent as a hurdler.' Nobody ever told me that before," said McMillan, who also ran the leadoff leg of the Patriots'county and regional champion 400-meter relay team.
He led the 800 relay team to a county runner-up finish and third place in the regionals but admits the hurdles are his specialty.
"When I got out there as a freshman and started running, I liked running right away -- but I especially liked the hurdles," said McMillan. "Anybody can go out there and run, but hurdling is askill."
After winningthe 110 and 300 county titles in 14.5 and 39.9 seconds, respectively, McMillan's times worsened, though he still outclassed the field at the regional championships.
In the states, however, he was disappointed after being shut out, except for a third-place finish in the 300 hurdles. The 300 champion from Wooton crossed in 39.07,just ahead of McMillan's personal best.
"He got on the bus and told (sprinterscoach Bob Halsey) to work him harder next year," said Evans, whose Patriots tied defending Class 4A state champion Eleanor Roosevelt for the title. "That's something he would have never said as a freshman or sophomore."
Said McMillan, an indoor state champion in the 55 hurdles: "I thought I could have done better for the team, but I'm still glad the boys won the states."
With McMillan, Evans could count on some valuable points, especially in the Patriots' narrow, 135-132 county championship win over Meade, where the speedster won three gold medals and led the 800-relay team to a runner-up finish.
"This was a year when all of our best athletes had to do a lot for us, and Rocky was certainly no exception," said Evans. "He's a good example ofthe hard work and the training. He's become very focused to do well.And when the gun goes off, he's going to come after you."