Jennifer Murach doesn't usually have a lot to say. Her brother Kevin, on the other hand, is rarely at a loss for words.
But once they get on the pool deck, they practically switch personalities. Jenniferturns into a chatterbox, and Kevin doesn't say a word.
"They just deal with pressure differently," explained Bel Air swim coach Janus Shimp. "Right before the race, they both get focused. They think about what they're going to do. They know what they want todo."
Jennifer, 15, and Kevin, 17, are versatile swimmers. Except for a brief break before high school, they have been swimming competitively over the past eight years.
Both prefer the sprints, but they will swim any event for Shimp.
The defending county champion Bobcats remained unbeaten Thursday night after beating Edgewood, 267-200, with Joppatowne (134) third.
Jennifer, defending county champ inthe 100-yard freestyle, won the 100 breast stroke and was second in the 100 butterfly. Kevin finished second in both the 100 individual medley and the 100 breast stroke. Both helped their teams to victory in the 200 freestyle relay and the 200 individual medley relay.
Veterans of several local clubs, including the Northeast Y and RASAC, both made zone teams when they were younger. Kevin reached the top 16 nationally in the 50-meter breast stroke as a 10-year-old. They compete for the Knights of Columbus Orchard Swim Team (KCO), one of the topclub teams in the state.
During the high school season, the Murachs practice about four hours every weekday afternoon. After a couple of hours at Bel Air practice, they make the commute to Towson for a couple more hours of practice under Reds Hucht, who has coached KCO for more than 50 years.
Hucht said Jennifer is the best sprinter among the girls on his team.
Last weekend, she finished sixth in her specialty, the 50 freestyle, at the Retriever Classic at the University of Maryland Baltimore County in Catonsville. Although she has posted faster times, Jennifer's performance was a good one, especially since she just moved up to the 15-18 age group.
"Stepping up an age group -- if you hit the finals, you're doing real well," said Hucht.
Jennifer's next goal is qualifying for the U.S. Swimming Junior National Championships coming up in late March. She is close in the 50 free. Her best time has been 24.86 seconds, but she needs to lower that to 24.59 seconds to meet the qualifying standard.
Hucht said Jennifer could easily reach that standard, but that it's hard to tell when. "Swimming is a strange sport, because you can't plot a curve. It's more of a plateau. All of the sudden, you'll drop from one plateauto another. When Jennifer makes her next drops, she probably get there (Junior Nationals)."
Kevin hasn't always been as dedicated as his sister in recent years. But has worked harder ever since he broke the county high school record for the 100 breast stroke earlier this season.
"Kevin has a lot of natural ability," said Hucht. "He's well coordinated, but when he was younger and even now, he doesn't liketo work hard. He likes to do it the easy way. And in swimming, thereis no easy way. In swimming, you get what you work for. But ever since he broke that record, he's been sort of inspired."
Kevin's record time of 1:03.50 faces a constant challenge. In one of the most competitive events among county swimmers, Kevin's top rivals, Sherwin Sapasap of Edgewood and Ryan Stallings of C. Milton Wright, threaten his record every week. Sapasap, a freshman, held the record before Kevin.
In Thursday night's meet, Sapasap beat Kevin but barely missed the record, finishing in 1:03.51. Kevin was well off his best time, posting a 1:04.99.
Coming up Thursday, the Murachs and their Bel Air teammates face a rematch with John Carroll. In their closest meet of the season, the Bobcats edged John Carroll by two points. The meet,which also includes Havre de Grace, begins at 5:45 at the Magnolia Middle School pool.