`The fast girl' is in race with her sports destiny

Profile: Lacrosse is Robyn Mincher's love, but running track at Annapolis has made this teen-ager get tough.

February 02, 1999|By Christopher Yasiejko | Christopher Yasiejko,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

She was smiling now, chatting freely about her big day. Her hair was pulled back. With the pinkish hue on her cheeks and a soft coating of sweat, it was obvious she had been exerting herself physically. Still, she was hardly out of breath.

Robyn Mincher, a 5-foot-9 senior at Annapolis, wasn't finished yet. In her Annapolis track T-shirt and lacrosse sweatpants, she laughed, talked about how track isn't even her best sport, then surrendered to her teammates, who were yelling from across the gym at the 5th Regiment Armory for her to come to the final relay event.

She already had run three events -- two individual races and one relay. She had successfully defended her Anne Arundel county title in the 500-meter run. Before that, she placed third in the 300, an event not normally in her repertoire.

By day's end at the recent meet, Mincher wore four medals. She did it all with an injured left heel.

That's the kind of athlete she is. Seventeen, and already she's bossing her body around like it's privy to her approval.

And track isn't even her thing. Lacrosse fits that bill, just like it has since she was 11, when her mom introduced her to the sport. Even soccer ranks higher on Mincher's list than track. At Annapolis, she is a starter on all three teams.

Lacrosse is obviously her beau. It's apparent when she speaks -- "I like lacrosse so much more," she says, nearly giddy at the thought. It's apparent in her performance -- Annapolis, at 20-1, was the 1998 state champion, anchored by Mincher and her twin sister Lauren at defensive wing. The team rarely allowed opponents to come within a 10-goal margin.

It's apparent by glancing at her future. Two weeks ago, after entertaining offers from six other Division I schools, Robyn Mincher was eating dinner when her mother told her American University lacrosse coach Maureen Scott had called. Mincher, who had fallen in love with the team and the school after a one-day visit, jumped to the phone.

American, for all its charm, isn't cheap -- tuition rounds out to about $28,000 a year.

"Turns out," Scott told her, "you don't have to pay a cent to go here."

Mincher, uncharacteristically, was winded.

Her mother started crying, hopping about the room with Robyn. Thanks to a combination of lacrosse and financial aid dollars, Mincher had secured a full ride.

But her accomplishments haven't saturated her head. In fact, Mincher can be downright mean to herself.

She has that nemesis of a quality -- self-doubt -- that can either take an average athlete to the top, or bring a gifted performer back to earth. Track, she says, coupled with its nature of individual competition, hits her with a cinderblock of stress.

"I put a lot of pressure on myself," Mincher says. "I try to go into every race confident, but I end up freaking out sometimes. I've always been that kind of person who'd rather play with a team -- I like to run relays more than run by myself."

Nonetheless, she says track gave her the tools she had been lacking in lacrosse. Yes, it honed her speed. But perhaps more importantly, track forced Mincher to fend for herself. It made her aggressive.

Three years ago, she joined the track team because her coaches and teammates had always commented on how fast she was. Indeed, opponents on the lacrosse field more often knew her as "the fast girl" than by name. For a while, so did some of her teammates.

Now, as she prepares for the regional championships Feb. 10 at the Armory, she's one of the stars.

"When something's on the line," says Mike Ballard, her track coach, "she's the girl I want holding the baton."

With Mincher's help, Annapolis won its first-ever girls indoor track Anne Arundel County title. After she finished third in the 300, the pain in her heel brought her to a flood of tears. Ballard told her the options: Stop now and miss the 500, or stop crying and race.

She raced, and she won. For the second straight year. And it's not even her sport.

"She doesn't really know what time she's running," Ballard says. "She just knows nobody's gonna beat her."

Pub Date: 2/02/99

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