Sullivans, in tandem, get Maryvale off and running

Cross country: Twins Glenna and Kelly look alike when they run and have crossed the finish line together twice.

High School

October 01, 2002|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,SUN STAFF

Most of the time, Maryvale twins Glenna and Kelly Sullivan want to be seen as individuals, but when they're on the cross country course, it's OK to think of them as a matched set.

After all, the sophomores have crossed the finish line together twice this season. Last winter in smaller indoor track meets, their twin wins became regular occurrences in the 3,200 meters.

"We're not the same person, but we're like the same runner," said Glenna, who won the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference cross country title as a freshman while Kelly took third.

When they stand still, the 15-year olds are easy to tell apart -- Glenna wears bangs; Kelly doesn't. When they're racing, it's nearly impossible to tell the difference.

"They look alike, but they run more alike," said Maryvale coach Jim McCoach.

Their mechanics are the same and they run at the same pace.

"At the Goucher invitational, people were saying, `Come on, Glenna,' " Kelly said with a laugh. "I was like, OK, sure. Sullivan."

Last season, Glenna, a first-team All-Metro runner, regularly finished ahead of her sister, but Kelly has closed the gap.

Kelly has beaten Glenna twice this season, but Kelly would be the first to explain that Glenna has been slowed by a nagging ankle injury. Glenna sat out a tri-meet that Kelly won Saturday at Maryvale. She should return for tomorrow's quad meet at Archbishop Spalding and Saturday's Colonial Invitational in Williamsburg, Va.

When they're both healthy and they're pushed in a tight race, McCoach isn't sure which one might win. They ran 19 minutes, 38 seconds together on the 3.1-mile McDonogh course two weeks ago.

"What one can do, the other can do," said McCoach. "You can hardly get a dime in between them. If you look at their workouts at practice, it's like carbon paper. The only difference between these two is who feels a little better on a given day. It's two for the price of one."

The twins, who put the No. 7 Lions on the running map, don't mind finishing races together -- a strategy designed for days when the competition isn't too stiff and they would take first- and second-place points for the team whether they ran it out or not.

"We like it, because we run together at home and we talk," said Glenna. "It makes more sense to just run with each other. If we're pushing each other every race, then we're going to wear each other out."

That's on the cross country course. At home, it can be a different story.

"They're pretty competitive with each other in most things," said their father, Brian Sullivan, "but when the team is involved, they tend to surrender some of their individual goals more so than they would at home where the issue might be who gets the larger piece of pizza."

The girls started running with their dad, a former Loyola College lacrosse player and longtime recreational runner, when they were 9 years old. Their older sister Katie, a Maryvale senior who plays for the Lions' IAAM A Conference champion lacrosse team, didn't stick with running. The twins did.

Not much could stop them from making regular rounds through their Phoenix neighborhood.

"They're really tenacious. They would never want to take a short cut," said Brian Sullivan. "One time Glenna had a nose bleed when we had just started a run. I said, `Let's turn around,' and she said, `No, no.' It was wintertime and she had on a pair of her mother's red gloves. She just bled all over those gloves for the entire run."

Their love for running soon combined with a thirst for competition when they started entering 5- kilometer races. They regularly won their age bracket and sometimes won the race.

McCoach spotted them at a running camp at Calvert Hall when they were eighth-graders.

"I have never had anybody more determined and any better workout kids than these two," said McCoach, who has coached cross country and track for more than 30 years. "They are driven. You ask them to do something and it's done. They are good workers, and they come to run."

They come to have fun, too. Known as mischievous jokesters with boundless energy, they are popular with teammates, who sense the spiritual connection between them when they're racing.

"When one of them does well, the other feeds off that," said Lions sophomore Julia Clark.

The twins, A/B students who also play lacrosse, hope to run in college -- maybe together, maybe not -- but for now they enjoy doubling up on the competition.

The way they see it, they always have twice as many chances to win as anyone else.

"If she wins, I win. If I win, she wins," said Glenna.

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