Coping with a sibling rival

Cross country: Young runners work to separate their identities, and classmates' expectations, from feats of better-known brothers and sisters who were standouts in the sport.

High Schools

October 17, 2002|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

Patrick Duffy knows what it's like to step out of a shadow and try to carve an individual identity.

Duffy knows because his path to cross country was created, in part, by his older brother Billy, a standout at Dulaney whose accomplishments on 3.1-mile courses earned him a spot on the All-Baltimore County team for three straight years and a position on the Bucknell University cross country team.

"Everyone always asks me, `Are you going to be as fast as your brother?' " said Patrick Duffy, a sophomore at Dulaney. "Everyone always compares us."

FOR THE RECORD - In yesterday's editions, Dulaney cross country runner Travis Knox was not identified in a picture with teammate Patrick Duffy. The Sun regrets the error.

Duffy isn't irritated by the comparisons, and he isn't the only area runner to follow in the footsteps of an older, successful sibling.

Jill Hugus' brother Paul was a two-time All-Baltimore County and 2001 All-Metro member who captured the Class 1A East regional championship for Loch Raven last season.

Brandon Hepner's sister Jessica was a 2001 second-team All-Metro selection who was the No. 1 runner of a C. Milton Wright squad that grabbed the Class 4A state crown in 2000.

Duffy even has a brother-in-arms in Travis Knox, whose brother Will was a two-time All-Baltimore County and a 2001 second-team All-Metro pick.

"I hear people say, `Will's so good. Are you going to be that good?' " said Travis Knox, a junior. "I'm like, `I hope I can be that good.' ... I'm just trying to be as close to good as he was."

The tale of younger players trying to be recognized for their personal achievements and not their older siblings is an old one.

In high school sports, the name game is perhaps more intense because the arena is smaller and the scrutiny narrower.

C. Milton Wright coach Donnie Mickey said much of the burden usually comes from unsuspecting classmates and fans at other schools.

"They're getting pressure from people in school who don't know the sport," Mickey said. "They think that just because your brother or sister was good, you have to be naturally good in that same sport."

River Hill coach Earl Lauer guided the Atholton girls team to three consecutive state titles between 1987-89 with the help of sisters Janet and Ellen Coffey.

Although both went on to run at Stanford University, Lauer said Ellen Coffey endured difficult comparisons to her older sister, who was named the Howard County Runner of the Year in 1987.

"Janet had gained more acclaim, and Ellen was just Ellen," Lauer said of the younger runner, who was chosen to the All-Howard County team twice. "I know that was frustrating to her because, even when she did what she did, those shoes were hard to fill."

Stereotypical thinking

Jill Hugus hasn't heard the whispers yet, but as she pointed out, that could be because she's not expected to match the times set by her brother, who now runs at McDaniel College.

Still, Hugus, a junior who is the No. 2 runner at Loch Raven, said any comparison would bother her.

"It's kind of like a stereotype. Just because you're related to someone doesn't mean you're going to be like them," she said. "Paul and I have a lot in common, but we're very different."

Jessica Hepner shared her knowledge of cross country with Brandon, who has moved from No. 8 on the depth chart last year to the No. 5 position this season at C. Milton Wright.

For the same reasons as Hugus, few people have tried to compare Brandon Hepner to his sister, who runs at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington.

"People who know me and my sister will say, `You are your own person," said the sophomore. "People who see our names in the paper will say, `He must run fast because his sister ran fast.' But we each have our own goals."

Patrick Duffy wasn't even interested in running. Last fall, he was a member of the Lions' soccer team and took up indoor and outdoor track because his brother "basically forced me," Duffy said.

Not surprisingly, both Patrick Duffy and Travis Knox have adopted their brothers' running styles.

Like Will who runs at American University, Travis Knox relies on his speed to set the pace and offer the challenge to his competitors. Patrick Duffy has Billy's strength to wait for the right time to make his surge.

And both said they won't be upset if the comparisons start piling up. They admitted that they use their brothers' times and accomplishments as points of motivation.

"It's an encouragement," Patrick Duffy said. "It actually makes me want to be as successful and as good as him."

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