Bryn Mawr produces two of a kind

Cross country: The Mawrtians' Nyam Kagwima and Laura Drossner are eyeing Wednesday afternoon's IAAM final at Oregon Ridge.

October 27, 2002|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,SUN STAFF

Bryn Mawr's Nyam Kagwima and Laura Drossner followed the same detour before emerging as two of the area's elite high school cross country runners.

They went through the pool.

Both began swimming competitively by the age of 6 and only recently did the two All-Metro first-team athletes decide to focus on running.

Kagwima set several national age-group swimming records in her native Kenya before moving to Lutherville in 1997. Drossner qualified for several zone meets while competing with the North Baltimore Aquatic Club.

At Bryn Mawr, they turned to running to cross-train for swimming, but they quickly warmed to the new challenge - and they enjoyed quick success.

Kagwima, now a senior, won the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland title her first two years and finished second last year. Drossner, a junior from Towson, ran second as a freshman and sixth a year ago.

Wednesday afternoon's IAAM final at Oregon Ridge should feature one of the best races of the season with Kagwima, Drossner, defending champ Glenna Sullivan of Maryvale, her twin Kelly Sullivan and several other contenders. Kagwima outkicked Kelly Sullivan in the regular-season meet two weeks ago to win by nine seconds.

For Kagwima and Drossner, the early cross country success compelled them to take a critical look at their swimming.

"I reached a certain point [in swimming] where it would take so much more effort for me to get a lot faster as opposed to my running," said Kagwima, who no longer swims competitively.

"I started running in middle school, but I didn't take it seriously. Then it hit me that I feel like I have potential. By the way I've improved over the years, I see there's a lot more I can get out of it, and I want to see how much I can get out of my running."

Drossner continues to swim with NBAC, but, like Kagwima, she plans to run in college.

"I just have a genuine love for running," Drossner said. Her forte is track, where she has won two IAAM titles at 3,200 meters.

"I like running more, because it's something new. I love the team aspect of it, and freshman year I was really excited about it, because I was able to win races and I still had three years left to go."

As similar as their backgrounds are, Kagwima and Drossner, who both carry 3.5 grade-point averages, have developed vastly different running styles.

The more reserved Kagwima is the more instinctual runner. Drossner, outgoing and talkative, likes to experiment and strategize.

Kagwima's calm, businesslike manner belies her competitive nature.

"If you watch her just walking around," said Mercy coach Randy Fowler, "you'd say, `Here's a nice, shy kid,' but when she gets on that starting line, she turns into a tornado."

On the other hand, the fiercely competitive Drossner is a student of the sport. She likes to talk strategy and reads everything she can find about running.

"Laura has a lot of guts," Fowler said. "She has a look in her eyes you can see from a mile away. She's a very smart runner, very calculating."

Kagwima gears her training toward the big meets while Drossner goes all out all the time. Drossner has never beaten Kagwima in a major cross country meet, but often wins the smaller league races.

During the past three years, Kagwima and Drossner have elevated Bryn Mawr to the ranks of the state's elite cross country programs.

"When you put those two together, you go from being formidable [as a team] to being downright lethal," Fowler said. "When we go against them, we have to go on all cylinders and just hope they have a bad day."

But bad days are few for these two.

Kagwima won the Peter Geraghty Invitational at Mount St. Mary's and finished second at Hereford's Bull Run this fall. Drossner finished second at the Geraghty and sixth at the Bull Run.

"They push each other and that makes it harder on other teams," said Bryn Mawr coach Jason George, whose team won the Geraghty meet and the girls elite Bull Run race. "If they have somebody good, they have to focus on two people and Laura might take the race out at a fast pace. It creates more of a challenge for other teams."

Ranked No. 1 for most of the season, the Mawrtians fell to No. 4 only after their dynamic duo missed the Anne Arundel Invitational - Kagwima on a college visit and Drossner with an injury. Led by solid No. 3 and No. 4 runners Ashley Campbell and Ellett George, the Mawrtians nearly won that race, too, finishing second by two points to Mount Hebron.

The Mawrtians head into the IAAM championships as heavy team favorites. In the past three years, they have won every regular-season title as well as the 1999 and 2001 championship meets.

Jason George, in his third season as Mawrtians head coach, said one of the things that has solidified the friendship between Kagwima and Drossner has been their focus on the team. He gives them a lot of credit for helping to bring the young runners along.

"They're pretty exceptional in the sense that they realize that no matter how good they are, we won't be able to meet all of our goals as a team and a program without their leadership."

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