Sisters place 1st and 18th at State Championships
The brisk winter air even cuts through winter jackets, but 20 students are running on the Blair track in shorts. The students have just run a mile for a warm-up when Cross Country and Indoor and Outdoor Track Coach Carl Lewin calls the team over for the day's assignments. Halsey and Ashlyn Sinclair stand outside the circle, listening to the running schedule. Within minutes they are off, sprinting down Colesville Avenue to Lanark Way for another day of practices.
The Sinclairs are identical twins, who, after only one full year of competing on the Cross Country and Indoor and Outdoor Track team levels, have become two of the most successful runners in Blair's history. They have already become some of the most decorated Blair athletes, constantly blazing past their peers at the County, Regional and State meets.
Stellar performances over time
In the 2004 Cross Country season, Halsey and Ashlyn finished first and second respectively in meets against Quince Orchard, BCC and Gaithersburg High Schools. Halsey set a course record of 20:10 at Quince Orchard's course, which is considered one of the most challenging in Montgomery County.
Throughout the season, both Halsey and Ashlyn placed near each other, both finishing in the top 10 of each regular season meet. The two sisters continued to dominate in the post season as well. In the County Championships this year, Halsey set a new course record with a time of 18:28, breaking the record of 18:45 she tied last year. Her sister finished only 12 seconds behind in fourth place, and under this strong leadership from the Sinclairs, the Blair team finished high enough to advance to the Regional Championships.
At the Regional Championships, the sisters continued to perform well, almost sending the team to States. Halsey again finished in first with a time of 19:15, but due to a fall during the race, Ashlyn ran a 20:06. Overall, however, Ashlyn finished in fourth place. Although the team narrowly missed a chance to advance after tying Walter Johnson, both sisters were able to run independently in the state meet because they finished in the top 15.
At States, the sisters placed highly against tough competition, but both sisters were dissatisfied with their times. Halsey still managed to finish in first place for Division 4A at 19:52, and her sister placed 18th at 21:38. Even so, both sisters still thought there was room for improvement. "Although I was successful, I was disappointed. I wanted to do better," said Ashlyn after the meet.
At the end of the season, Halsey was named as a member of the The Washington Post's All-Met team, while her sister was an honorable mention. Halsey was also named Athlete of the Year by The Gazette, while her sister was named to the All-Gazette Cross Country team.
Both sisters already have higher aspirations for next season, hoping to improve on this year's progress. Halsey won the State Championship, which she said was "really my only goal." Her sister, on the other hand, felt that she failed to reach her goal time of 17:30 in at least one meet, but she did finish within the top five runners in half of her meets. Ashlyn says that she has always "wanted to be at the top" since the beginning of the season and will continue to strive to meet this objective next season. In addition, Halsey hopes "to protect my state title," while Ashlyn hopes next year to reach the Foot Locker Regional Meet, where some of the best runners come from the East Coast to compete.
Good genes, practice and determination
The sisters grew up in a family of runners, which they feel has helped their progress along the way. The Sinclairs' older sister and father ran at the amateur level, and Ashlyn thinks her family's knowledge of running and competing has pushed her to succeed. Their father ran at the high-school level, which prompts other Blair students to say that the twins' stellar performance has been pre-determined by their genetics. Ashlyn, Halsey and their coach, however, disagree.
Before competing in high school, both sisters were members of their middle school's track club. When they entered sixth grade, Halsey and Ashlyn joined the club along with their older sister. Although Halsey had wanted to be a member and "liked it from the beginning," Ashlyn felt otherwise. "I actually really didn't enjoy it. My mom signed me up because my sisters wanted to run, but I kept with it," she says.
Despite their athleticism, the twins failed to make the roster of the JV girls' soccer team in their freshman year. They soon joined the Cross Country team in the fall and after only one year, became the most decorated runners in Blair's history. In their freshman year alone, the girls placed first and third at the Regional Championships and then second and fifth at the State Championships.
Lewin attributes their successes throughout the season to their determination, stating that they were two of only a few players who came to practice every day. "They might not have liked what they were doing each day, but they still took it very seriously," he says.
Both Ashlyn and Halsey agree that practice has been essential to their high level of performance. "No matter what your genes are, how hard you practice determines how fast you go," says Ashlyn, adding that she and her sister are also driven by an intense desire to succeed. "I do the best I can every time, whether I am racing against myself or my competition."
Junior Josh Gist says he enjoys running with the two sisters because they represent the team well. "They're both great runners. They work really hard. Probably harder than anyone else," he says. "They really are an important part of this team. Their great runs really represent us well."
Lewin agrees with Gist, calling the sisters an "intricate part of this team." He says he expected them to succeed and that Halsey and Ashlyn expected themselves to do well this past season as well. "They performed just as we thought they would."
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