Anna Mitchell, a senior forward for Centennial's basketball team, participates in the latest edition of Varsity Q&A with the Howard County Times. (Jon Sham/Baltimore Sun Media Group video)
After her team lost early in the playoffs to Baltimore Poly last winter, Centennial's Anna Mitchell was intent on leading the Eagles to a more successful season her senior year.
Mitchell, who is also an all-county soccer player and talented singer, has a diverse range of interests. But for the next six weeks, her focus will be undiluted.
With her team in the thick of a heated battle for the county championship, Mitchell talks about the race for the title, the chemistry of her team, the challenges of being a two-sport athlete, and her plans beyond high school.
There are five teams at the top of the county all in the hunt. What's it like being a part of that?
It's awesome. After last season we lost six seniors, so I wasn't really sure what to expect coming into this season except that I knew that I was going to give it my all to make this team work ... being in the top part of the county with the confidence that we can beat any team in the county is just amazing ... I'm just super proud of my team, and we're not done yet.
Last year you placed second in the county standings and then didn't go as far in the playoffs as you would have hoped. What was the end of last season like?
I had built an incredible relationship with my teammates who I had been playing with for three years ... Those were my best friends. It was very heartbreaking to lose. We might have said it was because we had a tough bracket, but if our goal was to win a state championship, which it was, we were going to have to play them anyway. ... This season we have that same type of intensity.
Kimmy Eads has been here on varsity since freshman year with you. What's it been like growing with her?
She has incredible leadership skills. In games when they might have been shutting me off, she steps up every single time. In the locker room, she's the one getting us all hyped up before the game. We were both the freshmen on varsity three years ago, which is crazy. She has grown so much over the years. Our sophomore year, we played AAU together for a season which helped us build our chemistry, and it was really fun.
On the other end of the spectrum you have a freshman, Kelly Simmons, who is very talented. What has she brought to the team?
I think Kelly was really the missing key for our team this year. We lost a lot of rebounders last year. Not only can Kelly rebound, she can shoot and she will take it in, and she's not afraid of the contact, which as a freshman I was afraid of the contact, I can say ... As a freshman I don't know if that was me stepping up as a leader. Over the years I've developed that, but when she's a freshman doing that, I think her potential is limitless.
You're also an all-county soccer player. What's that transition like, going from the fall and being out on the soccer field to being indoors playing basketball, mentally and physically?
Physically, the cuts are very different, and I did hurt my ankle during soccer season when I was playing basketball just because it's totally a different game. The great thing about soccer is that it gets you into great shape. Mentally it's a different game because there are 11 of you on the field in soccer. In basketball, there is no time for relaxing. You are always moving and you can't win with four people on the floor. Everyone who's on the floor has to be doing something.
What are you looking at for college in terms of academics and athletics?
I think my main option right now is to go to College Park and walk on for either sport. I might try to walk on for basketball if I make soccer. I love sports and I can't imagine not playing them in college ... I'm interested in broadcast journalism, so Maryland has a perfect school for me.
Where does your interest in broadcast journalism come from?
I love sports. When I go home I turn on SportsCenter because all I want to do is watch sports. I don't really watch a lot of shows. I'm interested in all sports, and it's really all I think about. I want to be in a career where I can focus on sports, and I think being in broadcast journalism would be awesome if I can be down on the field. Going to games is fun for me, so getting to meet all the players would be awesome. I enjoy public speaking too, so I think its a perfect career for me. I'm just really excited to get into it.
What are your favorite teams and athletes to follow?
My favorite athlete is Lebron James. He's definitely my role model. I watch him more than anyone. Being a Cavs fan is a little hard right now, but I also watch Maryland sports, which can be frustrating sometimes, but they're doing well this year in basketball, which is great. It's hard having a favorite team sometimes because I find myself rooting for the other team because I just want it to be a good game.
I started taking singing lessons three years ago when my aunt asked me to sing at her wedding, and I just kept going because I enjoyed it. I also sing at my church. I go to a Swedish church — I'm half-Swedish — so I sing in Swedish a lot. I don't devote a lot of time to it, just because sports take up most of my time, but whenever I get the chance. And I sing in the shower. I enjoy it a lot, and I definitely plan in college on getting involved in either an A Cappella group or some sort of a choir.
Who are some of your favorite performers?
John Mayer is my favorite singer. I've seen him in concert and he is awesome. James Morrison and also Sam Smith. My mom and I sing along with him all of the time when he comes on, we just love him.
Do you have any siblings?
I have an older brother (Andreas). He's 23, and he graduated from Centennial in 2009. He was the cross country captain. He runs marathons now. He went to Washington University in St. Louis, and he's now at Harvard Medical School. He's a really bright kid and super supportive of me. He's so proud of me and I'm so proud of him. He said that he wishes he could be as athletic as I am, but I think that he was probably more athletic than me with all of the running he does.
Not a lot of people know that I speak Swedish fluently, and I do go to Sweden every other year to visit my grandparents and my aunt and uncle who live there. I have been writing short stories since I was 7 or 8 years old.
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I tried playing lacrosse with my friend Dani (Wilson), who is committed to Franklin and Marshall to play lacrosse, so I asked her to show me how. I was passing with her and wound up and threw the ball straight into her eye and gave her a black eye. I decided never to play again after that. I decided that I'm cursed, so that was it. I would have loved to play volleyball if I could have, but soccer is the same season.
Playing two sports, how do you stay healthy?
I'm so thankful that I've been able to avoid injury. Also, I give myself a few days off every once in awhile. I definitely tell people, just take a day.
Was there anything else that you wanted to mention?
Our awesome coaches (Bobby Macheel and assistant Ashley Lyles) have been with me for four years, and I'm so thankful for them because they have helped push me so much, and I've developed so much over the years. I used to not be able to use my left hand at all, and now I feel pretty confident using my left hand. I know they would do anything for me. We started from not very much to one of the top teams in the county.