Old Mill hurdler Rocky McMillan and Chesapeake shot-putter Mattie Cymek literally were worlds apart last summer, but their unwavering work ethic in the off-season delivered similar success in indoor track.
Cymek, the Anne Arundel County Sun's Indoor Track Female Athlete of the Year, devoted her free time to the weight room at Chesapeake High. McMillan, selected as Indoor Track Male Athlete of the Year, spent his vacation in a more tranquil but equally exhausting environment,running the beaches and surf of Bermuda's scenic shorelines.
Despite the contrast, both environments spawned state champions.
Cymek's throw of 40- 1/2 was far shy of her best, but easily held up against the rest of the field at the state meet earlier this monthat the 5th Regiment Armory in Baltimore.
"I was disappointed thatI didn't break the record at the states, but it was still nice that I won," said Cymek, who snapped a seven-year record with her throw of41 feet at the Maryland National Guard Games and set a county standard with a heave of 40-5 1/2.
"My strength is what carried me this season, because my technique isn't all that good. All those power squats, power cleans and dead lifts paid off."
McMillan, a 5-foot-11,165-pound senior, successfully defended his county, region and statetitles in the 55-meter high hurdles, pacing Old Mill's boys team to a clean sweep of post-season competition.
"Running on the beach really built up my endurance, and it made my legs bigger because I had to adjust to the sand," said McMillan, who has relatives on the islands off the North Carolina coast. "I would run up the beach and into the water doing high knee steps with the waves hitting, and it helped build up my coordination and balance."
At the helm of Old Mill's multichampionship squad was veteran Ron Evans, the Anne Arundel CountySun's Indoor Track Coach of the Year. Evans' boys team "nickel-and-dimed" its way to county, region and state titles, while his girls squad captured the county and region crowns before finishing third at the state meet.
"When you've got a team that can, and maybe even should, win the states, it's a responsibility more than it is fun," Evans said of his boys contingent. "It may be fun for the kids, but as a coach you have to do things right. It's a responsibility, it's a relief and it's over."
Coaching a team the size of Old Mill -- it takes three school buses to transport the Patriots -- has both its advantages and disadvantages, as Evans will attest.
One advantage is obvious: The more athletes you have, the more spots you fill. Old Mill was represented in 23 of 25 events at the state meet.
"One problem is that our practices are fragmented," Evans countered. "We have those doing hurdles, pole vault and high jump in the gym on Monday and Wednesday nights, and the runners will come in the afternoon, so we have split groups.
"As a coach, it's hard to get them to pull together for meets when they're rarely together as a group."
As an athlete, the pressure to repeat can be just as unnerving. Just ask McMillan.
"I had a lot of pressure on my shoulders from winning states last year," he said.
"People kept saying, 'You were a state champion,and you have to win again.' I just dropped that pressure and just concentrated on running."
Evans credits McMillan for displaying mental toughness and said he tried to convince his lone individual state champion that the team's fate wasn't riding on his shoulders -- though, mathematically, it was.
"The biggest pressure on anybody is thefear of failure," said Evans, 48.
"If someone thinks, 'We're going to lose if I don't win the state championship,' it makes them timid.
"What I had to do with Rocky was convince him that there were kids who were good enough to beat him, and that if he ran a poor race, he was going to get beat."
Always one to keep things in perspective, Evans refused to take full credit for his team's accomplishments this season.
"If this 'Coach of the Year' thing has an accuracy at all to it, it's me accepting it on behalf of my three assistants," hesaid, referring to coaches Leon Walters, Pete Rogers and Bob Halsey."It's a great group of guys, and they're all positive people."
And where would Evans be without them?
"Playing golf," he said matter-of-factly. "I couldn't do it, and I wouldn't do it without them. Ifthey weren't here, I'd be gone."