When Suzette Mullings and Donna Mullings arrived at Howard High last September, everybody assumed they were sisters.
No wonder. Both transferred from Jamaica and both hit the area track circuit like a tropical storm.
Through most of this season, one or the other or both have posted the top metro area performances in six events. Both are top sprinters while Donna is just about unbeatable in the jumps.
Even with sore hamstrings, each won three medals at Thursday's Howard County championships.
Donna won the 200-meter dash and set a meet record (18 feet, 2 1/2 inches) to win the long jump. She already holds the county record at 18-5. Her injury held her back around 35 feet in the triple jump. That was good enough for second place, but she jumped 38-8 earlier in the season to set a county record.
Suzette won the 100-meter dash and ran on the winning 4x100 relay team. She also finished second behind Donna in the 200.
Along with their individual success, Suzette and Donna have combined with Kym Morehouse and Tominka Howard to form the area's top sprint relay team.
Their best time of 47.21 seconds in the 4x100 broke the old county record by more than two seconds and is nearly four seconds faster than the next best time run by a metro-area team this season.
The foursome set the record while finishing seventh in the Championship of America relay at the 100th annual Penn Relays at Franklin Field in Philadelphia two weeks ago.
In their first appearance at the Penn Relays, Suzette got the better of some of her old teammates from Jamaica.
"I expected them to do well, but I expected our team to do well," said Suzette, a senior. "Before we ran I spoke to the girls and they said they would beat us, but we beat them."
Getting used to their new surroundings has been an adjustment for both girls. So much is different from food to the school system to a host of little things about the people. That has brought them close together as friends although they are not related at all.
"We're here and everything is different," said Suzette. "What we're used to is not here, so we cling together because we are used to the same traditions and stuff."
Another big difference especially for runners is the weather.
Neither had ever run indoor track before, because there is no indoor track in Jamaica. Still, they did well, picking up a handful of medals each at the county, region and state meets.
Both ran on the 4x200 relay that set a county record and won the state title as well as the 4x400 relay that set a county championship meet record and finished fourth in the state finals.
But the outdoor season is their niche. Both have goals that will help them be more attractive to college coaches.
Suzette, who plans to become a corporate accountant, hopes to go under 12 seconds in the 100 and under 60 in the 400. Howard coach Joe Thomas said she already is an attractive prospect to recruiters.
"More so than just being an athlete, she's at a very high intellectual level," said Thomas. "Her grades are super and in her JTC athletic events, she has a lot of range. She can go from 1-4 and help in any of the relays. With the talent and the grades, it will make her an easy sell to a college."
A junior, Donna already has drawn plenty of notice. She has run the top time in the metro area in the 200 (24.8) as well as posting the top distances in the long jump and triple jump.
"There're a lot of colleges already interested in Donna," said Thomas. "She's very powerful. She's a great jumper, but she can run. I put her in the 100 the other day just to see what she could do and she ran a 12.2 not even pushed. She wasn't even pushed when she ran that 24.8 [in the 200]."
They probably will have to run only against the clock to achieve another of their goals -- breaking 47 seconds in the 4x100 relay at the Class 3A regional meet Saturday at Howard or at the state championships May 27 at Western Maryland College.
"As far as our relay team goes, I don't think there should be a lot of competition for us. We should just make up our mind and go out there and do what we have to do," said Donna.