Carmen Mann will try to convince you that she's lazy, but it's hard to believe her. Just watch her practice her five track and field events on the Falls Church High School track for an hour and a half.
She will also tell you she'd rather be home watching television, but it's hard to believe that, too. Mann looks more at home on the track than a bird in a nest.
Carmen Mann is a five-event athlete, which is about as far from being lazy as one could be. And not only does she compete in five events, but she usually finishes all of them near the top.
"She's a natural track athlete," said Major Wells, head track and field coach at Falls Church for 19 years. "I think she could do equally as well in basketball and soccer. She loves her versatility. She loves to compete in as many events as she can. She has all the potential in the world to go to college and be a great pentathlete."
In a typical workout, Mann runs 1 1/2 miles, does progressive sprints up to 330 yards, glides a few flights of hurdles, long-jumps five to 10 times and concludes with a dozen attempts at the high jump. The meets are even more demanding, but that goes with the territory.
"I don't mind doing so many events, but in the invitationals everything runs together," said Mann, a 5-foot-7, 125-pound junior. "It wears you out going between events. You have to remember different things for each event. In the high jump, you have to remember to plant and get up. In the long jump, you have to remember to get height and stay airborne."
During the invitationals, Mann could be required to run as many as a dozen races (including heats) and to jump at least that many times, so pacing is crucial. "If it's like the hurdles and I have to run three races and I know I can place, I just try to get by," she said. "If I'm not sure, I run as fast as I can.
"There's a lot of pressure, especially during indoors (last season), when I was the only girl on the team."
That season ended with the 1985 Virginia AAA state meet, where the Falls Church girls track team -- a.k.a. Carmen Mann -- placed fourth overall with 26 points. In that meet, Mann set a record in winning the high jump at 5 feet 8 1/4, won the long jump (18-5 3/4) and was third in the 500 meters. She also ran the hurdles but did not place.
In the Jim England Invitational meet two weeks ago at Lee, Mann won the long jump, high jump and 300-meter hurdles, was second in the 110 hurdles, third in the discus and fourth in the shot put.
Most pentathletes and decathletes find their niche in track and field by experimenting with different events and developing the accompanying skills. But for Mann, it wasn't by choice, it was by necessity.
"I started running hurdles last year because our hurdler messed up her knee and, in indoors, I was the only girl on the team," Mann said. "I'm just glad they didn't put me in the mile or the half."
Because of her natural ability, Mann has developed quickly under the tutelage of Wells. She has the flexibilty of a gymnast, a graceful stride and speed unmatched by her teammates and by most of her competition, which is why she often must train with the boys team.
"She doesn't mind working with the boys," said Wells, who coaches 32 boys and 20 girls. "With her performances, she can work out with the boys. We are definitely trying to get her to work out as hard as she can with the boys. The boys are really supportive of her. If we didn't have a boys team, there would really be a problem. The girls are really supportive of her, too."
"If (Wells) doesn't think I get competition from the girls, he either has me run with the guys or holds me back for a few seconds then lets me try to catch the girls," said Mann, who enjoys high jumping the most and running the least. "It's tiring trying to catch up."
Coaches of pentathletes walk a fine line between undercoaching and overcoaching. Wells understands that every athlete needs room to breath at times and Mann's low-key attitude and sense of humor allows Wells to coach her in the style of Sgt. Foley in, "An Officer and a Gentleman."
"You got to get off the ground!" Wells barks while Mann lands in the long jump pit. "You've got to get your steps down right!" he yells as Mann falls on the high jump mat.
"There are days when she prefers me to give her the workout and let her go out and do it," Wells said. "She's just like the average athlete. She doesn't want you on her back all the time. She needs that time to be by herself."
"I like when he lets me work, then comes down and gives me coaching," said Mann. "I know what I do wrong, but I can't fix it."
After a tiring practice, Mann said she usually goes home and sleeps for a few hours, then wakes up at 10 p.m. to study. She has earned a 3.3 average and does her best work, she says, in mathematics and Spanish.
Mann has already received letters from Tennessee, Florida and Penn State, all which have respectable women's track programs. Next year, she will most likely be offered a number of track scholarships, but said she isn't sure she would accept one because "I don't want to have to run."