While many of her Central High classmates are idly spending their summers at the beach, at camp, or just loafing around, sprinter Robin Benjamin is running and running hard.
Six days a week, she heads over to the school's track late in the afternoon after the heat lets up, and puts herself through a rigorous series of sprints: 150s, 200s and 300s.
"When I come out here and practice, it's harder than running (in meets)," she says, frowning. "Who really enjoys practice? You've just got to do it. It's difficult because you miss out on a lot of other things."
The constant workouts are insurance that Benjamin will stay a step ahead of competitors throughout Prince George's County. In her two varsity seasons for coach Ed Bowie, Benjamin has earned state titles in the 60-, 100- and 300-meter dashes and holds the indoor records in the 60- and 300-meter events.
Perhaps her most impressive performance came at the Penn Relays, where Central won the Championship of America 4x400-meter relay with the best time in the nation this year, and the seventh best in the history of girls' high school track (3:42.1). Benjamin contributed her best quarter-mile split to date in that race, with a 53.6 clocking.
Despite the topflight performance at the meet, the unassuming Benjamin insists the performance was nothing special. "It was more of a big deal last year ('82), because it was the first time I'd been there."
Generally, Benjamin seems unexcited about her records and acclaim. "I just run," she says casually, "I don't particularly look for records or anything."
"She keeps a lot inside," says Benjamin's mother, Byrna, who, like her husband, ran track in high school and has encouraged Robin throughout her career. "She doesn't exhibit a lot of emotion except to those who are close to her."
With senior year coming up, the college scouts are drawing nearer, and Benjamin says, "There's some pressure. Behind your back people are asking, 'Where's Robin going to school?', 'Who's Robin running with today?' "
Five or six schools have made preliminary contact with Benjamin but no coaches can actually talk to her until her senior year begins.
"She's feeling some pressures now," says her mother. "She realizes the importance of her running. She's just turned 17 and is into the social life, but we don't have to pressure her about coming out here (to practice)."
Benjamin's parents see as many meets as they can, including the Penn Relays, and Mrs. Benjamin follows her daughter to practice every day, not to check up on her, but to watch for any flaws in her form.
Though Benjamin has earned numerous honors and awards, both she and Bowie recognize the need to improve. "I don't think she's a finished product yet," Bowie says. He projects her as more of a middle distance runner, with the 400 meters becoming her best event, despite her records at the shorter distances.
Off in the distance is the hope of a scholarship, and perhaps a chance at the Olympics in 1988. Bowie maintains she has world class potential.
Right now, Benjamin is trying not to worry too much about the future. She's running her sprints daily, keeping in shape and running in meets every two weeks or so. About the flood of scholarship offers in the year ahead and the thought of leaving Central, she says, "I'll be nervous, I guess. I'll have to wait and see. I don't want to go too far away from home."
"If she continues to perform as she has in the past, she'll have her choice," says Bowie.