Most high school athletes drop a sport or two along the way to prevent burnout. Carolyn Rauen, a junior at Turpin High in Cincinnati, plays four varsity sports to stay refreshed. On a recent Saturday morning she won the Midwest Meet of Champions, a five-kilometer cross-country race in Hilliard, Ohio, by eight seconds, leading her school to a runner-up finish. Less than five minutes after crossing the finish line, Carolyn was in a car driven by her dad, Mike, for the two-hour ride back to Cincinnati, during which she changed uniforms, ate lunch and stretched before arriving just in time to start at fullback for the Turpin soccer team. (The Spartans won 3-2.) "I play better after I've run," says Carolyn. "I feel warmed up."
In addition to cross-country and soccer in the fall, the 17-year-old swims in the winter (three individual events and a relay) and runs track (two distance races plus two relays) in the spring. Carolyn, who finished her sophomore year with a 3.97 grade point average and is on pace to graduate with 15 varsity letters, is most accomplished as a runner. In cross-country her best 5K this season, 17 minutes, 43 seconds, ranked among the 15 best schoolgirl times in the nation through Sunday. Three weeks ago Carolyn finished second in the state championships, helping Turpin win the Ohio Division I title.
"There's a mental recharge in going from one sport to another," says Mike. "It also helps that she gets different coaches and different perspectives. She isn't subjected to the pressures of just one coach."
To have the time to compete on four varsity teams, Carolyn had to walk away from what many of today's high school athletes embrace: travel teams. Last spring she quit her club soccer team after eight years; in 2000 she ended an eight-year affiliation with her club swim team. Also, Carolyn is fortunate to have unusually accommodating high school coaches. The soccer coach allows her to miss one practice a week so she can train with her cross-country teammates. On other days Carolyn goes from her two-hour soccer practice straight to two more hours of cross-country training, which typically consists of a seven-mile workout alone. "Our job is to do what we can to help Carolyn," says Turpin cross-country and track coach Steve Nester. "We see it as making the most of Carolyn's talents, to take advantage of how special she is."
For Carolyn, who plans on pursuing track and cross-country in college, playing four sports comes naturally. "I know a lot of people have tried more than one sport and eventually quit out of frustration," she says. "It just depends on how much you love doing it. I couldn't imagine what I'd do if I weren't doing this."