AUGUSTA — They’re two of the shortest athletes at any Cony High School track and field practice. And coach Jon Millett says that doesn’t change much when the meets arrive.

“Four-something?” Millett answered when asked about Julia and Anna Reny’s height. “You’d be hard-pressed to go to a high school track meet and find anybody shorter than them.”

He paused briefly.

“But you’d also be hard-pressed to find anybody more athletic than them.”

The Renys are freshmen, twin sisters and, at an inch or two north of 5 feet, hardly imposing. They’re also the driving force behind a Rams team experiencing whole new heights. Cony won the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B title, and the Renys, part of a talented freshman trio along with high jump champion Tess Towle, accounted for 39 points by themselves. Anna was second in the 300- and 100-meter hurdles and third in the 200-meter dash, while Julia was second in the 400, third in the javelin and fifth in the 800. The two also competed on Cony’s second-place 4×400 team, meaning they helped generate 47 points altogether, more than half of Cony’s winning total of 92.

Freshman production like that is surprising. But as Shawn Totman, a co-coach along with Millett, pointed out, it hasn’t come out of nowhere.

“The results that they’ve had are only because they’ve worked so hard,” he said. “There’s natural ability, there’s no question. They are gifted track athletes. But they have become better because of their willingness to buy into the fact that effort in practice is what’s going to lead to incredible improvement throughout the year. There’s no question they understand that.”

Their impact hasn’t gone unnoticed by their teammates.

“They’re phenomenal athletes,” junior Zinaida Gregor said. “They’ve helped us win. It’s great to have a young team with a lot of great freshmen and sophomore athletes.”

The Renys were brought up to take track seriously. Their mother was a high school hurdles champion, and their older sisters, Olivia at Gardiner and Madeline at Cony, were track standouts as well. While still in elementary school, Julia and Anna began to get into the sport by competing in youth and summer track and field.

“It’s a family thing, honestly,” Anna said. “It’s always been a love of both of ours. It’s always been in both of our lives.”

At first, Anna and Julia competed in the same events, and the sibling rivalry flourished.

“When we were little, we used to go head-to-head,” Julia said. “So we had that competition, and every meet we would (flip-flop) who would win, back and forth.”

By middle school, the two went their separate ways on the track. Anna became a sprinter and a hurdler, while Julia found her niche in middle distance and with the javelin.

“I’m kind of a girl that likes to throw stuff. Hand-eye coordination, that kind of stuff,” Julia said. “I like technique and something you’ve got to practice. Something I get to throw in general, that’s something I’ve always loved since I was little and carried through.”

With different disciplines, the two went from trying to beat each other to pulling for one another instead.

“We don’t have to worry about ‘She won this, but I came in second, so it’s good but it’s not as good as her,’ ” Anna said. “I think it’s felt better than when we were younger and we would race head-to-head. It’s definitely cool having our own events that we can thrive in.”

Instead, the Renys save that competitiveness for their opponents. Each meet, they’re reminded of what they’re up against. When Anna lines up for the 100 high hurdles, she faces the task of clearing gates more than half her height. When Julia gets ready to throw the javelin, she has to go against a field of throwers, almost all of whom are taller, longer and stronger.

It could be intimidating. But the Renys don’t flinch.

“It’s not really foreign to me anymore, to be surrounded by people who aren’t similar to me,” Julia said. “That’s obviously an advantage, you can stretch and stuff, but I don’t know. … It’s not just how big you are, how strong. It has to do with your core, your technique, how far you put it back, how low, how much speed you’re getting when you run up. With javelin especially, there are so many little particular things that go into it.”

Their coaches have seen that from the first day.

“They have a mindset of ‘I can do.’ As a general rule, I haven’t heard them say ‘I can’t do.’ It’s ‘Okay, I’ll do it,'” Millett said. “Maybe they’ve got that short person’s chip-on-the-shoulder mentality, because you certainly don’t expect the bang you get and the explosiveness you get from those two. … They are just two powerful individuals.”

That attitude has carried them through a freshman season that has exceeded both their coaches’ expectations and their own.

“We kind of knew they were going to be special watching them come up through middle school, but I don’t think that we estimated that they would have the impact on the team that they have had,” Totman said. “I don’t think they care one bit what their size is, or the size of their opponent. They’re going to go out there and they’re going to try their absolute best. And so far it’s been pretty awesome.”

When the team has needed them, they’ve come through. Anna and Julia had already turned in fine individual days when the meet came down to the 4×400 relay, the only event the two compete in together. Cony was up by a half a point on Maranacook, and needed to beat the Black Bears’ team in the relay to wrap up the championship.

Anna started, racing out to give Cony a comfortable lead on Maranacook. Julia was the anchor, taking the baton and finishing off a second-place finish that was more than enough — and one that finished off a KVAC performance that was more than either twin was hoping for.

“Just to make it to KVACs and states is awesome. Just to get there is a huge step in my eyes,” Julia said. “As freshmen, we’re competing against seniors and people who are stronger and more experienced. It’s pretty cool that we’re doing what we’re doing, but having fun doing it.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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