Years before they were winning high school races across Virginia Beach, Harrison and Doria Martingayle faced off against each other down a hilly neighborhood street.
Doria was in the fourth grade. Harrison was in fifth. The siblings had been asked to get an autograph for a school guidance counselor from their neighbor, popular surfboard designer Bill Frierson.
The older brother laid down a challenge.
“He said I could only get (the autograph) if I raced him to the bottom of the street and beat him,” Doria recalled.
She was wearing flipflops but wasn’t about to let that stop her.
“I took off sprinting, tripped, wiped out and busted my knee open,” she said.
Harrison won the race, though both received an autograph.
“It happens,” Harrison shrugged. “We were just getting after it downhill. Probably not the best of ideas.”
That intrafamily competitive streak has led to successful running careers for both siblings. Harrison, a senior, and Doria, a junior, anchor the Princess Anne cross-country boys and girls programs and have helped make them perennial 5A regional contenders. Another sibling, freshman Jackson, is the fifth runner on the boys varsity team.
Harrison won the 5A Atlantic Conference individual championship Wednesday — his second title in three years — and led the boys team to a second-place finish. Doria, the 2013 and 2014 conference champion, finished second overall, as did her team. Both programs advanced to the regional meet Nov. 4 at Bells Mill in Chesapeake.
Cavaliers boys and girls coach Kevin Rhue, a Princess Anne graduate, has never come across a dominant sibling duo like this one.
“I’ve never had a dynamic like this where you have two incredibly talented kids on the team and in school at the same time,” Rhue said.
“It’s fun. I’ll take it,” Rhue added. “They’ve helped take our team to another level. You couldn’t ask for more; they’re everything you want in kids that are going to lead your team.”
Running came down both bloodlines to the Martingayle siblings. Their father, Kevin, ran cross country and track in high school and at Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia, where he also wrestled for a brief time before an injury. The mother, Elisabeth, was a high school sprinter, jumper and swimmer in Philadelphia.
Harrison took after his father early. He started wrestling at the age of five, and running followed soon after. He dabbled in soccer and football throughout middle school, and Doria played copy-cat.
“I was the type of sibling that wanted to do anything the older sibling did,” she said.
Running eventually won-out.
Harrison wrestled his first two years of high school but decided to focus solely on running in hopes of landing a Division 1 scholarship. Doria started running “seriously” her freshman year of high school. They both run indoor and outdoor track as well.
“It was pretty obvious that it was a natural talent for them early,” Kevin Martingayle said.
“A reflection of me”
The siblings have conversations about each meet before and after. What’s the plan? How are you going to approach it? What went right or wrong?
Depending on who races first, the other is glued to the sideline cheering before preparing for their turn.
“Seeing her race gets me mentally ready,” Harrison said. “I see her running — it’s kind of a reflection of me.”
“We know what works for each other,” Doria added. “We know what’s going through each other’s minds.”
Doria said she’s sometimes more worried about Harrison’s races. Watching her big brother has helped her mentally as a runner. She’s grasped Harrison’s focus and patience.
Last spring, she became Princess Anne’s first ever girl distance runner state champion when she won at 3200 meters in track. Last fall, she won the 5A regional cross-country meet as a sophomore and finished state runner-up. She’s also the defending conference champion in both the indoor and outdoor 1600.
“She makes our sport look really easy,” Rhue said. “It’s unfair sometimes.”
After winning the conference cross-country meet in 2013, Doria walked up to Harrison and nudged him.
“Okay it’s your turn,” she said. “Go do it.”
Her brother listened and won his own title.
In addition to his two cross-country conference championships, Harrison finished runner-up last year. He was seventh in last year’s regional and 14th in the state. This fall, he’s on pace to crack the top 10 at the state meet. He’s also the defending conference champion in the outdoor 3200 meters.
The siblings approach their craft differently.
Kevin calls his son a “steady, methodical” worker with a certain discipline geared towards training, while Doria’s greatest asset is her pure talent.
Around the team, both lead in separate ways.
“(Doria) wants to be the vocal and emotional leader of the team,” Rhue said. “I think it’s great, it’s what we need.”
“Harrison is more lead by example,” the coach said. “He’s not going to get loud, he’s not going to yell at anybody.
“He’ll do everything that’s asked of him,” Rhue added. ” ‘Hey lets go run through that wall.’ ‘Yes coach, that’s what I’m going to do.’ ”
“He’s there to listen”
Like any teenage brother-sister relationship, the two have their scuffles, and they might needle each other before and after practice.
“We definitely have our disagreements,” Harrison said. “But at the end of the day, she’s always been someone I can talk to about anything that goes on in my life, not just running.”
Their shared experiences in running also make it easier to handle the stresses of competition.
“Knowing that Harrison is going exactly what I’m going through, he’ll always understand what I’m talking about,” Doria said. “When I go home and if I’m annoyed by school or worried about a race, he’s there to listen.”
This fall marks the last cross-country season the two will share together.
Harrison has received six offers from colleges for official visits and plans to see TCU in November, according to his mother.
His departure will create a major hole on the Cavaliers team and mark the end of a brother-sister run that has dominated Beach competition.
The Martingayles are far from done, though. Jackson still has three years left, including one more with his big sister.
Doria said it’ll be weird without Harrison, whom she called one her best friends.
“I’ve had him by my side my entire life,” she said.
(Correction: This article has been updated to correct the status of Harrison Martingayle’s college offers and visits.)