There's no one with stronger humanitarian impulses on the Dulaney cross country and track teams than junior Isabel Griffith.
Last year, the Towson Times Athlete of the Year gathered 60 pairs of old running shoes from her Lion teammates and, along with her mother, Liz Wilson, took them to Costa Rica, where they were given to children and adults, including some who didn't have shoes.
"We are trying to bring running there by donating the shoes," said Griffith, who lived in Costa Rica in the eighth grade. "It's so uncommon to see people there do anything besides soccer. Now, people will have the incentive to run."
Griffith never intended to run in high school.
She planned on competing in the three sports she loved played in elementary school and middle school: soccer, basketball and lacrosse.
Instead, a month before her freshman year, a neighbor who ran on the school's cross country team, Chelsey Bush, talked Griffith into joining the program that fall.
Griffith hasn't stopped running and winning since.
This past school year, the 5-foot-8 middle distance runner captured county championships in cross country and outdoor track.
She also posted top-four finishes in the state championship meets in three seasons, including indoor track.
Griffith gradually became addicted to running after giving it an extended try.
"I never particularly like to run," Griffith said. "I wasn't even that fast. But running is a cult, especially when you get a place on the team. Then you are like, 'I am getting good and competing for the top spot.'"
Griffith, who carries a 3.7 grade point average, has been a hot commodity among college recruiters and has already visited the College of William & Mary and plans to visit Brown University later in the summer.
"The question is: Who is not recruiting her?" Dulaney track and cross country coach Chad Boyle said. "I get at least one e-mail message or a letter a day in my mail box for her."
Considering her effort — a sizzling sub-11 minutes in the 3,200-meter run — in the Montgomery Invitational in mid January, it's not shocking that college coaches are enamored with the Dulaney star.
"In my 16 years, I have coached a lot of state champions and no female has broke 11 minutes for 2 miles," Boyle said. "That performance put her 36th in the country that day. She would have the school record at almost any other school in the country. We have had national champions in cross country and track."
Griffith also placed second in the state in the 3,200 and Class 4A North Region championship in the same event.
"There are people faster than Isabel, but there is no one aerobically stronger out there," Boyle said. "She has such a high aerobic capacity."
Dulaney assistant track and cross country coach Julie Kramer says Griffith's strongest season is in the fall because of her stamina in longer (3-mile) events.
It's hard to argue with the results Griffith posted last fall.
She won the Barnhart Invitational by more than a minute and followed that performance up by taking seventh in the Elite division at the prestigious Bull Run Invitational.
Griffith also secured county and regional titles and placed fourth in the Class 4A state championships.
"Sometimes, athletes are really talented, and then sometimes, you have one that work really hard," Kramer said. "When you put those two together, its an incredibly powerful combination. And I think from the very beginning, Isabel had both of those things."
Griffith shined again in the this spring, grabbing county championships in both the 1,600 and 3,200.
"She is the best female athlete I have coached in 16 years," Boyle explained.
Boyle considered her performance in the state championships, where she took second in the 3,200 and third in the 1,600, even more impressive.
She posted another stellar time in the 3,200 (10:59.46) despite winds gusting 20-to-30 miles per hour.
"(The 3,200) was the best I have ever seen Isabel perform," Boyle said "I was amazed that she broke 11:00 in those conditions.
"This spring, she didn't lose a race in the mile or the 2-mile until the state championships,'" he added.
In addition to her talent, the Dulaney coaching staff loves Griffith's leadership abilities.
She was co-captain of the cross country, indoor and outdoor track teams.
"She is very motivating for the other girls on the team," Kramer said. "She knows other people's personal records. She is incredibly encouraging. I hear pep talks from her before races. She loves running on the relays, like the 3,200 meter relay, because she is able to work with her teammates."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun