Dulaney High graduate Isabel Griffith won't be wearing the Lions' red uniform and mentoring her younger teammates when cross country season starts in August, but her coach thinks she has left behind some essential qualities.
"I told her (at the state meet) the most valuable thing she has done for us is raise the bar and show that it is possible to do great things," Dulaney coach Chad Boyle said. "She won't be wearing a Dulaney uniform next year, but her impact will be felt for years."
It's reflected in Griffith's repeat as the Towson Times Female Athlete of the Year. Her campaign started early.
It began with her running under 18 minutes (17:49.9) at the Barnhart Invitational at Dulaney High on Sept. 26. Three weeks later, she had to try to defend her Baltimore County cross country title, even though she had been sick and unable to run a race since the Barnhart.
Griffith was disappointed in her time (18:47), but defended her title.
"I don't feel very good right now," she said after the race. "I'm not one who usually feels pressure, but I definitely felt pressure from myself today."
She relied a lot on her inner strength that day.
"That's what I've learned about being an athlete -- no matter your condition, you just have to give your best," Griffith said.
"I always know I put the work in and that is never my problem, but when I feel sick or I feel not exactly right I have to worry more about my physicality and that stresses me out and that makes me nervous. When the physicality becomes a problem, you kind of forget about your mental part and you have to focus on surviving the race and I think that is what happened to me today."
Griffith wasn't willing to give in, no matter how she felt.
"What is hard for me is I don't want to disappoint myself and I know what I can do and I know what I am capable of, and that is the challenging thing about being a runner. But then again, it's up and down all the time," she said.
Her ultimate goal was winning a state title three weeks later after coming close the previous two years. She won the state crown at McDaniel College in a time of 18:26.20.
In her sophomore and junior years, she was third (19:40.7) and fourth (19:41.40) respectively at Hereford High.
As a freshman, when she gave up soccer, basketball and lacrosse and gave running a try, she 48th in a time of 21:52.
Last fall, she was the third Lion female to win a state title on a 3-mile course, following Tenke Zoltani (1999) and Amanda White (1990, '91 and '92).
Zoltani chose Columbia University, and Griffith will follow the Ivy League path when she runs at Penn University in the fall.
"Tenke was more decorated because she had 12 state championships, but just how Isabel learned to race and the competition she faced, she is definitely the best female I've ever coached," Boyle said. "She has the poise and competitive drive that other athletes don't have."
Griffith's prep career ended with her placing third in both the 1,600 and 3,200 meters at the Maryland state outdoor championships at Morgan State University.
She clocked 5:03.66 in the 1,600 and that would have won a Class 4A state title last year.
Her time of 10:59.56 in this year's race was .10 off her 10:59.46, which she ran as a junior when she placed second in the state.
Boyle said she was the first female runner he has coached who ran sub-11-minutes in the 3,200 meters.
"You have to perform exceptionally well to be a state champion," said Boyle, noting Griffith was the first female he coached to run 10 minutes in the 3,000 meters (at Penn Relays) and that 5:03.66 was the fastest he has coached in the 1,600. "She had a fantastic spring season."
Griffith also left her mark during the 2014 indoor season, winning county, regional and state titles in the 3,200 and finishing second to Sarah Ashwood in the 1,600.
She ran the 3,200 and 1,600 with a virus at the states that gave Boyle second thoughts about entering her in both races.
"Not many people can do that, and I'm mean really good people, and she did it and won," he said.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun