There was once a time when Reservoir's Karli Smiraglia looked at running as merely a way to train for soccer and lacrosse.
She originally joined the indoor track team in her sophomore year to stay in shape, not really giving any thought to the actual competition side of the sport.
Then came her first race, and that's when everything changed.
"I'm a really competitive kid," said Smiraglia. "No matter what it is, I want to be the best."
That mentality almost instantly rang true for the talented runner, who used an injury that limited participation in contact sports to her advantage. It was at that point when she realized that running could be more than just a bridge between sports. It could be her future.
Set to attend the University of North Carolina Wilmington next year as a member of the track team, Smiraglia's relationship with running has come a long way. "She eats, sleeps and breathes running right now," added Reservoir coach Phil Rogers.
Dedication and consistency have never been a problem for Smiraglia, who helped her Gators to a team county championship this season. It's because of that drive that she went on to claim individual titles in the 800 and 1,600-meter run events at the 3A regionals and state championships, and also why she's been named the Howard County Times/Columbia Flier Athlete of the Year.
Despite that competitive edge that keeps her motivated, Smiraglia said she constantly felt like she could be better in her sport.
In cross country, she finished second in the county championships, and third at both the 3A East regional and state championship meets. Ultimately not being able to reach the pinnacle of the sport started to get to her.
"I had to get it out of my head that these people were faster than me," she said. "I have to think I'm the fastest one, even if I'm not."
Just a few weeks later, as she got off the cross country course and onto the track — a sport she said she felt most comfortable with — it wouldn't be long before she finally stood alone atop the podium.
Rogers isn't shy about giving credit to the most decorated runner in school history. It's the competitors that Smiraglia — also a first-team all-county selection in cross country — earned those honors against that makes her accomplishments so impressive.
"She's been one of those girls that has come through in a very talented time for the county, and the state," he said. "There are a lot of great girls out there, and sometimes her talent gets overlooked. It's great to see that she finally got a pat on the back from someone outside the school."
Rogers said it didn't take long after he assumed his coaching position at Reservoir to find out that, if a runner can make it in Howard County, they shouldn't have trouble winning at the regional and state levels as well. Since the start of her training, Smiraglia bought into the "bigger picture, trusting in the process to achieve maximum results.
"She's very competitive, but she's also your best training partner," said Rogers. "She's always staying positive and keeping you focused."
Unlike many of her rivals, Smiraglia has relied on the work to get her to new heights, rather than raw talent. Knowing she would have to put in that extra effort to keep up with those around her, Reservoir's top runner used every resource she could to ensure she wouldn't fall behind.
That included doing a bit of research on her competitors at the 3A state championship meet — many of whom she hadn't faced all season.
Still, she crossed the finish line with time to spare in both of her races.
In less than four years on the circuit, the senior has decimated 14 school records, all the while maintaining enviable marks on her report card.
Smiraglia is a member of three honor societies at school, as well as Best Buddies, though sometimes practice can get in the way.