Dulaney junior Isabel Griffith grew up playing soccer, basketball and lacrosse, and when she entered high school three years ago, she figured she would continue with all of them.
But right before her freshman year, a neighbor on the Lions' cross country team talked her into running. Griffith instantly fell in love with the sport. She enjoys the bond with her teammates and thrives on the mental challenges.
Last Saturday, she won the girls race at Dulaney's 30th annual Barnhart Invitational, finishing in a personal-best 18 minutes, 54 seconds — more than a minute faster than her second-place finish in the race last year. On Saturday, she'll look to keep with her winning ways at the prestigious Bull Run Invitational at Hereford.
Last season, Griffith took third place at states in the Class 4A race, with the team taking fourth. With her steady improvement and the Dulaney girls' depth, she's expecting to improve on both fronts this season. Griffith, who maintains a 3.8 GPA, also runs indoor and outdoor track. She spent eighth grade living in Costa Rica and is fluent in Spanish. This summer, she returned to Costa Rica and shared her love for running.
What was it like winning the Barnhart and setting a personal-best time last Saturday?
I was really excited at Barnhardt. I like running here at Dulaney, and it was a beautiful day. Everyone was excited, and I just wanted to run fast.
Next up is the Bull Run at Hereford; what makes that race so special?
I actually like Hereford's course. There's something about the one-loop mentality; I like it, and I can do hills — that's not one of my weaknesses. It's a big race with a lot of people, a lot of great competition, and I love it.
On days you just don't feel like training, how do you stay motivated?
You use different things. But just having your teammates behind you helps and knowing that everyone is out there doing the same thing and everyone is being challenged and knowing it's hard for all of us. Now being one of the upperclassmen, I've been realizing more things like the importance of warm-ups and cool-downs. As you get older and as I've run more, I understand the importance of training.
When you're struggling during a certain stretch in a race, how do you overcome it?
The mental aspect is what this sport is all about. I like to think that I put in the work and I have the physical ability. Getting over the mental barrier is always the hardest part, and I know there's always a finish.
What's the best advice you've received?
I think hard work is really important and knowing that it will pay off. And as long as you have a good attitude about things, good things will happen.
What's the feeling like when you see your times improve?
I love it. My freshman year, it used to be a lot more time in between, and now even just taking three or four seconds off is awesome.
How important is it to you win a state title?
That's what I want. I especially want our team to win. Last year we were so close. I think our top seven is getting together and is starting to come together. I think it's going to take everyone's hard work, everyone's commitment to it and everyone's good attitude toward it. Also, it's knowing that we can do it, having the capacity to think that it's possible.
How did you help spread the word about running during your trip to Costa Rica this summer?
We took a bunch of running shoes from our team and worked on getting a running group and camps started. I liked the feeling of knowing about running and being able to help people with it — like stretching and strength exercises and stuff like that. It was fun.