You can do a lot of different things. You can go on and get a Ph.D in physiology and you can do research. I think what I want to do with it is train runners. I want to be a private coach or a trainer at some kind of performance lab like they have in Colorado. I like doing research, too, on different training methods.

Why is cross country your favorite?

I'm better at distance — much, much better — and cross country is more interesting as far as the courses are different. I think, too, that cross country has more of a team element to it than track does because we're all doing the same thing, and we all have a common goal. With track, it's more individualized because there are so many different races and events.

How important is the mental aspect of running at this point in your career?


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I've noticed it's gotten a lot stronger since I started running. It's something that you can't work on right away. It's something that you just get stronger at and you find little things that help you get stronger, like things you tell yourself when you run and things that work for you.

Do you have an example of what you tell yourself?

Sometimes, I say, "Giving up's not an option," or "If you can't finish this, you can't finish a race," or "This will make you stronger." A lot of what I think about is future kind of stuff, like what I'm doing now, how that's going to impact my races in the future.

Is that what you think about on long training runs?

For me, long runs are less training and more "me" runs, my time to relax and get out and clear my mind. On long runs, it's almost like I'm in this dream state and all of the sudden, I'll come back and be like, "Whoa, I did not even notice I was running."

What's been the highlight of your running career so far?

Winning states for indoor (3,200 meters) was really exciting. I think I just had an incredible indoor season. By the end of that season, I just felt like I was in the best shape of my life. I felt so strong in that race. I wasn't tired. My legs felt so springy. I just had never felt like that before in a race.

What do you remember about the latter part of that race?

I just know Sarah Zielinski [of Boonsboro]. I have been in her shadow my entire running career. That entire race, I was right on her, and I was telling myself, "You cannot get in front of her too soon because she will come out of nowhere and she will pass you and you will be done," so I was on her heels the whole time, and I was holding back. [Coach Eric Baumgardner] was yelling at me the whole time, "Pass her. Pass her," and I didn't want to yet. Finally, it got to a point and I was like, "OK, I'm just going to go," and those last couple laps, I was running scared. I was running for my life, and I just remember at some point during that race, I just felt so good and I was flying and a smile just came on my face because I knew it was going to be good. And that was my best time ever.

Does your father have an unusual strategy as a fan during cross country season?

At states this year (laughs), he actually asked me, "Can I have a map of the course (at Hereford), so I can map out where I'm going to stand?" We went there to run over the summer, and while I was running the course, he was running around looking for places he would stand and cheer. This man shows up at like 10 different places on the course throughout my entire race. He loves it. I think it's great. He doesn't just cheer for me. He cheers for everyone. Sometimes, I think he scares them a little bit because he gets so excited (laughs).

What are you most looking forward to about the last couple weeks of your high school career?

I've not had my best outdoor season. I've had a lot of allergies and asthma issues, so I haven't had some good races this season. I'm just hoping that all the training I've put in starts to pay off these last couple meets. I feel mentally prepared.

katherine.dunn@baltsun.com