Until Aberdeen's Christy Moon raced at John Carroll on Sept. 14, she never had run cross country in the United States.
Moon ran in Europe for two years, finishing 13th last fall at the European Championships for Department of Defense schools. Over the summer, her family transferred to Aberdeen Proving Ground from the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) in Belgium.
Now the Eagles' junior is taking aim at Harford County's best runners.
At the John Carroll tri-meet, Moon ran 36 seconds behind defending county champion Stacy Servia of C. Milton Wright. Christy's time of 21 minutes, 47 seconds was good enough for second. At the Howard Invitational on Sept. 18, she ran eighth in a field of 143. On Monday, in a tri-meet with Fallston and Edgewood, she finished first.
She's starting to like running in America.
"I feel like I'm getting to know who's who, who I have to go after," she said. "But now I'm thinking more about my times than the people. I'm trying to go after a better time, not necessarily a certain person."
This season, Moon's goal is to break 19:59 on the three-mile Plum Point loop near her home on the post. Next year, she wants to break 18 minutes. Her best effort so far is 21:40.
Those are lofty goals for someone who never had any formal training before running for Aberdeen coach Donna Lewis.
"Runner's World magazine was pretty much our coach at SHAPE," said Moon, whose team won the European title for small schools lastfall. "We had a sponsor, but we didn't have anybody who knew anything about running."
Lewis knew Moon was serious about running when she first saw the newcomer. "If a runner sports a T-shirt from a previous race -- and is a high school person at that -- that pretty much tells you they're into running," said Lewis.
Last Thursday, Moon's mission was to catch the coach at the two-mile Gas Mask Dash at Aberdeen Proving Ground. But she couldn't quite do it.
Lewis won the annual -- for the third straight year in 12:02. Moon was fourth in 13:03 in her first two-mile race.
The coach said she doesn't expect to stay that far in front of her pupil for long.
"Christy sets a goal and she's determined to reach it. If I say let's go out and run some more hills, she says, 'OK,' and she's happy to do it," Lewis said. "Her personality is one of being very mature."
Moon, who turns 16 in two weeks, calls herself "a true-blue Army brat." Born at West Point, N.Y., she never has lived in any one place longer than three years.
After graduation she plans to study veterinary medicine at Texas A&M; University, where her brother, Eric, is a sophomore. She wants to win a cross country scholarship but knows it won't be easy.
"I have to work hard, but my life is not that complicated. It's just studying and running," said Moon, a member of the National Honor Society who carries a 3.8 grade-point average.
Col. Gary Moon said his daughter always has been focused. The self-discipline, he said, emerged two years ago as she cared for her mother during a bout with bone cancer.
Today, Cherie Moon's disease is in remission, but for six months, she couldn't get out of bed. Her daughter cared for her every day while her husband worked.
"You can do one of two things when faced with a situation like that," said the colonel. "You can break down under the pressure or you toughen up quickly, and Christy toughened up quickly and did everything for her mother.
"She's watched her mother come back from being totally incapable of moving to living pretty much a normal life. It's hard for Christy to complain about anything, because nothing she's experienced is as bad as what her mother has gone through."