Jen Moorman didn't exactly storm the gates as a neophyte distance runner and throw girls cross country tradition to the wind at Francis Scott Key this season.
Sure, Moorman, a senior, has been running No. 1 most of the season in her first year on a team fully stocked with outstanding runners.
But the talent to run was there last August when she reported for cross country workouts, said Key coach Rich Salkin.
"Jen was always that good," said Salkin. "She just didn't run cross country. She preferred to play field hockey instead. She started getting into running more last spring when she went out for track and had a super year for our team that finished second in the state."
Moorman was good enough at field hockey to play a major role as a wing last year on Key's state Class 1A championship team.
Key field hockey coach Mindi Wagner fully expected the same out of Moorman this season and was disappointed when Moorman opted for cross country.
"Coach Wagner grabbed my hand the day she found out I was going to run cross country and said 'No, you're going to stay with us,' " said Moorman. "I miss those girls on the field hockey team. I've always loved field hockey and had a lot of fun. Every time I see them in school, they said 'Hi' and ask me how things are going."
Without Moorman, the Key field hockey team got off to a 1-6 start before winning three in a row to get back in the regional playoff picture.
"We miss Jen," said Wagner. "She gave us a lot of leadership and motivation."
However, Moorman said it was time for her to find out just how good a distance runner she could be after establishing the school's 1,600-meter girls record of 5 minutes, 35 seconds last spring on the track team.
Because it appeared that track would be her best sport for college, Moorman said she had to give running her full attention.
"It wasn't easy to give up field hockey," said Moorman. "First, I told my dad [Paul] that I was giving it up and then I said I wasn't. But in the end I decided to do this for myself."
Moorman's primary goal is to lower her time for the 1,600 while running cross country.
"Maybe my time won't come down but if you look at all the top track and cross country runners like Amanda White [former Dulaney standout now at Stanford] they dedicate themselves to training," said Moorman. "I feel I made the right decision. If you can run cross country, you can run anything."
Moorman has been an instant hit for an Eagles girls team that is unbeaten in dual- and tri-meets (4-0), has won the South Carroll Invitational and finished second in the Monocacy Valley Athletic League championships.
She has been the top finisher for Key in all but two meets, losing both times to Christine Harner. That means Moorman has been outrunning the likes of highly regarded teammates Ali Jones and Kim Hugg in every meet.
Jones was the 1992 Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year in Carroll County.
However, Moorman has not been able to beat South Carroll's Carrie Braun, who stands in her way of winning the Carroll County individual championship Friday at Western Maryland College.
"Carrie is good, she wants it and she works hard," said Moorman. "Plus, she gets a chance to run on all those hills at South Carroll."
Braun was the only county girls runner to finish ahead of Moorman in the Westminster Invitational.
"It all depends on how Carrie runs as to whether I can win the county," said Moorman.