Bridget Quenzer can't believe it.
In her first cross country season, the Mount de Sales senior already has won one major race (the Spiked Shoe) and finished third in another (the Westminster Invitational).
"I'm shocked. I keep waiting to wake up from a dream or something," said Quenzer, after coming within 12 seconds of Amanda White's meet record at the Spiked Shoe Invitational at Johns Hopkins Sept. 16.
At Wednesday's Westminster Invitational, her time of 19 minutes, 57 seconds on the 3.1-mile course at Western Maryland College lagged just seven seconds behind the winner, Dulaney's Meghan White, Amanda's sister.
That's an impressive start considering that until three months ago, Quenzer never had run competitively. She joined the indoor track team last winter just to get in shape for lacrosse. Starting out as a sprinter, she never even ran the mile until January.
Once she began racing with the Sailors' senior distance runners, Liz Williams, Teresa Love and Renee Leach, Quenzer quickly improved. She even beat Love and Leach indoors a few times.
Hooked on racing, Quenzer, a Sykesville resident, never returned to lacrosse -- or to soccer, which she had played for three years.
Instead, she kept running and wondering why she had taken so long to discover her true athletic calling especially since she had been urged to run on her first visit to the Catonsville school.
"When I came to Mount de Sales, Teresa Love took me around and she said to me, 'When you come here, you should run. It's so much fun.' I was like I will never run; I have other things to do," Quenzer said. "It's still weird when I think about it, that I'm actually running, because I never thought I would."
Now, Quenzer doesn't just like to run, she has a real passion for cross country.
"It's like a new toy," she said. "I can't explain it except to say I started running and I just woke up one day almost and thought, 'I love this. I want to do this forever.' "
Despite her quick success, Quenzer admits she has a lot to learn about cross country -- everything from running hills to the basic strategies for running a race.
For now, coach Sean Moran points out a top runner at each race and tells Quenzer to try to stay with her. If she thinks she can pass her, he says, go ahead.
Other than that, Moran simply is trying to pace his overnight sensation.
"I don't want to push her into anything beyond what she's capable of handling," said Moran, who has coached the Sailors to four unbeaten Association of Independent Schools seasons in the last seven years.
"I just want her to go out and race with top people. If she has a good day, she can pull it off, but I'm not expecting her to go out and win every race."
Quenzer hopes to run in college, and Moran wants to develop her knowledge and confidence so she can reach her full potential.
"A lot of coaches try to get everything out of them in high school. I think that's really unfair to the athlete," said Moran. "I want mine to graduate, and if they're going to pursue it in college to be able to get better."
Still, Moran said Quenzer has a good chance to win the AIS title and should contend for the Maryland State Catholic Schools Championship.
That could bring a new challenge -- dealing with the pressure of being a front-runner, something she hasn't felt yet. For now, though, running provides anything but pressure.
"It's my one and only peace during the day," Quenzer said. "I'm in a totally different zone. I can go however fast I feel like and I can think about what I want. It's the most relaxing thing I do all day."