Q&A; -- Liya Kasimova, Severna Park, indoor track

Liya Kasimova, a native of Russia who came to the United States when she was 5, is a distance runner for Severna Park. "Liya is the most successful runner we've ever had. She's special," said Falcons coach Ed Purpura, whose track and cross country teams have been perennial champions and contenders for two decades. Kasimova, a bubbly junior, has won three state titles and six county titles since her freshman year. This indoor track season, Kasimova won county and regional titles in the 1,600-meter run.

What has it been like for you in the United States?


I've loved it here, but [my family] visits Russia every other summer and it's nice to go back. I still have friends in Russia and last summer I did a running camp with two trainers for boys and girls ages 14 to 18. The next time, I'm going over by myself.

What do you see as the big differences?


Over there you get a closer feel of the people, but economy-wise it is not the best. And here you have time to be a kid, go to school and have fun, while over there, as a kid you are more grown up, get a job and by age 15, know what you want to do in college. I have no clue yet ... but I do favor psychology. I have a 3.94 grade point average.

What's been your big moment running thus far?

Winning the county championship in cross country last fall. It was my first in cross country and as soon as I finished, I could not believe I had done it.

How did you get into running?

My brother [Artur, 21, who is at American University] ran at Severna Park and really enjoyed it. I got interested watching him when I was in middle school and always liked running. I gave up ballet for running. My father [Alfred Kasimov, a math teacher at Chesapeake] and mother [Liliya, a Montessori music teacher] are really into my running.

What other interests do you have?

I play the piano, classical music. My mother taught me and I'm about to audition for the Kennedy Center in D.C. The competition will result in four winners from each state to play at the Kennedy Center. And I have enjoyed learning languages. I speak English and Russian and am studying French and German.

Favorite food?


I love borscht - it's a soup with beets, and my mom makes it.