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Logging record times, running for right reasons

The Baltimore Sun

Long Reach girls track coach Leslie Thomas said junior sprinter Funmi Alabi is "a diamond in the rough," one that surfaced during last winter's indoor season. Not only did Alabi win her first state title - capturing the Class 3A 55-meter dash - she did it in a state meet record time of 7 seconds flat. Alabi capped her third indoor season by also anchoring the team's gold medal-winning 1,600 relay. In her second season of outdoor competition this spring, she is focusing on giving a strong performance at the Penn Relays, which takes place later this month in Philadelphia. Alabi has a 3.8 grade point average and is still undecided on whether she wants to run track in college or focus entirely on academics. She plans to major in nutrition. When she's not studying or running, Alabi enjoys reading and watching television.

What was it like winning a state title? That was the best. I thought I'd be the girl that would never get to win a state championship even though everybody believed I could. So I started getting discouraged. But then once I won it, I was like thank God. ... I was so happy.

What did you do to celebrate? I didn't do much, but I did wear my gold medal to school the next day

What is the key to being a successful sprinter? You need to relax. You can't tense up; don't force anything and just let your body run. That was the problem with me before - I would fight my body, pushing my hands. But I learned that you're not supposed to fight your body, you're supposed to run smooth and just let everything happen. You know what to do, you've been practicing every day, [so] just let what you've been training your body to do - let it happen.

What do you enjoy most about running? I enjoy getting those times. When you have practice times, they tell you what you should run, and it's a great feeling when you get those times down. I like being amazed how fast your times are when you run in the meets and you're like: "What, I just ran that?" It just feels great to be able to run fast.

Do you have plans to run in college? I'm not looking at colleges until I finish the season. Some people want to force it on me, but it's more me trying to figure out if I have the potential. Do I have what it takes to run at the college level? It's not just going out there and getting a scholarship and then doing poorly. I want to do my best. If I'm going to run in college, I want to dedicate my time. If I'm going to go for education, I'm going to dedicate my time. That's what I'm thinking about.

How did you get interested in nutrition? I think it's so amazing how your body needs the fuel to be able to perform well. I think that's the most amazing thing ever, that you need the God-given food so we can survive. But people take it to an extreme. They use it to comfort them and stuff like that. It's very powerful. I want to educate people on what they need to do to have good nutrition. Not to focus on losing weight, but focusing on being healthy and the best they can be.

What is the best advice you ever received? Without God you have accomplished nothing. That's the best advice I've received. If God doesn't see your accomplishments, then your accomplishments don't mean anything. The International Olympic Committee has stripped Marion Jones' U.S. relay teammates of their gold medals from the 2000 Games. What do you think about that? That's sad. What can I say? Sometimes you just want it so badly that you'll do anything to get it. I don't really look up to those people. I appreciate the older-day sprinters. They never had steroids, and they worked hard to do it. Sprinters like Wilma Rudolph - I think she's the most sincere sprinter. I think people's morals have changed. They care so much about the sport, they will do anything for it. I don't think that's right.

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