Rachel Pillion joined running clubs in elementary and middle school and then followed her sisters Kaitlin and Hanna to the cross country team at Towson. Now one of the area's top distance runners, the senior finished third at the Barnhart Invitational last month in 20 minutes, 9 seconds and will run at this weekend's rescheduled Bull Run at Hereford. Last spring in track, she won Baltimore County, regional and state Class 3A titles in the 3,200 meters. Pillion, 17, has a 3.81 grade point average and plans to major in one of the sciences. She wants to run in college but is still considering schools. A member of the National and Spanish honor societies, she is also in the environmental club and on the senior class steering committee.
Who is the best runner among the Pillion sisters?
I think I am (laughs), because of my times, I guess. I think I've been more serious about it. One of my sisters (Hanna) just decided to because my oldest sister (Kaitlin) did it, but Kaitlin was closer to some of my times.
Why did you stick with running?
I really like the team atmosphere. I've met a lot of my friends from cross country, and I just like how, although it's individual and you work on your times, it's really a team sport. It's just something you can always do. With other sports, you sometimes need other people to play it with, but you can always just go run.
Are you goal oriented?
Yeah. My goal is to break 19 minutes. Two summers ago, I went with two of my teammates to running camp and we learned if you have a time goal to write it on an index card and write, "Believe. Believe. Believe" and put it up somewhere where you'll see it every day. It has 19 minutes on it, but maybe I should put 18:59 (laughs).
How much running did you do over the summer?
I didn't actually do that much, because I went to camp for the month of July and I went on a mission trip to El Salvador, so I was away for six weeks. Also, last year I didn't really get that long a break between seasons, so my coach [Ed] Faya thought it would be good if I backed down a little over the summer, so I started up again in August, just doing distance runs.
Do you think the break helped?
Yeah, because I'm feeling really fresh and I think I probably would have gotten burned out early in the season if I had run all summer.
Was the Barnhart a good race for you?
It was really hot that day, so the conditions were kind of hard to run with, but it was a good day. It was early in the season, so hopefully my time will go down, but it was a good indicator to see where I was.
Were you disappointed that the Bull Run was postponed?
I was actually really disappointed, because I woke up that morning ... and I saw on the computer that it was postponed. I originally thought it was just until later in the day and then I realized it was another two weeks. It was tough, because usually before a big meet we prepare all week.
Does that disrupt your training?
In the beginning of the week, we'll do one or two of the harder workouts ... and then we taper off. Now, we're going to have to go back and repeat our training again. Also, with it being closer to our championship season, it will probably be a little different.
How did the mission trip to El Salvador come about?
My mom went last summer and she had such a good time and really wanted her family to come back with her. My sisters already had jobs for the summer, but my dad and I went. It was with a group, a Lutheran organization called Thrivent, and it paired with Habitat for Humanity, so it was called Thrivent Build.
What did you do there?
We built a house for people we knew there. A lot of times we do service things with the community of San Salvador. We went to a really poor suburb and I got to stay with one of the families from the congregation, so that was real eye-opening. We went to a homeless shelter and helped out serving lunch.
Did that experience change you?
Yeah. I have a new perspective on the world or a new outlook on the world. We heard a lot of stories of people affected by their civil war and how the United States supported it. Now, they're still such a war-ravaged country and so many people are still trying to recover from it. Sometimes, you wonder how we could have done that. So many people have less than us, but they're just so grateful for everything.