It's very rare to see a freshman win a state championship in their first year of high school. Scratch that, it's very rare to see someone win the 800 meter state race as a freshman.
This week's runner profile highlights none other than MaryAlice Mitchell of Washington High School in Tacoma.
Mitchell went on to win the 2A 800 meter race at the state track meet this past spring running a personal best time of 2:14.08 after having run a personal best earlier in the preliminaries.
Last fall, Mitchell finished fifth at the 2A state cross meet running a personal best time of 19:09.5, an odd occurrence on such a tough and hilly course.
With week one concluding this past Saturday, the Washington sophomore won her first race of the season at the Capital Invite for a second year in a row in a time of 13:34.8 for the 2.23 mile course.
-What was the feeling of winning a state championship your freshman year?
"Winning a state championship freshman year was something I could have never dreamed of. In the 800 I was the only freshman in the preliminary race and the final. In my mind I was a little girl somehow running with all these intimidating girls who knew how to run and have been doing it competitively for three or four years. But when it came down to it, we were just eight girls running around another track. It felt amazing when I finished, I couldn't believe it."
-What do you most enjoy about running?
"The thing I like most about running is how freeing it is. While running it is only me, God, and the course. Nothing else is on my mind. I can go on a hard run when I’m frustrated. I can go on a long run when I want to be alone and think. Hearing and depending on the constant repetition of my footsteps and breathing is comforting."
-What is race day like for you?
"Race day for me is about trying to be calm. I am always nervous before races, so I cling to all positivity and encouragement. I wake up to my alarm that I’ve labeled with something along the lines of 'You are a champion' or 'You got this'. Throughout my day I try to mentally prepare myself and drink tons of water. Around an hour to thirty minutes before the beginning of the race I normally get pretty quiet as to focus on the task I’m about to do."
-What is your pre race meal the night before a meet?
"My team has a few dinners together the evening before a meet, and other times my ma cooks, so what I eat varies. But it’s always good food: carbs (of course), fruit or vegetables of some kind and protein; what every athlete should eat. I do always eat the same breakfast though. In my home, we have Breakfast Sandwiches and my ma makes me one every time. It has a toasted English muffin, scrambled eggs, ham, melted cheddar cheese and salt and pepper. I never get sick of them."
-What is your favorite workout you do in practice?
"My favorite workout that we do in practice is hill day. It’s one of our harder workouts of the week, but the practice itself is short. We get a lot of challenging work done in a fairly brief time period. Plus, working hard feels good; knowing you gave one-hundred percent effort even though there’s no audience to applaud you on."
-What is your favorite course in the state, or out of state?
"My favorite course is at Fort Steilacoom. It’s very diverse. It goes back and forth from being somewhat open with tall grass around you, to being in the trees and hills. The course itself doesn’t feel very long. The best thing about it though, is when you come down from the second hill (the bigger of the two), there’s an 800 to go to the finish line. I think that the Fort Steilacoom course is also my favorite because it was the first meet that I ran in the nineteens and I broke the girl’s freshman record there last year, so there are positive memories attached to it."
-What do you feel are your main strengths as an athlete?
"My main strengths as an athlete are my dedication to reach my full potential, being teachable and building others up. I believe God made me to run, and the least I can do is try my very hardest to use the gift he’s given me to become the best that I can be."
-What has running taught you?
"Running has taught me how little I can do on my own. Running has also taught me that its okay to be tired. I used to be scared to work hard and feel like I can’t breathe all the way and that my legs might fall off my body. But over the years I’ve realized, with running, that being tired will not kill me and it’s not something to be afraid of. And further, running has shown me that everyone grows at their own pace and just because their growth doesn’t look like yours, doesn’t mean that they’re not working hard."
-Other than running, what do you like to do outside of school?
"I’m in band, I play the trumpet. I’m normally pretty busy with concerts and playing at basketball and football games. I really like to go to church and worship. Spending quality time with my dog, Ethel, is something I enjoy doing. She’s almost ten so cuddling and lots of pets are on the agenda."
-What's it been like running for Coach Allen Culp?
"Running for Coach Allen Culp is a good experience. Sometimes he can be strict and a bit louder than necessary, but most of the time it’s great being one of his athletes. He always wants to better his runners and is willing to put in a lot of effort to get them there. The team aspect that he creates is very inclusive and filled with a family feeling."
-If you had to become an inanimate object for the year, what would you be and why?
"If I had to be an inanimate object for a year, I would be a Christmas tree. Most of the year would suck because I’m stuffed in a box or I’m growing on a Christmas tree farm to be brutally murdered. But the couple weeks that I would be in a family’s home would be worth it. Being decorated, topped off with a star, gradually having presents filled in beneath me. I’d just bring a lot of happiness to a home."
-Any advice to younger runners?
"To all the young runners, if you’re not tired then you’re not doing it right. Work hard, work for your goal and your prize and do something you can be proud of. Running is hard and fun. And you’ll probably want to quit a lot, but when you get to your prize, looking back at all you did, you’ll be so proud."