When Jenny Howard left behind her celebrated running career at Fallston High for the fast track at the University of Wisconsin, she expected to spend at least a year racing in relative anonymity.
Instead, Howard has continued to add to a collection of accolades that already included nine state high school championships.
Last fall, the 18-year-old earned Big 10 Freshman of the Year honors after finishing as the top true freshman at the NCAA Cross Country Championships.
Five weeks ago, Howard earned a spot on the U.S. team that will compete in the Junior World Cross Country Championships next weekend in Boston.
For the first time, Howard will wear theU.S. red, white and blue. She is excited but is trying to stay focused on the race.
"It's a whole new experience, but I'll try and approach it just like I have every other race," said Howard, who qualified by finishing second at the world team trials in Memphis, Tenn., Feb. 8.
For Howard, adjusting to the university hasn't been difficult. Her first-semester grades were all A's and B's, and her training schedule hasn't changed much since high school.
The Wisconsin team practices together three times a week, but the rest of the time Howard is free to set her training schedule. She has run mostly outdoors through the unseasonably mild Madison winter.
In her first season of indoor track, Howard continued to cut time off her 3,000- and 5,000-meter finishes the same way she consistently improved in cross country. She still has a way to go to catch the top runners. But Howard knew that would be the case when she joined one of the nation's top running programs.
"On the college level, one of the big changes is the training atmosphere, where there are girls there to push you to practice. That's one thing I really looked forward to. You can only get better by running with better people."
So far, Howard has reached all but one of the goals she set for her freshman season: She finished fifth at the Big 10 Championships in both the 3,000 and 5,000, but did not qualify for this weekend's NCAA indoor championships.
Howard barely missed qualifying for nationals in the 5,000 meters. Her best time of 16:43.60 on Feb. 29 was a provisional qualifying time. However, only the top 10 times run in each event during the season qualify in each event, and Howard missed the cut.
"I'm not really disappointed that I didn't make it," said Howard. "I ran a personal best during the season and improved in a lot of ways. I haven't had a weekend off in a while, so this will be good for me. I plan on really focusing on the world championships."