Racing today, gone Sunday Indoor track: Annapolis runner Misha Bilyeu goes for a county title today to match her cross country crown last fall. But then the military daughter takes her act to Virginia, on the way to Belgium.

January 22, 1998|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,SUN STAFF

The week for Annapolis junior Misha Bilyeu started with final exams.

This afternoon, she's leading the Panthers indoor track team in the Anne Arundel County Championships at the Fifth Regiment Armory in Baltimore, entering as the top seed in the 800 meters, third seed in the 1,600, and running a leg of the team's 1,600-meter relay squad.

On Sunday, she'll be moving to Chesapeake, Va. -- near Virginia Beach -- to finish out the school year before moving to Brussels, Belgium, in the summer. Getting there in the summer will give her some time to adjust before attending an American college-prep school in the fall.

"I'll have to learn French," the 16-year-old says matter-of-factly.

Growing up in a military family, Bilyeu is used to change. She rattles off the different places she's lived as if she's reading from a grocery list.

"I was born in Germany, there for three years. Kansas for three years, in Leavenworth," she said. "Massachusetts, Shirley, the next six. P.A., near Scranton, for a year before going back to

Kansas for another year. I moved to Maryland in '95."

Bilyeu loves to run. When she was younger, her mom, Elizabeth, would go out for a run, and she'd tag along on her bike. A little later, she started running alongside her. Bilyeu ran cross country in seventh grade, track in the eighth grade, before moving to Annapolis for her freshman year.

"I remember going to cross country practice that summer, hearing about this girl coming that was supposed to be so fast," said senior Kaye Powell, a hurdler and high jumper. "There was a girl at the first practice we didn't know, but we didn't realize it was her until we saw her keeping up with [graduated standout] Alison Ross. We were like 'Wow, she's the one we were talking about.'"

For Bilyeu, saving her Maryland best for last will be a difficult chore at today's championship, only because of her effort at the county's cross country championship in October.

Knowing it was her last chance at a county title, she edged Broadneck's Amanda Schmidt by one second, covering the 3.2-mile course in 20 minutes, 36 seconds.

"I really, really wanted that one bad. It was a dream race," she said. "The whole week, I focused on that race, concentrating on what I had to do. It was my last [county] race, and I wanted to make it one to remember."

Bilyeu has carried her cross country success over to the indoor track season with her highlight, so far, a win at 1,500 meters at the Pangaea International Track and Field Meet in December. She has a reasonable chance of coming away with two individual firsts (800 and 1,600) today. Indoor track coach Mike Ballard said Bilyeu has provided much more than the numerous firsts she's enjoyed in her three years on varsity.

"She's the strongest and most consistent runner we have on the girls team. She's just always there," the second-year coach said. "She gives everyone else on the team something to shoot for. If you want to work hard, stay by Misha. She sets goals for herself, knows what she wants, and does what she has to to succeed."

By Sunday, Bilyeu will have added to her extensive address book a new Annapolis chapter.

"We don't want her to go," said Powell, who gave Bilyeu a photo album as a going-away gift. "Our whole team is real close, and we're all going to miss her. She's a real good friend, real team-oriented. We'll be saying, 'Let's go here' or 'let's go there,' but she'll say we have to run first. She keeps the rest of us in line."

Ask Bilyeu what she'll miss most when she leaves Annapolis and, without hesitation, she'll tell you it's all of her friends. Coming and going as much as she has, she's learned to adapt quickly, and says she enjoys the chance to meet new people and discover different things.

So she'll head to Virginia with school starting on Tuesday, run for the track team there, and make some more new friends.

"Getting older, it's a little harder. Emotionally, it's tough because, by now, everyone already has their friends. It's also going to be hard leaving everyone here and leaving the team," she said. "I'm happy with my life and happy with what I've done so far. I've learned to communicate better, became more outgoing and that's important."

Bilyeu takes a 3.8 grade-point average with her to Virginia and after her year in Belgium, she plans to return to the United States to attend college in pursuit of a career in the medical field.

First things first, and today, that's the track championships and running, where she's always right at home.

Pub Date: 1/22/98

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