Making run at state title

Hereford freshman Kristen Malloy is a threat to win the Class 2A cross country championship.


In some ways, Kristen Malloy is a typical freshman: prepared to take on new experiences, eager to please, and wary of standing out from the crowd.

But when you can run three miles in less than 20 minutes and you are regarded as one of the favorites to win a state championship in cross country for a school that hasn't boasted an individual state titlist in almost 20 years, blending in is no easy task.

And that's the way it is with Malloy, a freshman at Hereford who has cemented herself as the Bulls' undisputed No. 1 runner and a potential state champion.

In a span of two months, Malloy has finished fourth at the Bull Run, fifth at the Harford invitationals and second to Franklin senior Michelle Donadio at the Baltimore County championships.

Last week, Malloy secured her first victory when she captured the Class 2A North regional crown with a time of 20 minutes, 3.86 seconds -73 seconds faster than the runner-up.

"I really didn't know what to expect," Malloy said of her accomplishments. "It's been a lot of fun. It hurts, but it's been a good season."

Malloy's success has caught the attention of several observers, including Atholton junior Alison Smith, who is looking to retain the Class 2A state title she claimed last year over Hereford's arduous 3-mile course.

"She could be a threat," Smith, last season's All-Metro Runner of the Year, said of Malloy. "I'm thinking that [the state meet is] on her home course, which gives her a little bit of an advantage. It's going to be tough."

Said Malloy: "Yeah, well, same to her. I'm more worried about her. We'll just see what happens."

Malloy has proven that she is not afraid of competition. She has pulled down straight A's since elementary school and was president of the Junior National Honor Society at Hereford Middle School - without any prompting from her parents.

On the course, Malloy is usually leading or staying on the heels of the leaders. Marta Randall, a freshman on the Bulls team and one of Malloy's closest friends, said her determination is what carries her through moments of pain and exhaustion.

"She wants to do really well," Randall said. "Most people think, `Oh, I'm not sure I'm going to come in the top 10.' Kristen worries about coming in first. That's what concerns her."

Being in front has its pros and cons. The pros are that you can set the pace and competitors have to catch you. The cons are that staying mentally focused over a long period of time can be draining and you usually never know who is behind you.

Dulaney coach Chad Boyle, who has guided some of the area's best cross country runners, said he has been impressed with Malloy's maturity and concentration in races.

"She has handled the pressure of being up front," he said. "That's tough to do for a young kid. There's going to be ups and downs, and they have to maintain their confidence through those ups and downs. ... She's handled the pressure of varsity experience really well."

Malloy's development as a long-distance runner began when she was a seventh-grader. Her father, Patrick, a former runner who helped Beverly High School win three Massachusetts state crowns in cross country, sought to resume running after a long layoff, but he needed a partner.

Enter Kristen, who had been swimming for about six years but was looking for something new.

"She really took to it right off the bat," said Patrick Malloy, who would wake his daughter at about 4:30 a.m. to go running before he had to drive to the University of Maryland Medical Center, where he is a radiologist. "She would get up with me, and she'd come out with me every day before school. It was just a real pleasure for me."

Soon, father and daughter were participating in 5K's, 10-milers and half-marathons. Last spring, the pair won the father-daughter award at a 5K sponsored by a Baltimore hospital for posting the fastest combined time.

To prepare for the cross country season at Hereford, Kristen Malloy averaged 60 miles of running per week during the summer. Malloy said she usually ran every day, taking a break on an occasional Sunday.

As with any newcomer, Malloy was somewhat concerned about how she would be perceived by her older teammates, who had claimed the Class 2A state championship last fall for the first time since 1980.

Russ Drylie, who co-coaches the Hereford program with Elena Basignani, said he was a little apprehensive, too.

"We knew she was going to be a really strong front-runner, which we haven't had on the team before," Drylie said. "We weren't too sure how everybody was going to react, but they're all family. They've been great."

Malloy opened her season by placing fourth in the elite division of the Bull Run in mid-September, plucking off seasoned veterans like Smith, 2004 Anne Arundel County titlist Tait Woodward of Broadneck and 2004 Baltimore County champion Emma Larkin of Dulaney.

Two weeks later, Smith turned the tables on Malloy at the Harford Invitational, but Malloy managed to finish fifth in the seeded race at Tollgate Park in Bel Air.

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