Maggie Drazba values going to classes.
She's been known to miss only a handful of days during her first three years at St. Marys High School. But when something like the USA National Cross County Championships take place hundreds of miles away in St. Louis, Mo., you can bet she isn't going to pass up an opportunity to showcase her talents.
Recently honored as Gatorade's West Virginia Cross Country Runner of the Year, Drazba made the road-trip last Friday morning in time to compete in Saturday's Junior Women's 6K race at Forest Park.
The field included 39 runners trying to brave wind chills of 10 degrees. At stake were five slots for the NACAC (North America, Central America and Caribbean) Championships March 17 in the Port of Spain, Trinidad.
Drazba, who has two state cross country titles to her credit, kept pace with the lead pack throughout. Three-fourths into the race, it boiled down to five individuals - including Drazba. Heading into the final 1,000 meters, Drazba and University of Michigan freshman Shannon Osika established themselves as the frontrunners.
Osika managed to cross the finish line 3.4 seconds ahead of Drazba, who turned in a time of 21:07.7 for second place.
"Going in, I didn't really expect to qualify and make the NACAC team," Drazba said. "I wanted to go out aggressively and stay up with the front pack, and I managed to hold on the entire time. The pace felt just right."
Drazba had an idea what she was in for after traveling to Greensboro, N.C. last summer for the New Balance Outdoor Nationals.
"It was a lot of the same strategy," Drazba said.
The runner-up finish ranks high on the list. Especially since five of the top six placewinners were of the college variety.
Positions three through six went to Macy Bricks (Arizona State), Ellen Junewick (Michigan), Gabrielle Anzalone (Wisconsin) and Courtney Wood (Missouri).
"This race ranks first on the list probably because it was on a national level," Drazba said. "To get second felt like a big accomplishment as a runner."
Following a two-mile event schedule today in Akron, Ohio, Drazba will turn her attention to Trinidad. She has her passport in hand. Now she just has to learn about the country.
"I know it is off the coast of Venezuela, but that is about all I know," she admitted.
The weather figures to be warm. Drazba noticed it was 90 degrees this week in Trinidad. A complete opposite from the 20 degrees which welcomed the runners in St. Louis.
"In St. Louis, I didn't feel cold afterwards - instead I was really excited, and very happy that I qualified and was going to Trinidad."
Drazba's parents, Charlie and Kathleen, figure on making the trip to Trinidad. It just means a few more days off from school for the Blue Devil junior.
"I'll just get my assignments and stay caught up that way," said Maggie Drazba, who carries a 4.05 grade-point average. "I can't remember missing consecutive days before. It will be different, but as long as I stay on top of the work I will be OK."
Contact Kerry Patrick at email@example.com