ST. MARYS - Maggie Drazba's first exposure to airline travel went as well as expected. She didn't do too bad either with her debut as a member of Team USA.
The student-athlete from St. Marys High School was one of five women to represent the red, white and blue in the junior division of the North America, Central America and Caribbean (NACAC) Cross Country Championships this past weekend in the Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago.
With Drazba's fourth-place finish in the 4K event at Queen's Park Savannah on Saturday afternoon, Team USA swept the top four positions and finished first with 10 points compared to 37 for runner-up Canada. A total of nine countries were on hand for the event.
Maggie Drazba competes in the North America, Central America and Caribbean Cross Country Championships Saturday in Trinidad and Tobago. (Photo Provided)
"This was really exciting and definitely a good experience," said Drazba, who returned to her Pleasants County home late Sunday night. "The race was a big thing and so was meeting all the new people on Team USA."
Drazba was the lone high school athlete on a squad that consisted of two members from the University of Michigan (Shannon Osika and Ellen Juewick), and one each from the University of Wisconsin (Gabrielle Anzalone) and Arizona State University (Macy Bricks).
The four college freshmen, along with Drazba, met for training runs on Thursday and Friday.
On Saturday, the weather was humid and hot.
Drazba managed to stay with the lead pack for the first 2K.
"We pretty much all stayed in a pack with Team USA then we spread out," Drazba said. "Gabby and Shannon took off then Macy took off, too."
Osika placed first in a time of 13:40.40. Next across the finish line was Anzalone (13:47.50) followed by Bricks (13:59.54). Drazba's effort of 14:11.70 was faster than 23 other runners.
"Our coach wanted us to do our best and make sure we stuck together for the beginning part of the race," Drazba said.
The NACAC Championships contested races for the open men's 8K, open women's 6K, junior men's 6K and the junior women's 4K. Team USA's sweep of the team titles marked the first time a country has swept all the team titles since the inaugural year of the event in 2005 when Team USA first accomplished the feat.
Even with an impressive resume which includes being named the West Virginia state cross country runner of the year this past fall and setting three records at last year's state track meet in Charleston, this past weekend's trip to the Caribbean topped the charts for Drazba.
"This probably rates No. 1," Drazba said.