ITHACA, N.Y. –
Aisling Cuffe stopped settling for being very good long ago.
It explains how she can wear a smile from ear to ear in the aftermath of her latest superb race in her latest superb season and still manage to explain she has regrets even as she prepares for the crowning moment of her high school distance-running career.
"I haven't had the same indoors I always have," she said at the NYSPHSAA indoor track championships at Cornell University. "I love cross country and I cannot believe I'm going to Spain. That to me is worth it, but I would have loved to have run a fast mile."
You see, the way the Cornwall Central (New Windsor)
senior's mind works, 4 minutes, 37.93 seconds in the 1,500 meters last month at the Section IX championships doesn't count. That is why Stanford University has landed itself a recruit destined for great accomplishments.
Cuffe was machine-like Saturday en route to a record-setting victory in the 3,000 meters at the New York State Public High School Athletic Association meet. Racing against three others ranked in the top five in the nation at that distance, her winning time of 9:29.89 broke the state record of 9:31.97 by Elmira's Molly Huddle in 2002 and moved her to No. 6 on the all-time U.S. list.
Samantha Nadel of North Shore (Glen Head)
was second in 9:33.41, setting herself up as New York's next distance prodigy by breaking Cuffe's New York junior-class record.
She was able to run nearly stride-for-stride through six laps with Cuffe, who isn't used to having company, and looked ready to make one last attack after Cuffe came through the mile at 5:07.
"My coach was like, ‘She's making a move. She's closing.' I was like, ‘Oh, no,'" Cuffe said.
A ruthless 37-second next lap by Cuffe ended the threat, but not Cuffe's determination.
"I had to just pretend she was right there and go as fast as I could," she said.
The only thing to go faster than Cuffe has been the season itself. Cuffe's cross country season extended into December en route to victory at the Foot Locker Cross Country Nationals in San Diego. She then made the decision to compete in the USATF Junior Nationals, which she won to secure a spot in the World Junior Championships this month in Spain.
But that knocked Cuffe out of her usual competitive routine for the indoor season. Though she raced almost every weekend, Cuffe mostly stayed off the 'A' circuit to continue preparations for her first international meet.
She'll be up against tough odds despite her trademark relentless focus. The weather at the World Championships will be warmer and dryer than what Cuffe has been training in for the last three months. There's only so much you can do when you live in the Northeast.
"It's been tough," she admitted. "During the fall my mileage was in the mid-40s, now I've been struggling to break 30. I count my miles and keep track so I can look back to see what I've been doing, and it's been 30, 31, 32, 35.
"My coach is always telling me it's not about what you're writing down on paper, it's about the effort you put in. If there's only a certain mileage available because of the snow and that's all I run, then that's fine. I know I've done the best I could do."
Anyone who knows her knows she'll find a way to squeeze it a little more.Continue reading for more highlights