The junior cross-country runner for Dr. Phillips High placed first at the Metro Conference West Championships Oct. 15.
DR. PHILLIPS Isabela Bartczak ran a time of 19:21.44 at the Metro Conference West Championship Oct. 15 at West Orange High, earning first place and helping the Panthers to finish third as a team.
The finish was the third-fastest of the junior runner's career and she beat the closest runner-up by a full 22 seconds.
Bartczak has had a strong season for Dr. Phillips, overall — something that has been a big help to first-year coach Laura Kirkikis.
"It's definitely very valuable because the kids need to be mentally prepared in order to race, and (Isabella) is just so strong mentally," Kirkikis said. "She came into the season ready to PR, ready to do her best and work really hard — and I think she rubbed off on a lot of the girls, for sure."
The Metro Conference West Championship can be a pretty competitive race. Were you surprised to win?
I wasn't totally surprised, but I was glad because I knew there is a girl from West Orange that is close to me in time, so I knew she was a threat. Winning wasn't a complete surprise, but I also didn't think it was a given.
The final few weeks of the season, you are likely to see some of the same teams and runners a number of times. Are there any friendly rivalries with girls at nearby schools like Olympia and West Orange?
There are always those girls that you always race against, so you kind of know who they are. You're always like "I need to beat her this race." Sometimes you'll beat her and sometimes she'll beat you, but at the end of the day you cross the line and congratulate each other and you're friends.
After placing 12th at state in 2015, what are you goals for the state series and the state meet this time around?
I really just want to make it into the top-10. It's my goal and it is going to be hard because our league, Class 4A, it's tough and there are a lot of fast girls.
Of the races you have won as a varsity runner, which has been the most memorable?
I've only won two, so probably this one. I remember my freshman year, the first race I ever got a ribbon or anything in was Metros. I was 15th, which is the last place you can get a ribbon in. So, to two years later win that race, it's pretty nice.
Has there been a former teammate who has graduated whom you have learned a lot from?
Yeah, Annika (Sison), she was our No. 1 last year. She is one of my best friends and one of the main reasons I started running faster. She helped me a lot just in terms of motivation and she led by example.
What do you enjoy about running and how do you motivate yourself to get better?
Running hurts, but I like the pain sometimes and I like going fast — just feeling myself move that fast, that motivates me. Knowing the results that I can get from running fast, that helps motivate me as well. ... Colleges can see that.
What are you thinking you might like to study in college?
I hope to study journalism in college. I would like to be an investigative journalist — one of those who goes maybe to the Middle East, and tells people about the situation over there. Just making people aware of problems and helping them fix it.
What do you like to do with your downtime from school and running?
I have three dogs, so I spend a lot of my time with them and it's the most fun I have. They're all golden retrievers. My one dog, she gave birth and we kept two of the puppies. Amber (the mom), Bella and Olivia.