When the gun went off at Mount Everett last Wednesday, a relative unknown in the Berkshire County cross country world sprinted to the front of the pack and stayed there for the first half mile.
Tia Brown had focused her energy into becoming a soccer player the last two-plus years. But during tryouts for this year’s varsity team, the Drury junior realized the playing time simply wasn’t going to be there. So she went on the offensive and joined cross country.
Coach Jim Buffoni couldn’t be happier.
"I’d love to get all soccer, not all of them, but any of them that didn’t want to do soccer any more are always welcome because they do enough running, or should do enough running there," he said. "Then they come here and just have to train a little different."
The training isn’t what’s been the most difficult for Brown to get used to. It’s been pacing herself during races. She came to that realization in a hurry.
In her first meet, Sept. 7 at Taconic, she fell back on her soccer instincts and sprinted away from the start. She soon found out there’s no sub coming in to let her sit down, get some water and catch her breath before getting back to work. It’s all work from start to finish.
"Oh I definitely learned [to pace myself] the first race when I was pretty bad after," she said. "I’ve never really been dizzy till I ran that first race and I realized
She may have been dizzy and quenching some water, but she crossed the line in 20th place in a race that also included powers Pittsfield and Monument. The next week, she finished 22nd in a field that again featured the Generals and also Lenox.
But those finishes can’t compare to the one she had Sept. 19 at Mount Everett, Drury’s second straight meet on the Eagles’ home course.
With a field featuring nearly all the best runners in the county -- Mount Greylock, Lenox, Monument Mountain and Hoosac Valley all were competing -- Brown placed 26th. She led the 2.9-mile race through the first half mile, and while she didn’t win, she did shave 1 minute, 21 seconds off her time from the previous week.
"She’s been in the top 25 every race, [26th today]," Buffoni said following the Sept. 19 race. "This is a big race, so I’m happy with that. With the three teams [Greylock, Lenox and Monument] that were here, for her to be [26th] is great." Three Hoosac girls finished ahead of her.
The race may well be an indicator of what’s to come for this cross country rookie.
And that’s precisely what she’s focused on: what’s coming down the road.
"I wish I could do better, but I’m really happy with how it’s been going. Hopefully, next year I’ll be able to do better.
"I’m really looking forward to really working for next year, getting in better shape."
So what does all this say about Brown?
"It says she should have been running a long time ago," Buffoni said.
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