SALEM — A good week can do wonders for distance runners with high expectations.
Marlington’s Bella Graham can attest to it.
Graham didn’t know what to make of her junior track and field season heading into the Division II district meet. Her only personal best came in the 800-meter run.
“I think it was more mental than physical,” Graham said. “My workouts have been really good. Sometimes it just gets in my head on race day.”
Graham looked unbeatable Saturday at Sebo Stadium. She won district titles in the 1,600-meter run by 13 seconds and 3,200 by 16 seconds.
Less than 48 hours earlier, Graham helped lead the Dukes’ 3,200-meter relay to a third-place finish. She certainly has something to build on heading into next week’s regional in Austintown.
“I’m super grateful,” Graham said.
The distance sweep is Graham’s first at the district level. She successfully defended her 3,200 championship in 11:26.24 and won her first 1,600 title in 5:10.20. She was runner-up in the 1,600 a year ago.
“It’s really special,” Graham said. “I guess this is the time when all the hard work from earlier in the season pays off. Whether your times are slow or fast, postseason is all about what place you get.”
Graham ran both distance races on arguably the hottest day of the season. There’s a decent recovery gap between them. Still, it’s a grueling three-mile journey.
“I don’t mind the heat that much,” Graham said. “It was a little extreme today. Obviously it makes times a little slower, but you just have to work hard through it.”
Graham was part of Marlington’s program winning five district titles on Saturday.
Liam Blake won the 1,600 in 4:22.98. In the girls long jump, Ariana Painter had a winning jump of 17 feet, 0.50 inches.
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