School: Vincentian Academy
Abdalah pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the 2013 cross country season, winning the Class A state cross country title over superstar Kennedy Weisner. The wonderkid from Vincentian Academy earned her 2nd state medal outdoors in the 3200 meter run with a silver medal finish. Abdallah is the first freshman state champion since Sara Sargent in 2009 and will look to be the first back to back champion in the Class A division. Abdalah talked to PennTrackXC on the expectations of improving in 2014.
PennTrackXC - How is your summer training going? What kind of runs are you doing and what kind of mileage are you hitting?
My summer training is going very well this year. My runs vary anywhere from the trails to the road. My mileage varies as well from week to week. Each week, my mileage increases by little increments.
PennTrackXC - For what 2014 meets are you most excited?
I am very excited for all of the big invitationals this season including the Red, White, and Blue Invitational and Slippery Rock Invitational. But the most exciting meet for myself has to be States.
PennTrackXC - What are your goals for the 2014 cross country season?
I would have to say that my number one goal for the season is to attempt to win states again. However, I would like to improve my time of 17:49 in the season as well.
PennTrackXC - What is the most valuable lesson you learned last season and how can it be used to improve your 2014 season?
The most valuable lesson that I learned from last season is to always come back stronger. Everyone loses some races and wins others, but if you lose you shouldn't dwell on the loss. That will only hurt you mentally and effect your next race. Don't let one race define you, but instead, redeem yourself the next race. The other lesson that I learned, that I would like to mention, is to never doubt yourself and your abilities. When you get to the starting line, you may know that another opponent is stronger or faster than you. Just give it all you got and you never know what you can accomplish.
PennTrackXC - What are your keys to success when it comes to your training program?
There are three main keys to my success in training; 1. Always work hard. 2. To be disciplined. This includes the running aspects of discipline as well as diet. 3. Always remember to have fun.
PennTrackXC - What is your most memorable cross country performance thus far in your career?
My most memorable running performance thus far would have to be states. It was the most adrenaline filled moment I think that I have had in my entire life. In my career, it was one of my greatest underdog stories. Being a freshman last year, I never expected much for the season. My goal was just to do the best that I could do and feel out my high school season. When I made it to states, I wanted to win but my chances were 50/50. To come out on top like that was one of the best things that have ever happened to me.
PennTrackXC - What is your greatest non-running experience in cross country so far and why?
I would have to say that my greatest non-running experience in cross country happened at Tri-States last year when it was pouring rain. We all knew that eventually we would have to get out there and run in the torrential downpour. Instead of looking at the negatives, we tried to make the best out of the situation. One of my female teammates started singing Taylor Swift's "Sparks Fly" and we all started singing and had the best time that we could have to calm our nerves before the race. Now every time it rains, that song comes to mind!
PennTrackXC - When and how did you get started in cross country?
I began my running career when I was just 7 years old. My parents got me into running for the sole purpose of being healthy and for exercise. I first joined my school track team that was headed by my mom. Cross country came a little later because it was a longer distance than I would have to run in track at such a young age. I started with the 2k at the age of 9. I began competing with AAU cross country and then later moved to USATF. It was a rough start for me, but gradually I fell in love with the sport and I will continue to run in some capacity throughout my entire life.
PennTrackXC - Who has influenced you the most in your life and what have they meant to you and your success thus far in your career?
My parents have been my greatest influence in my running career and will continue to be. I mean, they were the ones who first introduced me to the sport. They have always been my biggest fans and loudest cheerleaders. Their knowledge in the sport, from their running careers, has led to my success. I attribute much of my success to them. Even though they are not my coaches, they still give me great advice from their past experiences. Not only do they give me advice for running purposes, they also help me to keep what I call a "running lifestyle". They always help me to have a good mindset about the sport and a healthy diet. Without them, I don't think that I would be the runner that I am today.
What is your...
Favorite social media hangout? Instagram
Pre-race ritual/superstition? My greatest pre-race ritual happens when I am on the starting line. I always take an ice cold bottle of water with me on my way there. When I am on the line, no matter the temperature, I always drench my entire body with that water. I have always been told from the time I was little to always wet my head before the race to keep cool. For some reason I do it for most races, probably out of habit.
Favorite cheat food? For some reason, I have always had a big sweet tooth. I would have to say that my cheat food would have to be chocolate cake, my favorite dessert. It is something that I try to refrain from during the season, but I have to have it every so often.
Favorite pro athlete? My favorite professional athlete would have to be Leo Manzano. I admire his guts and his phenomenal kick at the end of all of his races. He never gives up, even when the odds are not in his favor. I had the honor of meeting him twice already. Once in 2012 when I received my runner up medal at the USATF Cross Country National Championships in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The following year, he also gave out medals, except this time, I received the gold in San Antonio, Texas. Both times, he was very humble and seemed to be a genuinely good person. I strive to have the tenacity that he has and hopefully go to the Olympics someday like he has.
Must-have running accessory? I feel like I am most noted for wearing my navy blue and gold ribbon in my hair during races. I just have to have it. It also adds a little bit of bling to spice up our uniforms.
Long run jam? My favorite song and long run jam would have to be "Rather Be" by Clean Bandit. Truly, there is no place I'd rather be than out on a run.
Favorite workout? My favorite workout would have to be our hill workouts, no matter what the hill. It just makes me feel very strong and once I'm done, I feel a great sense of accomplishment.