Molly DeMarzo, Girls CC Runner Of The Year
On one hand, it’s unfair to compare a freshman to some of the area’s best runners this decade.
On the other hand, Crestwood ninth-grader Molly DeMarzo’s cross country career started with a bang so big, a few recent graduates with star-studded resumès are the ones who can help put it in perspective.
DeMarzo earned a medal to cap her stellar varsity debut at this month’s PIAA Cross Country Championships in Hershey. She took 19th place in Class 2A — third among freshmen — finishing in 20 minutes, 25 seconds.
It was the Wyoming Valley Conference’s best girls finish at the state meet since Dallas’ Ally Rome won the Class 2A championship in 2015.
Perhaps more interesting, DeMarzo became the first WVC freshman girl to medal at states — since Rome, who took 18th (19:51) back in 2012, along with Tunkhannock’s Maggie Toczko. Toczko later placed as high as seventh at states.
In fact, since 2010, the only WVC girls to finish in the state’s top 25 as freshmen are DeMarzo, Toczko, Ally Rome and older sister Regan Rome. Regan took 20th (19:21) in 2010 and was a top-five finisher in each of her next three seasons with Dallas.
Zoom out a bit, and DeMarzo (and Class A Elk Lake’s Krista Jones) became the first freshmen girls in all of District 2 to medal since Abington Heights’ Katie Dammer raced to 20th (19:46) in 2014’s Class 2A meet. Dammer was a top-10 runner in the state the rest of her varsity career.
Before Dammer, Elk Lake’s Justine Johns was only a freshman when she placed 20th (20:18) in 2013’s Class A meet. Johns stayed in the PIAA’s top-20 her entire career.
None of this is to say DeMarzo is bound to win a state title or that she is a guaranteed medalist in the future. But the latest D2 and WVC girls to match her freshman performance make impressive company; it shows just how special her autumn was.
DeMarzo’s fast start with the Comets also included championships at the WVC and District 2 meets. By the end of it all, there was no doubt that the WVC girls’ only state medalist this season had earned The Citizens’ Voice’s Girls Runner of the Year honors.
DeMarzo recently spoke with staff writer Eric Shultz.
Q. You’ve had a few weeks off since you medaled in the state and you won a District 2 championship. Looking back, what are you going to remember most about this season, and what made it all possible?
A. I’m just thinking the hard work. I know I’ve said that in all the interviews, but if you didn’t put all the hard work in, this wouldn’t even have been possible. All the summer runs, and my coaches and everyone.
I think I’ll just remember that there wasn’t any expectations this year. So, the fact that I was able to go out and perform this year, I think it was kind of eye-opening to not just me, but to everyone.
Q. Did the lack of expectations include you, too, where you weren’t even sure how well you’d fare?
A. Well, my dad and I, we normally talk about running a lot. With how well I did last year in junior high, we talked about it in the summer a couple times. We just said that this year, there wasn’t really going to be any expectations. If I did well, I did well. But if not, not to worry about it because there’s no college scouts or anyone looking out at the races right now, at least for me. So it was just going to be to put the hard work in and see where that put me. But we did not expect this well of a season.
Q. What’s the toughest part of running, something about it that people might not understand how challenging it is?
A. Probably that no matter how much you run or what you do, it’s always going to be beneficial. Sometimes you just have to push yourself to get out and run. Just focus on the end product and knowing that if you keep putting in all the miles, it’ll eventually get you to somewhere.
Q. Is that what you think of the most to motivate you to get out on days where maybe you don’t want to run so much?
A. Over the summer, that was pretty much it. In the summer, we don’t really train with our team except for like once during the week. For the most part, it’s just you running by yourself. So you just have to be mentally tough to push yourself through all the long runs, the speed workouts and all that stuff. I think that’s pretty much what I focused on this season: that first meet. Even though the runs in the summer were hard, I think it paid of knowing that if I kept working hard, I would get my result.
Q. Is it easy to explain where the joy of running comes for you?
A. I don’t know. I just kind of went out and started running. I started in track and then after that, I did cross country. But I feel like if you’re having a bad day, you can always just go out and run. Just relieve any stress or anything like that. You can just be free and let go. But, I don’t know. It’s hard to explain why I do it, but I just love it.
Q. Do you find different places to run around your house in the summer?
A. Actually, in the summer, my house is all the way up on a hill. So, all the way down to the front of the neighborhood is a mile. I would just go down and back a couple times. It was really good hills, but sometimes I would do it too much and my knees would get really sore. I pretty much just did that. But I think the hills from the streets, I think that really helped toward me being strong and attacking the hills throughout the season.
Q. How do you think this year will change how you’ll approach next season?
A. I don’t know. I think I’ll go out and have the same mentality. There’s definitely going to be — well, at least on myself — I’ll put a lot more pressure on myself next year because I know I beat everyone in our conference so far. But you can’t look at it that way. You have to look at it as just training for you, and you getting stronger. Not worrying about anybody else because eventually it’ll all pay off — all the lifting and hard runs. But I think I just have to stay humble and just focus on myself and my training for right now, and next season will pay off.
Q. If somebody else was in your shoes and breaking into varsity running, what advice would you give them? Is there something you think is most important to keep in mind as you’re trying to become a better runner?
A. I would definitely say to set your mind on a certain goal and just slowly work toward it. That’s kind of what I did. I definitely wanted to try to make it to states, but I did not know this season would’ve gone like this. Just set your mind on a goal and keep working toward it, and always listen to your coaches. ... Also, listen to yourself because you know your body more than anyone does. Your coaches only see you for a certain amount of time. They can control your runs, but you can control how you feel.
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