Tripodi certainly made the best of her situation as she turned a missed opportunity to try out for Lovett’s middle school volleyball team a couple of years ago into a promising running career.
The 14-year-old Lovett rising freshman has established herself as a runner to watch in her two years of competition with a runner-up finish at the USATF Georgia Cross Country Junior Olympics cross country championships, a 13th-place showing at the USATF Region 3 Cross Country meet in November and a 79th-place result at the USATF National Junior Olympics Cross Country Championships in December.
All this, because Tripodi and her family came home too late for her to make the volleyball tryouts for Lovett’s middle school team as a seventh-grader two years ago.
Instead, Tripodi decided to try her hand at cross country, a sport she had never competed in before, and she joined Lovett’s middle school squad.
“My friend convinced me to [try cross country] and I liked it ever since.” Tripodi said.
Having not done any training that summer, Tripodi struggled throughout her entire seventh-grade season in 2011.
“I was not very successful,” she said. “I only won one medal and it was, like, 20th place — the last medal you can get.”
It was her eighth-grade season last year that Tripodi hit her stride.
After training seriously during the summer, she proceeded to win a number of races.
It was that success that convinced Tripodi to aim for qualifying for the USATF national meet.
She came through at the state meet in Fayetteville, where she finished a strong second on the 2.5-mile course with a time of 15 minutes, 37 seconds in the girls’ middle school race.
Tripodi then achieved her goal of qualifying for nationals at the region meet in Fayetteville one week later, running a time of 15:41.
The national meet in Albuquerque, N.M., proved to be a little more difficult for Tripodi, who struggled with the high altitude and ran 16:21 to place 79th.
“While we were in New Mexico, the altitude kind of hit me and I had trouble breathing when I was running, so it was difficult,” Tripodi said. “I’m very happy, because I finished the race, obviously. I felt very accomplished, because I have never done anything like that before. It was the first time I did anything big and that was an accomplishment.”
Tripodi, who will be moving up to the Lovett high school cross country team as a freshman this fall, has her sights on a return trip to the USATF national meet, which will be held in December in San Antonio, Texas.
“My goal is to medal, which is [a] top-25 [finish],” Tripodi said. “San Antonio will be a little better, because it’s not a high altitude like New Mexico.”