It was easy to tell Miranda DiBiasio apart from the pack during the Salty Dog Invitational in Annapolis, Md. earlier this month.
The junior cross country runner ran a 22:42.04 on the 6,000-meter course – good for a first-place finish a full 11 seconds ahead of the race’s second-place finisher.
“Miranda ran fantastic,” head coach Terry Weir said after the meet. “She was a lot more controlled and this longer, a little more hillier race is her kind of course. She ran really really well.”
The win, her second in a row at the Salty Dog, is just one of the many ways DiBiasio — arguably the best runner on GW’s squad — has lead her team by example, something she hopes to do to help her team reach its goals this season.
“This year we’ve really committed to making sure we’re all doing the extra stuff that might take a little bit of time but is really going to make a difference — stretching, flexibility work, strengthening exercises, those kinds of things,” DiBiasio said. “Since I spend a lot of time doing that stuff, I’m just hoping that the younger girls will see that and be like ‘Hey maybe this is what it takes.’”
The Berea, Ohio native had a breakout campaign last fall as a sophomore, earning second-place finishes or better in the team’s first three meets and a 14th-place finish in the 2015 Atlantic 10 Championship, helping GW finish 5th out of 14 teams.
The two-time A-10 Performer of the Week also holds program record-times in two outdoor track events: the Penn Relays 5000m (16:56.02) and the A-10 Championship 10000m (35:07.64).
The Colonials’ 2015 cross country season ended at the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional last November, where they finished 16th out of 30-team field — one spot shy of nabbing All-Region honors.
“That was really upsetting for us because we had hit all of our other goals last year except for that one,” DiBiasio said.
This year, their goals are more even more ambitious: a top-three A-10 finish with a 5K team-average time of under 18 minutes, along with NCAA Mid-Atlantic All-Region nod.
Over the past few years, the running programs at GW have transformed. Five years ago, during Weir’s first season helming both the men’s and women’s squads, just nine runners made up the entire women’s roster.
The team has been growing ever since, and with the addition of a track program in 2014-2015, GW has been able to recruit stronger runners.
DiBiasio, whose older sister ran cross country and track at American University, said she chose GW because she loved the school and D.C., but the opportunity to be part of a program on the rise didn’t hurt.
“The fact that the track program was going to be brand-new my freshman year was kind of intriguing to me,” DiBiasio said. “No matter what I knew I was going to be a part of something that was a growing and developing program. Maybe it wasn’t in it’s prime yet, but I knew that if I was on this team I would have a part and a place in making this program bigger and better.”
Two years later, DiBiasio said the current 25-woman roster made up of seven freshmen and nine sophomores is one of the deepest, most competitive groups she’s ever raced with.
“[The transformation] has been tremendous, Not necessarily from when I was here but just seeing it from when the girls that I was on the team with who were seniors when I was a freshmen, and we would look at back at pictures from the beginning of their time here, and there were literally like five girls on the team,” DiBiasio said. “I see it in my time here from the fact that we’ve gained so much depth. There’s more of us, and we’re all more competitive now, and we’re actually contenders for the conference and the region which is really exciting.”
DiBiasio said she tries her hardest to get her teammates to follow their 2016 motto: “train smarter.”
“I try and lead by example by doing what’s right with my body and try to encourage the other girls to do the same,” she said.
Although not a captain, the 20-year-old said plenty of teammates come to her asking for advice — something she describes as a tough job with added pressure, but rewarding all the same.
“It’s [a role] I didn’t think I’d ever really have,” DiBiasio said. “I just hope that I’m giving my teammates a good idea of what it means to be a student athlete.”
DiBiasio’s personal goal is to reach the NCAA National Championship on Nov. 19 in Terre Haute, Ind., something only one Colonial before her — Megan Hogan in 2009 and 2010 — has ever done.
Women’s cross country is back in action on Oct. 1 at the George Mason Invitational.