LOWER GWYNEDD — Competitive runners are a breed unto themselves.

Frantically motivated by goals, running through four-foot snow drifts in January just to get their work in, unyielding in their drive to take mere tenths of seconds off their times in races.

And then there's Wissahickon High junior Lotte Black.

First and foremost and by any standards, Black is a very successful cross-country runner, having won the Suburban One League title as both a freshman and a sophomore and last year, placing 18th in the District One Championships before a much-more-than-respectable finish of 32nd at the PIAA Championships in Hershey.

But setting goals before a race is not something that the Trojans standout normally considers.

"I probably should set goals,' she said, when asked if she had a goal heading into this Friday's season-opening Archbishop Wood Invitational. "But you never know about the conditions, whether it might be too hot or you might have bad weather.

"So I'll just run with the pack and go from there.'

The non-frantic Black freely admits her parents got her into running when she was little because there were few viable alternatives.

"I wasn't very coordinated for other sports,' she said, "and running just came naturally. Plus, I have a competitive nature.'

It's that competitiveness that drives Black in races, although it cost her valuable running time a season ago when the changeover from spring track season to preparing for cross country season resulted in a knee injury.


"I went from running for speed to running distances, and the transition was too much,' Black explained.

The injury forced Black to shut herself down after a mile or two miles during cross-country races instead of following her competitive instincts. "Sometimes it was hard watching other people finishing races,' she said.

But saving her knee paid off in postseason success.

"It didn't hurt too badly when I ran those races,' she said.

Besides, she added, it's the team aspect of the sports that she enjoys most.

"Being on the team motivates me,' Black said. "I really like running with my teammates and trying to help the team win matches.'

Through the hot summer months Black said she does not run regularly, if at all.

But the cross country season has her suitably excited.

"I get to run with the boys in cross country and they push the pace,' she said. "I've learned to stay with them, which is good for me.'

Breaking precedent, Black said if she were a goal-setter she would like a return visit to the state tournament this year.

"It's fun,' she said. "I get to bring a teammate with me, and it's a good time.'

Beyond that, the area's best laid-back runner has no dynamic standards to chase.

"Really,' she said casually, "I really just focus on improving my times.'