CEDAR GROVE, NJ - Though just sophomore, Tara Smurla runs with the speed and assurance of someone more experienced.  For the second year she is leading the Cedar Grove girls cross-country team and working to once again qualify for the Group 1 championships.  Smurla is the Allstate Cedar Grove Athlete of the Week.  The Athlete of the Week is sponsored by Shelby Mobley, Allstate Insurance Agent, 471 Pompton Ave., Cedar Grove. 

“Tara placed 2nd overall in the Liberty Division in last week's SEC Championship, which led to her being named 1st Team All Conference. Tara also dropped her time again at the Greystone Invitational on Friday, which earned her a medal competing against both small and large schools,” said Head Coach Colleen Bulger.  “She is working hard leading up to the County Championship on November 1, where is she hoping for a new personal best, and the State Sectional Championship on November 9th, where she hopes to qualify for the Group 1 Championship again.”

With the group championships on her mind, Smurla has been increasing her mileage and working hard to improve her times all season.  That hard work paid off with her performance at the conference championships last week.  

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“Highlight of the season so far was definitely the conference championships when I finished second.  I really want to qualify for groups again in November and I’m hoping to set a new school record at counties,” Smurla explained.  “I’m really happy with my season so far.  I’ve had lots of PRs (personal records) and looking back at my stats from last year I have way more consistency this year, so I’m really happy with that.”

In addition to her personal performance, Smurla is pleased with her team’s results as well, particularly considering that they didn’t have a true team last year with only three girls racing.  

“I’m really happy with the team this year, especially since we have a full girls team competing,” Smurla said.  “ I think everyone is really working hard and improving and I’m really enjoying the team aspect versus what we had last year.”

A runner since middle school, Smurla said she first started because her brother was a runner and found she too loved the sport.  She admits that motivation is probably the biggest challenge when it comes to running, which is why she’s happy to have the support of a team behind her and the bond that she finds from her fellow runners.

“It’s mentally a hard sport.  It’s hard sometimes to pick yourself up and just out for a run, but you know you have to do it to get better,” Smurla noted.  “I think people who love to run just connect with each other. We talk when we’re at the starting line or waiting at meets, and we can relate to each other.  I like the team aspect of running and the individual aspect. I like that you are accomplishing something by yourself, but also as a team.”

The Cedar Grove Athlete of the Week is sponsored by Shelby Mobley Allstate, 471 Pompton Avenue, Cedar Grove. 

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