At the District 2 Cross Country Championships, the Abington Heights senior and Georgetown University commit repeated as the girls Class 3A champion. She covered the 3.1-mile course at Lakeland High School in 19 minutes, 0.14 seconds. That was 1:24.07 ahead of runner-up Sam Killiany of Wallenpaupack. Dammer also helped Abington Heights repeat as girls Class 3A team champions as the Lady Comets had six of the top 14 finishers.
In AOW Extra, Dammer talks about the upcoming PIAA Championships, her decision to attend Georgetown and her career:
When you are leading in a race by as much as you were at districts and you’re running by yourself, how tough is it to stay mentally focused? I’ve gotten a lot better at that the past few years. Coach (Mike) Ludka has been great helping me with it, especially this year. He told me to be relentless, push through, not let up and execute through the whole (race). I always try to remember that the top girls outside this area are all doing the same thing. To be at the level that I am now at, you have to be able to push yourself when you’re a minute ahead.
This was the team’s third straight district title. How has this year’s team been different than the previous two teams? At the beginning of the year, we looked like a more inexperienced group because we had some younger girls filling in the holes from last year. Now I wouldn’t say we’re an inexperienced team. Those girls really stepped up. As a senior who has been in lots of races and experienced all sorts of situations and training, I think I’ve done a good job helping those girls apply some of the things that have been able to make me successful.
What about the state meet in Hershey? You’ll be considered one of the favorites to win: The field for 3A girls is very wide open this year, so I’m very excited to go down there and run in a very competitive race. There are talented girls all across the state, a lot of whom I haven’t had the chance to race yet. I’m not counting anybody out, but I’m definitely not counting myself out either. I’ve been favored to win races before and I’m thankful for that experience. But I’m not even going to read predictions for this race. That doesn’t matter at all. It only matter on Saturday.
Have you thought about this being your final high school cross country race? I’m going to be running Nike Regionals, so states will be my last Pennsylvania cross country meet. I’m sure it will hit me Saturday after the race. I’m just really trying to focus on what my plan is going to be for this week and Saturday morning. I haven’t really thought about it, even though I’m trying to enjoy all my last things of high school. I’m waiting for the race to be over, then I can enjoy that. Especially since cross country is such a fun sport and so unique from any other sport in high school. The state championships are so exciting because it’s the boys and the girls and all the classifications, all the best runners in the state. So I’m really going to enjoy that day.
So what was it about Georgetown that put it over the top of the other schools you looked at? I have always really liked Georgetown, even before I was considering running in college. I’m very excited to be getting the opportunity to run on that team. They have a strong history as a distance power and as an academic institution and a Jesuit institution, which means a lot to me. I really love the coaches there and the girls I met on my official visit. I’m excited to work with them, I’ll think they’ll be great teammates. I’m also excited about the other recruits that are coming in. It makes me really optimistic for the four years I’m going to be there. They seem to be putting together a strong program for the future. It was as hard (a decision) as I thought it would be. Georgetown was my first visit, which turned out to be good because the other visits I went on (Princeton, Notre Dame, Duke) I knew after each one Georgetown was still my favorite.
Think you’ll catch “Hoya Paranoia” and go to all the basketball games? Their basketball team hasn’t been so good lately. But I am a general sports fan, so I’m sure I’ll find myself at some of those games.
Do you have any favorite music? I listen to a lot of different things. I’ve always been a big Taylor Swift fan. And my parents have introduced me to some different stuff that I like because of them. The oldies, so I have an appreciation for them.
When you were AOW in the spring, you’re three people to have dinner with were runner Emma Coburn, Pope Francis and your late grandfather Bob Sulzbach. Any of those invitations change? I’ll keep Emma Coburn. I’ll add a family friend Jen Seechock and Aaron Judge.
Would you one day like to run a marathon? Yes. Post-college. Running is going to be a part of my life forever, I hope. So that’s definitely something I’d like to do some day.
What got you into running? I used to do a lot of other sports — soccer, basketball, swimming. I didn’t start running cross country until freshman year. But I would always do these fun runs and 5Ks with my family and I always had a lot of fun doing those. So I had a positive connotation with running. I was lucky when I started track in seventh grade I had enough natural talent that I was decent at it. Now, what I would say I love about it and what keeps me pursuing it is that I get out what I put in. Knock on wood, I haven’t gotten injured, so I’ve been able to get out what I put in. And the community that is around running … some of my best friends and supportive adults I’ve met because of running. I’m really grateful for it. And I just love how straight-forward it is. There’s no referees. It’s whoever is trying the hardest is doing the best.