Catholic University senior Carolyn Hughes, who says she prefers running shorter distances because she is "lazy," will defend her Division III 800-meter title today in Naperville, Ill.

Hughes, 21, from Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, won her championship last May with a 2:13.1 clocking. Hughes is not only Catholic's first female national track champion, but she is also the first to be named all-America--as an AIAW 1500-meter selection in 1981, and as an 800-meter NCAA selection in 1982.

Hughes was all-Met and all-state in the half-mile and the mile as she led B-CC to three state cross-country championships and two track titles.

Still, Hughes, who is 5 feet 11, is no natural half-miler. "Carolyn doesn't have as much natural ability as many others. Her hard work and dedication to her sport has been a major key to her success," Catholic Coach Joe Fisher said. "She was a very competitive athlete even in high school."

"I didn't expect the success at B-CC," Hughes said. "I didn't know much about running; I just had more experience (from CYO). Everyone said being tall would help, but it hurt me at first because I was so uncoordinated. I like the shorter distances because I'm lazy; I like to go fast."

Hughes has qualified for the 800 and 1500 this weekend, and she has dual goals: defending her title and qualifying for the Division I championship. "I'm not real fast," she said. "I'm kind of disappointed with my season because I worked hard all summer and winter in hopes of running some good times this spring."

While her nursing studies and clinical duties have kept Hughes away from the track more than she has liked, Hughes still won the Eastern Regional 800 title with a time of 2:15, leading the Cardinals to the regional championship and a berth in the nationals. Hughes also received the Misaw Award given annually to Catholic's top female student athlete.

"Carolyn's very coachable, and down the stretch she'll never let you go," Fisher said.

As a freshman, Hughes qualified for the national track championships. As a sophomore, she was fifth in the AIAW 800 and finished ninth (the top eight are all-America) in the mile.

Last year, Hughes qualified for the cross-country championships, and her winning time in the 800 was two seconds off the qualifying time for the Division I race. Hughes was undefeated in dual cross country meets this year, running the second-best time ever (17:59) on the Rock Creek Park course, and leading the Cardinals to the team title of the Eastern Regional Division III cross-country meet.

Hughes has another year to go for her degree and then she may study physical therapy in graduate school, but her track career isn't over. "Track's a big part of my life. I don't have the natural quickness of most half-milers. I want to give the 1500 (4:34 is her best time) a real shot because I'm better at it than the half. I want to find out if I'm over the hill."