Elizabeth Harrison's introduction into competitive running did not come as part of a grand plan. Yet almost five years after she started running, the Episcopal High junior is one of the Washington area's best private-school runners.

"I kind of randomly decided to start [running] in middle school because we had to do a sport," Harrison said. "And then I stuck with it."

As a sophomore, Harrison was named second-team All-Met after a successful season with the Maroon that included a victory in the Independent School League championship by nearly 30 seconds. Harrison also was second at the Virginia Independent Schools (VIS) meet.

This season, Harrison will try to defend her ISL title and once again lead the Maroon to the team title.

"Most of the big meets we do are at the end of the season, like VIS," Harrison said. "I really want to do well at those."

Harrison, a native of Richmond who lives at the Alexandria boarding school, joined her middle school track team in sixth grade before moving to cross-country as a seventh grader.

When she arrived at Episcopal as a freshman, she made an immediate impact, taking runner-up honors to Potomac School All-Met Cara Kiernan at the ISL meet and placing fourth at the VIS meet.

Last year at the ISL championships at Georgetown Prep, Harrison finished 3.1 miles in 19 minutes 49 seconds, 28 seconds faster than her nearest competitor. Now, cross-country has become a large and important part of Harrison's life; she hopes to continue running in college.

"It does take up a lot of time with practice every day -- it almost has to," Harrison said. "You've got to put a lot into cross-country."

The Episcopal boarding school environment is key, as Harrison's teammates are also the neighbors she sees and lives with.

"I'm fortunate because my teammates are my really good friends," Harrison said. "We're all very supportive of each other."

Elizabeth Harrison, named second-team All-Met as a sophomore, takes no shortcuts. "You've got to put a lot into cross-country," she said.