Mikayla Moxley

Linganore senior Mikayla Moxley is a multiple-time state champion who runs from 400 meters to 1,600. She will compete at High Point University.

Mikayla Moxley embraces the title. She is a distance runner now.

Her best events are the 800-meter run, with three state titles to show for it, and the 1,600, in which she is among the best in the state.

The senior at Linganore High School is also a key cog in the Lancers’ 4x800 and 4x400 relay teams that have both placed at the state meet and shattered school records.

“She is real supportive of her teammates here. She pulls people along,” Linganore coach Steve Musselman said. “I mean, she has inspired the rest of the girls.”

This fall, Moxley will run cross-country at High Point University in North Carolina before contributing to the track and field team there.

“That is something I never thought I would do,” she said of running cross-country in college.

It’s been a process to get to this point. Moxley fashioned herself as a sprinter when she arrived at Linganore. That’s what she had always been growing up with the Lightning Running Club and where she derived her love for the sport.

When she arrived at Linganore in 2019, Musselman dropped her into two of the least popular events for high school athletes, the 400 dash and the 800 run.

“Sprint for however long you can,” Moxley said with a laugh.

That initiated her transformation from capable sprinter to middle-distance star. As her times improved and she began to achieve results, her perspective changed.

She began to see her potential in events like the 800 and the 1,600 to the point she finally succumbed to all of the whispering in her ear and gave up cheerleading in the fall to focus on running.

With multiple titles and top finishes at the state meet, her profile was raised too, to the point where she is expected to be one of the top performers in Thursday’s Frederick County Public School Track and Field Championships at Linganore High School.

“This is such a weird spot because you can go from running a 400 one week to a mile, and it just seems like such a weird balance,” Moxley said. “But it’s been really good to kind of fight that battle in my four years of high school and find the 800 [as a sweet spot].”

Moxley began to raise people’s eyebrows in the 800 on Day 2 of the state indoor meet in February of 2020 at the Prince George’s Sports and Learning Complex in Landover.

As the race was about to begin, Musselman was chatting with an assistant principal, who asked him, “Can she win?”

Musselman’s response was, “God, I hope so.”

Moxley had placed fifth as a freshman in the Class 3A 800 at states the season before in 2 minutes, 25.84 seconds, which set a school record she has since eclipsed.

Prior to the start of the 2020 3A 800 race, Musselman encouraged Moxley to be aggressive. He wanted her to race into the early lead and let everyone else chase her.

This is how Moxley prefers to race. So, she had no problem following his advice.

The eye-opener for everyone, including Musselman, arrived when the early gap never closed between Moxley and the rest of the field.

Going into the final lap, she led by 25 meters. The rest of the runners in the field began to realize, “She is not coming back [to the pack],” according to Musselman.

Moxley wound up crossing the finish line in 2:21.19 for the first of her three state titles in the 800. Her subsequent winning times were 2:16.25 (2021 outdoor season) and 2:21.12 (2022 indoor).

“She has great quickness and great speed. But she can hold onto that speed,” Musselman said.

He explained that the 800 is not decided by the person who speeds up over the course of the race. “It’s the person who slows down the least,” he said.

While others were surprised, Moxley believed she could sustain the aggressive pace.

“It’s what I had been doing in practice,” she said. “It was mainly a confidence thing.”

She thought, “I know I can do that. So, I want to show everyone else.”

Just a few weeks after that race, the novel coronavirus shut down the world, ultimately wiping out the spring sports season and jeopardizing the strides Moxley was making as a racer.

“It was definitely sad timing,” she said. “But I just knew that it wasn’t going to fix anything to be upset about it. So, I continued to work hard and was doing a lot of training on my own.”

As Moxley got stronger in the 800, the 1,600 became a more viable event for her.

Running the event regularly for the first time last spring during the outdoor season, she won the 3A West regional title in 5:10.86 before placing second at the state meet in 5:03.46.

Heading into this postseason, she is hoping to break the 5-minute mark in the mile and lower her best time in the 800 (2:13) by a few seconds.

“I am really excited to get into the championship season with a lot of good runs already under my belt,” she said. “It feels like I really have what it takes to kind of push through the last season I am going to have at Linganore.”

Not that long ago, Moxley would have thumbed her nose at the idea she was a distance runner. She was a sprinter at heart, after all.

Running cross-country would have been out of the question because she was too busy cheerleading.

Now she is more open to new ideas and gets excited for all of the little twists and turns her running career takes, one race at a time.

Follow Greg Swatek on Twitter:

@greg_swatek

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