JSerra’s Nadia Tabrizi is hitting her stride in distance running

By Dan Arritt     12/7/2015

The temperature had barely reached 40 degrees when Nadia Tabrizi toed the starting line at the CIF-State cross-country championships over Thanksgiving weekend. The freshman runner for JSerra has come a long way since joining the program last summer, and the Lions have come a long way because of her.

As the gun sounded to start the Division 4 race at Woodward Park in Fresno that chilly morning, the last thing that would slow Tabrizi would be the weather. In fact, she thrived in it, circling the 5,000-meter course in 18 minutes 59 seconds. This season’s Trinity League champion finished 32nd overall, helping JSerra take seventh as a team.

“I felt like this weather helped in this race,” she says afterward. “Since it’s colder, it’s easier for me to run faster because I tend to heat up during a race.”

Tabrizi then headed back to the course, where she watched Andrew Burkhardt win the Division 4 race for the JSerra boys’ team. Even while cheering on her classmate, she studied how the race evolved, the tactics of the runners and the energy they carried through the race.

If she had to do it all over again, she would have run a lot harder at the start of her race, like Burkhardt did.

“When I was running, there were so many people, so it was hard to get through the middle of the pack,” she says. “I learned, at the beginning, you have to sprint harder, just give it your all the first eight seconds because the first eight seconds don’t tire you out for the rest of the race.”

That was something she was taught by JSerra coach Marty Dugard. His motivational tactics had Tabrizi running three miles in the 18-minute range from the first day of summer workouts, rather than the 20-minute range Tabrizi had anticipated.

“He taught me how to give it my all,” Tabrizi says. “He’s an amazing motivator.”

Of course, Tabrizi wasn’t new to distance running when she arrived at JSerra.

In fact, she completed the L.A. Marathon as a 13-year-old seventh grader.

Tabrizi belonged to a San Clemente-based running club that was geared toward completing the marathon, rather than running a fast time. As a way to help members finish the 26.2-mile race, they were asked to run for four minutes, then walk for one.

Tabrizi followed those instructions the first 13 miles, then was given the thumbs up to run the rest of the way. She finished in 5 hours, 1 minute 7 seconds.

Tabrizi hasn’t run another marathon since. She plans to stick with the 5,000-meter distance in cross-country and drop down to 800 and 1,600-meter races during the track and field season this spring.

That should keep her a force in the Trinity League for the next three years.

In her first race with the Lions at the Iolani Invitational in Hawaii in late August, she finished as the top runner on her team and ninth overall. She cemented herself as the runner to beat in the Trinity League by winning the league’s prelim meet in late September, led JSerra to the team title in the small-schools division at the Orange County Championship while finishing third overall in October and won again at the Trinity League final in early November.

Not a bad resume for a freshman, indeed.