A couple years ago, Marjorie Schaffer let her daughter race on the condition that she at least finish.
Lisa looked at her mother and promised to do more than just finish, she promised to win.
Lisa Schaffer, 10, runs on the track behind Brookwood Elementary to get in shape for the National Junior Olympic Cross Country Championship next week.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
So began the young - but successful - running career of 10-year-old Lisa Schaffer, a fifth grade student at Brookwood Elementary.
From that first race - in which she finished third - Lisa has made it to the National Cross Country meet of the National Junior Olympics Championship in Lincoln, Neb., on Saturday. She runs in the 3,000 meter race.
To get to Nebraska, Lisa had to qualify in the regionals in Raleigh, N.C. The top 20 runners made the cut. Lisa finished 17. What makes it more impressive is that she runs unattached - without a team.
Teams who have at least one runner qualify may go with their runner to nationals. Since there isn't a local team for Lisa to be a part of, she has do earn the honor herself.
"I like the competition," Lisa said.
She doesn't completely do it alone though. She's got the memory of Maj. Stephen V. Long - a friend and fellow runner from Washington, D.C. A soldier stationed at the Pentagon on Sept. 11, he didn't make it out when the plane hit.
"Each step I take I will remember him," Lisa said in a recent letter to the editor. "I will try to do my best because I know he would be proud of me."
Also, Max Goodman, retired Lakeside cross country coach, has been working with Lisa for some time now. They met when Lisa was training with the high school's cross country team.
"The last three or four years, she could have been on the team," Goodman said.
Goodman said Lisa has everything needed to do great things in the sport. He said the biggest challenge that comes from working with young runners is keeping them interested.
"She's dedicated," Goodman said. "But as they grow they get other interests."
Her dedication is what is allowing her to prepare for the cold weather she will encounter in Nebraska. Forecast for race day in Lincoln is calling for a high of 47 degrees and a low of 28. Since Lisa is running at 10 a.m., she may be a little cold.
"She will probably be running in snow," Marjorie said.
Goodman said that though Lisa has the potential to reach nationals again next year, he has seen many runners not continue their success for various reason. For him, the goal is to make sure she gives it all she has.
"You don't want to pressure to much," Goodman said. "But you don't want her to have any what-ifs."
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.