Isabelle Doran is one of Hopedale High’s premier distance runners — a track and cross-country competitor at the varsity level since Grade 7. Luckily for the Blue Raiders, her attitude towards running changed over time after she ran her first 5K at age nine.
Gymnastics was her favorite sport but it eventually took a back seat to cross-country and track.
“I started gymnastics when I was eight,’’ Doran recalled. “I trained and competed for a private club. When I ran my first 5K race, I was nine and it really wasn’t my favorite thing. However, when I went out for cross-country in seventh grade, I enjoyed the team atmosphere. My attitude really changed and now running is a major part of my life. I make plans around running and, after my family and academics, it’s a high priority.’’
Besides being one of Hopedale’s top cross-country competitors, Doran has also excelled in indoor and outdoor track, running the mile and two-mile and occasionally the 600 and 800. The 17-year-old junior, who’s been a Dual Valley Conference all-star in all three sports, is also a captain. Nicknamed “Izzy,’’ her coach (Tim Maguire) is acutely aware of how significant running has become for her.
“Running is part of Izzy’s lifestyle,’’ Maguire said. “She’s passionate about it, she’s committed to it and she sacrifices to excel in all three sports. An intense competitor, she’s focused at big meets and rises to the challenge.’’
Doran’s style sometimes varies — from being aggressive to being strategic. “I’m all over the place,’’ she said about her approach. “Sometimes I get out fast and try to maintain a certain pace and other times I’ll be strategic. I’ll assess where I am, what’s needed to adjust, then strive for the lead. I rely on intensity to take over in the late stages.’’
Doran’s strengths are vital ingredients that have elevated her to a lofty stature. Her endurance is outstanding, her form is efficient, she’s got speed and her mental toughness is strong. “Being mentally tough is important because it helps me withstand negative situations,’’ Doran said. “What I love about running is the challenge it presents. It’s a mental sport — you’ve got to believe in yourself and never give up.’’
She also likes the two-prong nature of running — a team sport that relies on individual effort. “If I’m improving my times and placements, then the team is benefitting,’’ Doran said. “Improving is a plus for both the individual and the team.’’
Hopedale’s outdoor track season was slow to start because of poor weather. At Local Town Pages deadline, the Blue Raiders were 0-1, losing to Whitinsville-Christian. Doran, however, ran and won the two-mile event in a time of 12:24.9
“My goals this season are for us to finish in the top three in the DVC and to grow as a team,’’
Doran emphasized. “We’re young but we’re striving to develop good team chemistry. As for myself, I want to break the outdoor two-mile record, improve my personal bests and try a new event, maybe the 400.’’
Doran’s bests times outdoors are 2:31 in the 800, 5:33 in the mile and x:xx in the two- mile. The two-mile record is 11:42 and she’s seven seconds off the mark at 11:49. Currently, the only record Doran has achieved came as a freshman when she was part of the 4x800 indoor relay team. “Hopefully, I’ll add the two-mile to that record this season,’’ she said.
Quick to credit others for Hopedale’s excellence, Doran points to her coach and two seniors. “Coach Maguire is very encouraging and he’s got such passion for running,’’ Doran noted. “As for our outdoor team, Kerrie Maurais and Michaela Casey are terrific. They’re good teammates and they’re excellent competitors who love track.’’
Doran’s best individual effort outdoors occurred last year when she was a sophomore at the DVC championships. She won the mile event.
“I wasn’t favored to finish first but I did,’’ she recalled. “It was so hot, about 95 degrees. The race was very competitive. I got to the last lap and went into sprint mode, finishing first in 5:45.’’
Often taking first or second in dual meets in the mile and two-mile, Doran has had moderate success in post-season events. She’s finished in the top eight at the Division 5 level the last two years and she managed a third-place finish at the District E Central Mass. meet last year. “I was seventh in the two-mile at the Division 5 meet,’’ she said.
Embracing her role as a captain, Doran says she’s more of a leader by example. “I’m not into being a vocal captain but I really like it when I can offer encouragement to a teammate,’’ she said.
A DVC all-star four times in cross-country, twice in indoor track and once outdoors, she puts those honors into a neat perspective. “They show that hard work pays dividends and they reward a strong work ethic,’’ Doran noted.
An honor student, Doran hopes to major in bio-medical engineering in college. She hasn’t decided what school she’ll attend but she definitely wants to compete in track.
Doran rates her older sister Brittany as her role model. “She’s encouraging and when she was at George Washington University, she was a Division 1 gymnast. She always competed intensely.’’
That attribute has definitely rubbed off on Doran, who was a DVC champion as a freshman on Hopedale’s cross-country squad. Hoping to add another title or two, Doran continues to marvel at the rich culture Hopedale has in the sport of running.
“It’s an amazing atmosphere,’’ she said. “The kids love running. It’s a passion. And, the coaches are encouraging and motivating. They’ve created a positive culture.’’
Add Isabelle Doran to the mix. She’s a superb ambassador for Hopedale’s running community.