Butler’s Drew Griffith tops Ringgold’s Ryan Pajak to win cross country national championship

Saturday, December 9, 2023 | 8:52 PM

Drew Griffith is a multi-time WPIAL and state champion and the Pennsylvania cross country record holder for fastest time, but even with all of those accolades, he still has times when he doubts himself.

Going into the Foot Locker Cross Country National Championship this weekend, he wanted all negative thoughts out of his head.

And on Saturday, he matched his physical gifts with mental fortitude to become a national champion.

Griffith, a senior at Butler, posted a time of 15:05.9 to win by just under six seconds at the national high school meet in San Diego.

“I just went into this race telling myself I could do it,” Griffith said. “I think something I was lacking the whole season, especially two weeks ago (at regionals), was the right mindset. I really just didn’t believe in myself, but this weekend, I just told myself I could do it and stuck to it. That really helped me win this race.”

Griffith finished ahead of his good friend and fellow Notre Dame recruit, Ringgold’s Ryan Pajak, for a WPIAL 1-2 finish.

Pajak finished with a time of 15:12.1.

“It was a good race,” Pajak said in a postrace interview. “(Griffith) and I were definitely working off each other in the first one and a half (miles), then he got a little farther up into the second mile.”

Griffith made his move on the hill portion of the course and pulled away to become the first runner outside of the Midwest to win the event since 2016.

“We train on a lot of hills in Butler,” Griffith said. “Every run is super hilly, so I knew I could handle the hills better and at the top of the hill, I’m not as tired as some of these guys. I just tried to use that to my advantage. At the top of the hill, I told myself that was when I was going to make my move. I stuck to it. At the top of the hill, I felt great and just went for it.”

North Allegheny’s Jack Bertram finished 27th out of the field of 40 runners.

Griffith won his second state title in November. He set a personal record and a new state record with a time of 14:21 during a meet earlier this year, which was the fastest time posted in the country for a high schooler all year.

Mt. Lebanon’s Logan St. John Kletter placed 34th in the girls national championship.

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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