Years ago, as a young high schooler, Pine Crest's (FL) Tsion Yared's summer break would take her to Ethiopia -- where her parents were born -- and it would consist of visiting family, teaching English and math at a local orphanage, and running.
It would be in those runs where the high school senior from Florida would gain inspiration from the community around her.
"The running community there is so big and sometimes when I go running, I would see a pack of 40 runners," Yared said recently. "That was definitely super inspiring to see as a person who wants to do running for the rest of her life."
Yared, No. 19 on the MileSplit50 preseason top 25 countdown and a rising distance running recruit in the Class of 2020, knows there's a future for her in this sport. She's currently considering her collegiate options.
At first, though, it started at home. Her love for running began with her mother, Freida, who used to run half marathons, marathons and 5Ks.
"She introduced running not only to me, but my sisters as well," Yared said. "It was our family thing. We would do charity 5Ks growing up when I was younger. It was always something fun that we would do, nothing competitive or anything."
After transferring to The Fort Lauderdale Pine Crest School in the fifth grade, Yared leveled up quickly, competing against high schoolers during her first year of middle school. But success came quick. She won her first FHSAA Class 2A State Cross Country Championship as a seventh-grader, even though she didn't fully take the sport seriously until her freshman year of high school.
Yared attributes her ability to stay in the game, oddly enough, to injuries. She had a series of setbacks to her shins and feet in middle school.
"I experienced a lot of injuries and I think once that happened to me, even though it prohibited me from running, I was happy I was able to experience it younger and understand that I can't push my body past its limits," she said.
"That realization has given me the ability to stay in this sport for so long and to continue to succeed and progress. I think that listening to my body and not overworking myself has gotten me to the point where I was able to have a breakout year last year."
In 2018, Yared had her best cross country season to date. She won her third cross country state championship, making her one of 15 high school girls in Florida who've won three or more cross country titles. And then the senior placed second at the Nike Cross Nationals Southeast Regional in what she said was one of the toughest races of her life.
"I think I was able to prove my mental strength and not only run fast and prove my physical strength... It was probably one of toughest races I've run," she said.
The Florida Gatorade Cross Country Player Of The Year followed that performance with 23rd-place finish at Nike Cross Nationals -- her second trip to Portland, Oregon, in three years -- just missing All-American honors.
"It gave me the momentum and confidence I needed to go into track season," she said. "Although I didn't get All-American, I was still really satisfied with my performance at Nike Cross Nationals. I finished the season and I wanted more."
Yared knows she's not finished. After a season where she ran sub-18 seven times, she wants to be recognized as one the best. She's coming off her second consecutive FHSAA Class 2A State Track and Field Championship in the 3,200m. She was runner-up in the 1,600m.
Following that performance, Yared was invited to her personal highlight of the season, the Brooks PR Invitational.
"Although the race at Brooks PR didn't really go to plan whatsoever, I would say getting invited to Brooks was the highlight of my track season," the senior said. "It gave me the confidence, I needed to be recognized in the same light that so many accomplished runners in the nation were in."
She finished off her season with PRs in three events: 2:10.62 in the 800m, 4:52.24 in the 1,600m and a top-40 national time of 10:24.23 in the 3,200m.
Looking ahead to her farewell season, Yared wants to consistently run low 17s and has a schedule that could allow her to do so. She'll race at the Great American XC Festival in North Carolina and Pre-State in Tallahassee.
She knows that her final season will come with additional pressure, including picking where she'll spend her next four years. Yared is looking for the perfect medium between academics and athletics, but also a place where the team is high priority.
"Coming from such a team-oriented program, I'm definitely looking for a program that emphasizes the team and team aspect of running," Yared said. "I think that's what makes our sport so great, that it's not individual whatsoever. Cross country really captures that team aspect of running... Not only am I picking my college based on running, but academics plays a huge role."
Yared and her team are looking past what they can accomplish individually and are more focused on what they can achieve together.
"I would say our team has gone through a lot of adversity just together and in general because we were so close qualifying for NXN two years ago," she said. "Last year, a couple of our [girls] including my sister got injured. We're coming back this year and we're all healthy, so I think we're ready. We're hungry for the state title and a chance to qualify for NXN--I just love that the team is filled with a group of girls who are so dedicated and willing to work and put in the work every day at practice."