Friday Focus: Nick Karayianis Has Maryland on Notice

Photo by Lisa McArthur

In his first season at Bullis High School Nick Karayianis had plenty of strong performances. He finished eighth place at the Glory Days Invitational, won the Maryland Private School state meet and finished 40th in the championship race at Foot Locker Northeast. He also captured an IAC title in the spring (3200) and won the 1600 on his home track at the Bullis Bulldog Invitational. He capped off his season with a 4:04 1500 effort at the DMV Meet of the Elite.

Now a senior, Karayianis kicked off his fall season with a 15:42 victory on his home course that opened eyes around the state. Next up: the Barnhart Invitational on Saturday at Dulaney High School. As Karayianis prepares for the rest of his senior cross country season at Bullis, we reached out to him to get his thoughts on last weekend's performance and his outlook on the rest of 2019.

(MileSplit student writers Derek Oppenheim, Brian Lau and Joel Simpson contributed to this interview.)

MileSplit: Last weekend you ran a state-leading 15:42 time on your home course. What are your thoughts about that race?

Nick Karayianis: Originally the Bullis coaches wanted me to open up my season at the Barnhart Invitational, but mid-day Friday the coaches decided it would be better for me to see where I was at after training over the summer. We believed I could run a fast time based on my summer workouts. My plan was to take out the first mile strong, hold the pace for the second mile and see how fast I could end the race. Since it looked like I could get the win, I just focused on how my body was feeling throughout the race so we could evaluate what to do next in training next.

MS: Would you say that familiarity with the course helped you run such a fast time? Did winning on your home course make the performance extra special?

NK: Running on your home course always helps.  We have different segments that we work when training for specific elements of cross country courses (hills, flats, downhills, etc.).  Because I had built in knowledge of the course layout, I probably had an easier time controlling my energy throughout the race. But this was actually my first time competing on the Bullis course so dropping a sub-16 was extra special.

MS: How did summer training go this year? Do you feel as though you came into the season improved in a specific area?

NK: Since Bullis is a private high school, it allowed to have a structured training regimine over the summer.  I took a few weeks off after outdoor track before starting conditioning for cross country. With the help of Coach Kristine Jost, she gave me a plan to progressively increase my mileage throughout the summer without any injuries.  As the summer progressed, I found that the speed I had acquired in the previous track season had been carried into my cross country training, allowing me to sustain faster paces in runouts and workouts than ever before. During the summer, I learned to trust how I felt in the moment which allowed me to not overthink a run and obtain better results.  Coach Kris and I found when I get in my zone, I could do things that we didn't think I could do. Physically, after this summer, my fitness is at an alltime high due to the mileage I have been able to build up to and the paces I have been able to hit.

MS: Looking forward, you run this weekend at the Barnhart Invite. Do you feel a potential target on your back now after running the fastest 5K time in the state last weekend?

NK: No.  Every week there are different conditions that can't be foreseen.  Just because I am the fastest runner this week doesn't mean I will be the fastest runner next week.  All I can do is make sure that I perform to my best ability. I respect the field of runners that will be at the meet and I embrace that it will be a competitive race. I trust the process that the coaches have to prepare me for my races. 

Watch Karayianis' 4:04 1500 personal best at last spring's DMV Meet of the Elite!

MS: Which invitational meets are you most looking forward to this season? 

NK: I am looking forward to the Great American Invitational and Footlocker because I will have opportunities to compete outside of the Washington, DC area.  I am also looking forward to running at the Bull Run Invitational since I no longer can compete in the state meet there.

MS: Last fall you won the private school state meet in a close race with John Carroll's Alexander Kirkland. Describe how that race went down - was winning that title the goal heading into the race? Last season? Is defending that title high on your list of goals this season?

NK: Since I was fairly unfamiliar with the course, I took the first mile as a chance to observe what other runners were doing.  The second mile, I started reacting, picking off runners one by one to improve my position. By the third mile, Alexander Kirkland and I were neck in neck but I was determined and able to pull away from him for the win.

Winning is always a good goal for a race.  However, you have to give respect to the people you are competing with and understand everyone wants to win.  With quality runners, it sometimes comes down to who wants it more. Defending the state title as well as running a quality time on the McDaniel College course are both goals for me this year.

Karayianis finished 40th at the Footlocker Northeast regional championship last fall. (Photo by Steven Pisano)

MS: Last fall you competed at Foot Locker Northeast and placed well (40th). Are you planning on running up in NYC again this November?

NK: Yes, I am planning on running at Foot Locker Northeast. Last year, I went to get familiar with the course for this year.

MS: You transferred from Winston Churchill to Bullis after your sophomore year. What were the biggest differences in terms of running at a public school program versus at a private school program?

NK: At a public school program, you are expected to run dual meets during the week and invitationals on the weekend.  It is not ideal for training and didn't allow me to recuperate in between races. Also, for Maryland public schools, athletes can only run at MPSSAA sanctioned meets so it is challenging at times to run races you would like to race.  

Since Bullis is a private school, the coaches can construct our meet schedules to fit the needs of runners.  Bullis is especially unique because of the successful cross country and track programs Coach Joe Lee has developed at the school.  Since the addition of Coach Kris (distance coach), a former NCAA 3000m Champion for Villanova, high caliber distance running at Bullis is possible.  My success as an athlete has come from the lessons the coaches and athletes at Bullis have taught me. I am blessed to be in an environment where greatness and success are contagious.  The cross country and track programs work in collaboration as a family. Because of the caliber of training and the environment at Bullis, I have been able to be the best athlete, student, and person I can be.

MS: Do you have your sights set on any records this year (school records? Meet records?)

NK: In general, I take my season one meet at a time.  I always hope to improve my time as the season progresses.  My coach and I do not set specific time goals but rather focus on performing the best I can.

MS: Bullis is obviously known nationally for being a sprinting powerhouse. What is the culture surrounding the distance program at Bullis? Do you feel as if there is room to grow and approach the heights of the school's sprint program?

NK: The culture of the running programs are the same whether it's sprinters or distance / track or cross country.  We function as a family and support one another in our endeavors. The running program at Bullis allows both sprinters and distance runners to reach their full potential.  The distance program is beginning to grow with the addition of Coach Kris. Not only was she an NCAA Champion, she has privately coached many of the top runners in Maryland. That perspective allows her to truly understand the runner mindset and training needs. Coach Lee says that you have to build a team piece by piece and with so much success in sprints, hurdles,and  jumps, distance seems like the last piece of the puzzle! The support is in place for distance athletes. Aspiring distance runners just need to join the family!

Quick Questions:

Funniest running moment?

Me and my teammates slipping multiple times during the very muddy running conditions last year. We all would bet on who would fall each day. I was the only one who hadn't fell till during a fartlek I absolutely whip out and got covered in mud. 

Favorite running shoe?
Nike Pegasus 36

Favorite place for a long run?
Swain's Lock (C&O Canal)

Favorite pre-race song?
Eminem - Lose Yourself