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Driven to Succeed

Few would argue that the NFL’s Detroit Lions are off to a respectable start at 3-1 overall.

Of course, few set the bar as high as Marissa Dobry.

They haven’t been that good, says the St. Mary’s junior, who transferred here from Michigan this summer.

One must understand that the statement comes from a 15-year-old cross country runner who has yet to lose a race this fall. Her season-best time of 18 minutes, 38 seconds in the 5,000 meters is 40 seconds better than the next fastest runner at the Class 3A/2A/1A level. She hasn’t settled for anything less than the best — and everyone else has had to settle with being a few steps behind her.

Suffice it to say, the Crusaders have become a big fan of Dobry.

“When we started talking to her and finding out about what kind of runner she was in Michigan, we were just ecstatic,” St. Mary’s head coach Joe Volk says.

With more than half a season under her belt in Oregon, Dobry has been exceptional. She’s placed first in four 5K runs and was also fastest in 4,000-meter and two-mile races. In the Marist Invite at the Fern Ridge Reservoir on Sept. 5, she rallied to triumph in the last 10 meters. In the Prefontaine Memorial Run on Sept. 20, Dobry separated from the course record holder around the mile mark on the road course in Coos Bay to claim victory.

“Winning the Marist meet was, wow, that was quite impressive,” Volk said. “The way she won it, she took off to a lead early, running against a few runners with impressive credentials. In the final two miles, (West Salem’s Brooke Chuhlantseff) caught up and they pulled away from a pack of runners. Then the girl from West Salem put some distance on her. I thought, ‘OK, that is to be expected. It’ll probably be good to have a second-place finish.’ Then over the final 100 meters, then in the last 10 meters, (Dobry) caught her and passed her at the finish line. You’d like to think it showed more than just the ability to run fast, but also race when it comes down to the final meters.”

The Crusaders’ secret weapon was suddenly no longer such a secret.

“I was kind of thinking if she kept things under the radar for a while it might be better for her,” Volk said. “But a lot of people are taking notice. College coaches are like, ‘Who is this?’”

Thinking back, Volk recalls the name Dobry. He was once the race director of a competition that included one Dorsey Dobry — Marissa’s mother.

Dorsey has lived in running hotbeds Eugene and Coos Bay and has built herself into a formidable long distance competitor. She most recently placed 10th among women at the Rogue Run Half Marathon on Sept. 21. Marissa’ father, Tom, is the vice president of marketing at Lithia Motors. The sports-loving family moved here in July after the opportunity arose for Tom, who had previously worked as a group account director with companies in and around Detroit.

“We were raised (Michigan State) Spartans fans,” Marissa says.

Rewinding a little further, Dobry was born in Los Angeles. The family moved to Michigan when she was 1, then moved to Medford when she was in the fourth grade and then moved back to Michigan before her seventh-grade year.

Dobry ran for Birmingham Seaholm in Birmingham, Mich., her freshman and sophomore seasons in high school. The school — 20 miles from The Motor City — won a state title her freshman year, when Dobry finished 15th with a time of 18:23. She was eighth (18:18) last season at the state meet, which begins and ends at Michigan International Speedway.

Her personal record in the 5,000 meters is 17:57.6, set last season in the Running Fit Coaching Legends meet at a local park. That mark was the second fastest by a sophomore in the entire state of Michigan.

She’s hoping for more of the same times here.

“My biggest goal is to stay healthy,” Dobry says. “I’ve had problems with stress fractures before and don’t want that to happen again. Then I just hope our team can capture a state title and possibly an individual title.”

So far, so good: Dobry’s season-best mark of 18:38 is ahead of Catlin Gabel freshman Maya Rayle’s 19:18 (second fastest in 3A/2A/1A) and Bandon freshman Sailor Hutton’s 19:38.4 (third fastest).

Rayle’s mark came at the Northwest Classic at Lane Community College and Hutton’s at the North Bend Tugman Invitational at Tugman State Park in North Bend.

Another bit of evidence that shows Dobry’s strength can be found in the results of last weekend’s Nike Pre Nationals at the Portland Meadows Race Track. Her time of 18:50.60 in the Division 3 race was over a minute faster than second-place finisher Emily Peterson of Juanita, Wash., and she was never challenged. Rayle ran the same course but in the most competitive division, finishing 51st with a mark of 19:21.40.

In the same race that Rayle was in, 6A Sheldon’s Grace Todd was ninth (18:22.71) and 5A Marist’s Olivia Powell 24th (18:43.28).

Rayle, Todd and Powell — all outstanding runners — have this much in common: Dobry has outraced them all.

Todd and Powell were also in the Marist Invite.

“Had (Dobry) been in the same race as the one those girls were in (at the Nike Pre Nationals), I think she could have ran quite a bit faster,” Volk said.

And here’s a scary thought: she’s nowhere near reaching her ceiling of potential, Volk says.

Although Dobry and her family — which also includes high school freshman Alex and sixth-grader Sophia — live in Ashland now, she said the St. Mary’s program stood out to her. The Crusaders have a strong cross country reputation and returned a large contingent from a squad that took second at state last year. She went from being on a Birmingham Seaholm team with 67 members to a squad here with under 20.

She’s loving the camaraderie.

“I met a couple of the girls on the team and they were really nice,” she says. “I felt like I could be more successful at a smaller school and that it would prepare me for college.”

Says Volk: “The girls took to her. She’s a really sweet kid and has just been really coachable.”

Saying goodbye to friends in Michigan was tough, but Dobry’s making plenty more here.

Now they just have to keep up with her.

Reach reporter Dan Jones at 541-776-4499, or email djones@mailtribune.com. Find him online at twitter.com/danjonesmt

St. Mary's junior cross country runner Marissa Dobry (No. 533) rallied to win the Marist Invite on Sept. 5. PHOTO COURTESY OF NICOL ISOLA
St. Mary's junior Marissa Dobry, a transfer from Michigan, has won every race she has competed in this fall. MAIL TRIBUNE / JAMIE LUSCH