The question entered Graham Tribble's mind at about the 7-kilometer mark of Monday's NCAA Cross Country Championships.
Virginia coach Jason Vigilante reminded Tribble and his Cavalier teammates before the race in Terre Haute, Ind., that there would come a place on the 10-kilometer course where each had to make an important decision.
"Coach told us at the beginning of the race that there would be some point when we'd have to decide whether or not we're really going to challenge ourselves or be content with our current position or even fall back," Tribble said. "He wanted us to finish the race knowing we did everything we could. I found myself asking that question at around seven kilometers. I made the decision to run as hard as I could and pass as many people as I could."
Tribble's decision helped the Cavaliers, ranked No. 27 entering the meet, finish 15th in the team standings. The Ben Lippen High School graduate completed the course in a time of 31 minutes, 13.9 seconds to place 133rd out of the 250 runners.
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Tribble, a junior, was fourth among Virginia runners behind Ryan Collins (30:22), Emil Heineking (30:37), and Sintayehu Taye (31:09). Trey Miller (31:19) was fifth for the Cavaliers, who gained an at-large berth to the NCAAs after finishing fifth at the Southeast Regional.
"I felt pretty good," Tribble said of his run. "The team ran well today, which was nice. We were trying to come off some tough conference and regional performances."
Tribble was 190th at last year's NCAA Championships with a time of 31:40.2. He said he learned in 2008 the importance of controlling his emotions before the race and not being in awe of the competition.
"The whole thing with this race is trying not to get overwhelmed with it all, because everybody here is very good," Tribble said. "I didn't feel overwhelmed at any point. I felt in control. Midway through the race, I just tried to keep on passing people to put myself in a higher position. I feel like I ran a tough race and as good as I could run. I feel content about it."
Tribble will take a short break before jumping into the indoor track season, which begins Dec. 3 with Virginia competing at the Liberty Invitational.
"I'm going to take a few days off and then start thinking about the indoors," Tribble said. "We really want to do well this indoor season. We won the conference title outdoors last year, so we want to win an indoor title, too."
Another former Columbia-area prep star competed Monday in Terre Haute. Louisville sophomore Luke Lovelace, a Chapin High School graduate, was 205th in 32:03.6 and helped the Cardinals finish 23rd in the team standings.
High School: Was the South Carolina Independent School Association record holder in the 800-, 1,600-, and 3,200-meter runs and 5k in cross country. ... Four-time state champion in the 1,600 and 3,200. ... Three-time cross country state champion. ... Received the Patterson Award, the highest award given to a male athlete at Ben Lippen for athletic and academic achievements. ... Wendy’s High School Heisman state finalist.
College: Ran at NCAA Championships as a sophomore and junior. ... Won the 3k at the Mid-Atlantic Clash in 8:42.85 as a freshman. ... Finished second in the 5k at the Raleigh Relays last season with personal-record 14:47.04.
Personal: Born April 21, 1988 in Charleston. ... Son of Mary and Reid Tribble.