Maria Coffin is always focused on how she can improve.
A distance runner who competes in both cross country and indoor and outdoor track at Annapolis High School, Coffin still wants to get better after a strong 2015 cross country season. Last year, she won a Maryland Public Secondary School Athletics Association Class 4A individual state title, excelled at national races and was named Gatorade Maryland Girls Runner of the Year.
"I like to see myself improve. That's the biggest thing for me," Coffin said. "It's my favorite sport, and it's been awesome doing it this whole time. I just like to see progress and improvement."
Coffin, a 5-foot-4 junior, has accomplished so much that she's starting to run out of ways to improve. But with more than a year remaining in her high school running career, she'll likely find a way.
Prior to attending Annapolis, Coffin was in a routine of running but hadn't been too serious about the sport. Her times picked up through her freshman season, though, eventually finishing with a strong race at the 2013 MPSSAA cross country state finals that saw her finish 26th.
"The top 25 medal at states, so I was really close, and that was when I first thought, after improving over a whole season, that I could get better," Coffin said.
Her encouraging finish at states primed her for a breakout campaign as a sophomore cross country competitor in 2014. She won multiple races that season, including the South River Seahawk Invitational and the MPSSAA 4A East region championship.
At the end of her 2014 MPSSAA season, Coffin placed second at the state championships. Much like the year prior, she drew inspiration from the result.
"I wanted to win it all as a sophomore," Coffin said. "Seeing all those talented runners at the time motivated me to do better the next year."
Coffin also got a taste of what national meets were like as a sophomore. She took part in the Foot Locker Northeast Regional, finishing 34th. It was an eye-opening experience for the young runner, who wasn't aware of how athletic the competition was at that level or how competitive the meets were.
With her second-place state championship medal and national race experience motivating her, Coffin opened the 2015 cross country season with her best time ever for a 5K race, 17:23, at the Seahawk Invitational. Coffin then took a big step toward becoming a state champion three weeks later when she won the Bull Run Invitational at Hereford, which is the same course for the state championships. She ran the race in 18:09, which is the fastest a girl has ever completed a race at Hereford.
Not wanting to be tired at the end of the season, Coffin took on a lesser load during the regular season. The extra rest paid off, as she won the MPSSAA 4A East region championship again.
That result made her the favorite to win the MPSSAA cross country state championship at Hereford. She came through, beating the second-place competitor by 34 seconds.
Despite the excellent result, Coffin still thinks she could have done better.
"The race played out the way I wanted it to, except for my time because it was windy that day. My time at states was slower than my time at Bull Run," Coffin said. "Most of the time when I'm racing, I'm only thinking about the race, nothing else. When I crossed the finish line at states, though, I was really excited and happy to have finally reached my goal."
With her state championship in hand, Coffin then focused her attention toward national races, this time more aware of the type of competition she was up against. Once again, she raced at the Foot Locker Northeast Regional, where she turned in the performance she's most proud of.
"I was just hoping to get top 10 to qualify for the national meet but ended up finishing third," Coffin said. "That was a big improvement for me. To get to run with all those national athletes was cool."
Coffin closed out her 2015 cross country season by placing 27th at the Foot Locker Cross Country National Championship race in San Diego.
After the 2015 cross country season was finished and she began to prep for indoor track, the postseason accolades began to come in for Coffin, including the Gatorade Maryland Girls Runner of the Year. What makes that award unique among others she's won is that it doesn't just focus on running -- it recognizes well-rounded individuals. Gatorade takes into account a student-athlete's grades, extracurricular activities and involvement in the community when considering candidates.
An accomplished soprano, Coffin sings at her church most weekends. She has a 4.81 weighted GPA and is a member of the National Honor Society, as well as the Spanish National Honor Society. Since she's a member of both honor societies, Coffin also spends time tutoring other students.
Winning the award surprised Coffin but not her coaches.
"Her whole life is important. If she doesn't get her homework done, it's a problem for her," said Brian Brown, Coffin's indoor and outdoor track coach. "She does a good job of putting things in perspective and making sure everything gets done."
Annapolis cross country coach Paula Carrigan agreed.
"Maria has this uncanny ability to compartmentalize her life," Carrigan said. "Whatever she's doing, she is extremely focused, and she works hard at it."
At the moment, Coffin's focus is on the current indoor track season. For all her accomplishments in cross country, Coffin has yet to win a state championship during either track season. At the state meets, she finished third in the 3200 meter during the indoor season last year, as well as second in both the 3200 meter and 1600 meter last spring for outdoor track.
Coffin appears to be well on her way to winning a state championship in track. On Feb. 2, she won both the 3200 meter and 1600 meter races at the MPSSAA 4A Central meet.
Adding to the excitement about her strong showing at regionals is that her sister, Anna, a freshman, placed second behind her at both races. The two sisters will get another opportunity to race against each other at the MPSSAA indoor track state championships Feb. 16.
"I like having Anna there," Coffin said. "She doesn't like running as much as I do -- she's doing lacrosse instead of track in the spring. It's still cool to see her run, though, and I try to help her as much as I can."
For her final high school cross country season, Coffin hopes to repeat as state champion. She's also excited to place better against the stiff competition at national meets.
Long term, Coffin is looking to run at a Division I school for college. Carrigan and Brown are both confident she'll get plenty of looks from colleges and have it as one of their goals to not burn her out.
For Coffin, she's hoping her constant desire to get better will get her there.
"I'm really focused and determined to keep going, no matter what the conditions are," Coffin said. "Even if it's raining outside or there's snow on the ground, I still want to train, push through and get better."