If there is a correlation between what a person eats and how that person performs then Mia D'Ambrosio believes she has found it.
The Schalmont senior began a regiment some time back that included being very particular about what she ate. Certain foods were out, particularly sweets and salt, replaced by a healthy diet that was more in tune with the lifestyle of an elite athlete. Whether the change in her dietary habits is a big contributor to the sprinting whiz's success might never be known but one thing is certain - D'Ambrosio feels better when she is on the track.
"A few years ago when I started training really hard, I noticed how food was affecting my performance," said D'Ambrosio, 17, who will study nutritional sciences at North Carolina State next year as a result of her dietary epiphany. "I figured out what was working best when I was training. I was thinking 'Okay, this is kind of interesting to see what affects me negatively'. I noticed if I eat a lot of sugar and unhealthy things, it's not the best.
"I watched the sugar I was taking in and the sodium and cut back. I felt the better I was eating, the more energy I was having and the better my practices were because I was fueled better. Once in a while I have a cheat day and at this point when I have a cheat day, I feel gross. I tend to always eat healthy now. I probably miss desserts and Rice Krispie treats the most."
D'Ambrosio will make her own meals sometimes but now her parents know what she will and won't eat so her dietary desires are incorporated at meal time. She reminds them, too, that her self-imposed restrictions would also be of benefit to them.
"I eat everything except fish," she said. "I am not a fan of fish. It smells bad so it tastes bad. I tried it the other day and I thought I could do it but it was a bad idea."
There is no fish in D'Ambrosio's diet and there is nothing fishy about her effort on the track, either. She has dominated in 45M, 55M and 300M this season, winning 10 of the 12 races she entered in those events while finishing second in the other two. She is ranked first in New York State and 15th nationally in the 300m, second in New York and 16th nationally in the 55m and third in New York in the 200m.
She has had a big month of January, dominating at The Yale Track Classic (Jan. 10-11) and The TCITLL Ed Cepiel Invite (Jan. 5). D'Ambrosio won all five races in which she ran the 55m, including a personal-best 7.12 in the finals of the Cepiel Invite. She also won the 300m at both events, running a personal-best 39.81 at Yale. She insists, however, that it is the time and not the place that concerns her.
"I prefer not to lose but I kind of look at it that it's not where I placed but more about the time I ran," D'Ambrosio said. "I'm more worried about hitting the time; I have this number in mind. I'm more serious about that than wanting to get first or second place. I would rather come in last and run a PR than finish first and not run a PR."
D'Ambrosio says the 55m is her favorite of all the sprints. She loves the "short, foot speed" races but has begun to gain more appreciation for the longer distances such as the 300.
"The 55 is fast and fun," she said. "The more I run the 300 the more I like it but the 300 is a weird race. It's not a 400 but I think I have it down this year. I love the feeling after I race it and I know I ran how I am supposed to. It's a love-hate relationship."
Though she is highly ranked locally and nationally in several events, D'Ambrosio doesn't look at those rankings nor does she pay attention to them, saying that she "just feels better and is more peaceful" when she doesn't look at stats. She admits, however, the state meet will be very interesting because the times of all the top runners are very similar.
"So far this season I haven't raced against any of the people that are up there in the state with me," D'Ambrosio said. "I feel that if I were to run against them before states it would be a good simulation of the state meet. Still, I'm getting good competition from other girls in other states and other areas. I feel I will still be prepared whether I am running against them or not."
D'Ambrosio's resume has her atop New York State but she will be just one of many big names at NC State next year. The Wolf Pack put together an outstanding cross country recruiting class, highlighted by fellow New Yorkers Katelyn Tuohy, Claire Walters and Jenna Schulz. D'Ambrosio doesn't know any of them personally but says she has reached out to them since they have all committed.
"It's definitely going to be a strong cross country team but I think we [the track team] will get the same amount of attention," D'Ambrosio said. "We're going to be strong together. When I visited there, I loved everything about it. It was family-oriented and I just clicked with [assistant] coach [Allen] Johnson and the team. I want to be part of that. I think he can get me where I want to go. I'm excited for all the experiences I am going to have."
As long as there is no fish.