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Track phenom Drew Griffith heading to Notre Dame with grounded perspective

Notre Dame incoming freshman Drew Griffith sets a national high school record in the 1,600-meter run for Butler (Pa.) High at the PIAA state meet on Mary 24.
Notre Dame incoming freshman Drew Griffith sets a national high school record in the 1,600-meter run for Butler (Pa.) High at the PIAA state meet on Mary 24. (Dan Rainville, USA TODAY Sports Network)

Maybe the most remarkable aspect of Notre Dame incoming freshman distance runner Drew Griffith’s bodacious ascent is how he really didn’t see it coming.

A lifelong swimmer from the age of 5, with a side passion for baseball, the Butler, Pa., product flirted with serious running for the first time a little more than two years ago, and it quickly loved him back.



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“My sophomore year in high school during cross country season, each race I was slowly getting a little bit better,” said Griffith, who will enroll at ND in August. “And I would finish first or second in a race.

“But each race, as the season went on, got progressively harder. And the competition was a lot better. But I finished second in the state meet my sophomore year. That’s when I knew that I really had a talent for it but also a drive and a love for the sport.”

By the end of his junior year at Butler High School, the track/cross country phenom had an NIL deal with sports footwear and apparel giant New Balance. And he capped off his senior season by winning the mile at the New Balance Outdoor Nationals roughly two weeks ago in Philadelphia.

With a sub-4-minute mile (3:59.0).

In between he won the national boys cross country championship in December, set a national record for the fastest indoor 2-mile run by a high school runner in Boston in March (8:34.91), crushed Alan Webb’s 23-year-old national high school federation record in the 1,600-meter run at the PIAA Class 3A state meet (3:57.08) in Shippensburg, Pa. on May 24, broke the state record in the 3,200 the next day (8:43.72), and on May 30 in St. Louis ran the first of two four-minute miles in less than a three-week span.

That one, at the HOKA Festival of Miles, made him the 22nd ever high schooler to do so, and his time of 3:57.72 is the fifth-fastest on record among them.

“It’s kind of a dream for every high school distance runner, that 4-minute mile is so elusive,” Griffith told Inside ND Sports. “It’s always been a dream of mine, whether I thought it was possible or not.

“So, going into this year, I realized that it was definitely a possibility, seeing that a couple of the times I had run were pretty close to 4-flat. In four laps on the track, just the slightest difference can be a second or two, and I knew it was possible and I just needed the right conditions and the right day.

“Coming through that last lap, you can kind of see the clock and see what you need to run on that last 400. So, that last 400 is really a true test to see how much grit you’ve got, because you know what you have to run. It’s just whether or not you have enough strength left to do it.”

Now that it’s apparently been established that he does, the question becomes where is all this headed?

His next race will be Notre Dame’s cross country season opener this fall. That’s a distance of 10,000 meters (10k), double the boys high school cross country race distance. But longer distances funnel into the next step for him. Griffith plans to run the 5,000 during track season and abandon the distances where he’s set national records.


He had plans to watch those longer running events on TV from the ongoing U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials in Eugene, Ore., and former Butler High teammate and future Notre Dame teammate CJ Singleton there in this past Sunday’s 3,000-meter steeplechase.

And then in the next Olympic cycle, he hopes to be a participant instead of an invested bystander.

“Maybe when I’m done with college, I might even try the marathon or something when my body is more mature, and see how I handle that,” Griffith said. “But whatever the distance I’m running, 100% I’ve always wanted to represent Team USA at some form of major championships. So, I feel like the Olympics is definitely the biggest goal. Until then I’ll be watching.”

And working.

He plans to run with friends this summer and occasionally girlfriend Logan St. John Kletter, who herself swept the 1,600 and 3,200 titles at the PIAA girls state meet for Mt. Lebanon High. St. John Kletter is headed to run track at North Carolina this fall.

“It’s kind of calming to me at this point and it’s just super fun,” Griffith said of the absence of a crowded competition calendar for a couple of months. “I know kind of what I’m doing it for and being able to see those results, hopefully, when I get to college and all the work over the summer will pay off and feel good, too.”

His friendship with Singleton, two years ahead of Griffith at Butler High, and Singleton’s early success at Notre Dame helped ignite Griffith’s interest in ND as his college landing spot. Irish coach Matt Sparks’ track record with distance runners of both genders fueled the recruiting momentum.

“On top of all that, whenever I stepped on campus,” he said, “it just felt like home to me.”

And now it’s a place to see how vertical his accomplished learning curve can remain.

“I really did enjoy being involved in swimming,” said Griffith, who specialized in the 200- and 500-yard freestyle and 100 backstroke. “I enjoyed most of it, but toward the end, I realized running was calling my name more, and I was really enjoying it. They were pretty similar in the fact that you could just go out and practice and get better each day.

“Running is just all about consistency, and it’s not just when you’re running. It’s whenever you’re at home and kind of recovering from those workouts. So, being in bed early at night and getting enough sleep and napping and also nutrition is huge. You’ve got to make sure you’re watching what you’re putting into your body in making sure you’re getting all the protein you need and just trying to keep a relatively healthy diet.

“It’s definitely tough. Whenever it’s championship season and all your friends – like we just graduated, and people are out eating ice cream and celebrating. It’s definitely tempting. But I just remind myself what I’m doing it for and I’m able to just kind of stay in my own lane and do what’s best for me.

“So now I’m ready to go to work at a higher level and see where it takes me.”


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