One of the greatest female distance runners in Lawrence High history is winding down her career ... with little fanfare.
Her name is Leanna Pham and, because the Lancers have had very few runners and even less success in cross country the last few years, few people know about her.
But, while Pham is not about to challenge for a state title, her record and accomplishments are worth noting.
Pham has been the Lancers’ No. 1 runner every year and has placed first in six meets, tying her for the school record with 1999 graduate Sharlene Delossantos. She could break the mark next Monday at Greater Lawrence.
In larger meets, she’s often surged at the end to a respectable finish thanks to a fine finishing kick that reflects the speed she’s shown as the school record holder in the 800 (2:27.1) and 1,000 (3:12.3).
The most impressive part of Pham’s resume may be that everything she’s accomplished as a runner is largely on her own. She’s never had a girl to push her (and there have not been more than 10 girls on the cross country team throughout her career). She usually has to train with the boys in order to be challenged.
“Not having any (Lawrence) girls to run with affects me sometimes,” said Pham. “I kind of lose my enthusiasm and it can be hard to push myself.
“Last year, I did a lot of runs with coach (Anthony) Ellis and now I run with the JV boys, but it’d be nice to have girls to train with. The guys have been very supportive when I run with them and don’t treat me any differently as a girl.
“But even though it can be difficult to train at practice and it can be discouraging to not have the numbers or the talent of other teams, I am proud to represent the city. A lot of my motivation stems from knowing I represent the hidden talent in Lawrence and hope that my success in running and in school can counter Lawrence’s reputation.”