By Dave Dyer
---- — 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.”
Another impressive thing about Pham is that she started her running career in middle school as a hurdler and wanted to be a sprinter in high school. But she discovered she had some talent as a distance runner and has stuck with it even though she prefers middle distance races.
Moreover, Pham has enjoyed an excellent career as a runner without losing her focus as an outstanding student who is also involved in numerous student and community projects as a member of the Student Council and the National Honor Society.
Pham, whose older sister Kimberly is a 2010 Lawrence graduate and is currently studying in Denmark as a Brown University senior, boasts a 4.53 GPA, is first in her class of 125 at the Math/Science/Technology Academy and takes predominantly AP and honors classes. She also picked up college credit for two classes taken at Harvard Summer School.
Always focused, Pham sees a connection between her running and academics.
“One helps the other,” she said. “In cross country, you have a lot of long-term goals and you don’t see the results right away. It’s the same way in the classroom.”
Catholic Memorial duel
The Catholic Memorial Invitational at Franklin Park is always one of the better meets of the season. It should have special meaning for our area this Saturday. In the boys meet, Pinkerton Academy and Methuen — clearly the top local teams — will be battling for bragging rights.
Pinkerton, led by Phil Parent, appears to be stronger, but Methuen has picked up the pace recently and could give the Astros a run for their money. Rangers sophomore Jeff Reddy has steadily improved throughout the season.
Meet Leanna Pham
School Lawrence High, senior
Sports: Cross country, track
Accomplishments: School record holder in 1,000 meters (3:12.3) and 800 meters (2:22.1) and No. 1 runner in cross country four straight years
Academics: No. 1 (of 125) at Lawrence’s Math/Science/Technology Academy, 4.53 GPA, has earned several college credits
Miscellaneous: Member of Student Council and National Honor Society and involved in several community projects
Family notable: Older sister Kimberly (‘10) ran for Lawrence and is a senior at Brown