Don’t count Anoush Shehadeh among the critics who believe it’s not a good idea for competitive runners to get an early start to their racing careers.
The Phillips Academy sophomore, from Larchmont, N.Y., began competing with the Larchnont high school team as an eighth grader, an experience which helped fuel her enthusiasm for running.
“It was an amazing experience and I’m so glad I did it,” said Shehadeh. “I loved the running and I got to train with girls who are now running in college. I looked up to them.”
These days, runners are looking up to Shehadeh even though she’s in her first year of cross country, understandably switching from soccer after a stunning freshman season in track.
As a freshman, Shehadeh won the New England Prep title in the 3,000 meters with a sizzling 10:01 and at the New Balance outdoor nationals she ran a 10:48 for the 2-mile.
Shehadeh has carried over that success to cross country, placing first in every meet thus far, running a 5K course record at Choate with an 18:29 and, on the Phillips home course, smashing the course record by 19 seconds with a 17:41, comfortably ahead of the mark held by Melissa Donais. In five dual meets, she’s broken four course records and missed the fifth by less than a second.
“I was hoping to have a good year but I’m definitely surprised by how I’ve improved every meet,” said Shehadeh, whose father attended Phillips Academy.
“I didn’t come in with any goals. I just wanted to try cross country after doing so well in track last year. I just love running.”
Obviously, Shehadeh has natural talent, but she’s also a hard worker and has the will to win that tend to distinguish champions.
“She’s a very kind, smart and fun-loving kid, but she just loves to race and compete,” said Phillips coach Becky Session. “Some girls get nervous with competition, but she embraces it.”
Shehadeh may have developed some of her competitive juices from Cayla Hatton, the Phillips Academy student who became a national standout last year without competing for the Big Blue.
Currently the No. 2 runner for a strong Stanford team, Hatton ran the second fastest time ever for a high school runner in both the 5,000 (15:50) and 10,000 meters (33:17).
“We ran together quite a lot and I definitely looked up to her,” said Shehadeh. “She’s an amazing runner and I hope to be like her some day. If all goes well, and I keep getting faster, I’d love to run in college like she is. I just love running.”
Actually, it looks like Shehadeh is well on her way to being just like Hatton.
Haverhill junior Riley Gilmore, who captured the Junior-Senior girls race, and Methuen’s sophomore boys stood out at the State Coaches meet Saturday. In the sophomore race, Matt Marchand, Cam Pavao and John St. Hilaire finished 6-7-8 and, running up a class, freshman Jeff Reddy was 17th. Haverhill’s Christian White was fifth.
Gilmore won easily, in a nifty 19:09, with Andover’s Leila Aruri third in 19:36.6 and Warrior teammate Meghan McPhee sixth in 19:52.8.
Prep is ready
The St. John’s Prep team seemed to have taken a step backward at the Bay State Invitational in Northfield, finishing fifth, but coach John Boyle didn’t want his team going all out on the rugged course and the strategy seems to have worked.
Coming back the next week, the Eagles cruised to yet another Catholic Conference record with West Newbury’s Liam Dow leading the way by placing first overall.
St. John’s will be in a dogfight with Methuen Saturday at the Division 1 Eastern Mass. meet in Wrentham as both schools will be attempting to qualify for the All-State meet Nov. 17 in Northfield.
Rocha on fire
There have been some outstanding female runners from Massachusetts, including Lynn Jennings, Shaylane Flanagan and Arianna Lambie, but Peabody’s Caterina Rocha has shown that she belongs with the best of them.
The defending Division 1 All-State champion set a new meet record at the Northeastern Conference race with a blazing 5K time of 17:22. She was an amazing 2:06 ahead of the runner-up finisher.
Middle school update
The Bradford Huskies shined at the recent Jim Munn Invitational at Stage Fort Park in Gloucester as the boys team came in first place out of 30 teams and the girls team came in second place among 26 teams on the 1.7-mile course.
For the boys, Jacob Seavey (9:06), Connor Alessi, Troy Sliney, Aidan Wertz and Connor Wertz finished 6-7-8-9-10, all within 19 seconds of each other.
On the girls side for the Huskies, Meaghan Woolbert was eighth and Madeline Kelleher came in 10th.
Individually, Michaela Jones of North Andover was the winner in 9:55, which equates to a 5:44 mile pace. The boys winner, in 8:37 (impressive 4:59 pace) was Spencer Feuerbach of Manchester Essex.
Making strides Anoush Shehadeh, as only a sophomore at Phillips Academy, has already made a big impact in area running. Track 2-mile -- Ran a 10:49.15 in New Balance nationals last year, which is already the third time in area history. 3,000 meters -- Ran a 10:01.23 to win the New England Div. 1 Prep meet last spring 1,500 meters -- Owns best time of 4:46.58, which is the equivalent of a 4:46.58 in the mile Cross country Has placed first in every meet this fall. Has broken four course records, including at Phillips, where her 5K time of 17:41 broke the previous record held by Melissa Donais by 19 seconds.