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.”