Photo: Belmont High’s Ellie Shea finishing second in the credit: (Credit: Photorun for Champs Sports Cross Country)
Belmont High junior Ellie Shea turned last year’s DNF (Did Not Finish) into an impressive second place finish at the 43rd Champs Sports Cross Country Championships National Finals held Saturday, Dec. 10 , at Morley Field at Balboa Park in San Diego.
Racing in bright morning sunshine with temperatures in the mid-50s, Shea – wearing her trademark sunglasses – was dropped by Karrie Baloga of New Winchester, NY at the final hill on the 5,000 meter course to take the runner’s up position. The result was a reversal of the Northeast Regional race two weeks previous which Shea beat Baloga by 12 seconds.
Shea was running in only her third cross country race of the year coming a week after starting her indoor season for Emerging Elites running club racing over 3,000 meters against mostly professional runners in 9:10. Shea is the defending 5,000 meter national high school indoor track champion and won the 2021 national 5,000 meter outdoor high school championship where she smashed the freshman record by half a minute.
Baloga, a senior from Cornwall Central High School, controlled the early pace across the first loop leading through the mile with a swift 5:17.3 split. At the 1.5 mile mark, the lead group was reduced to four as Baloga, Shea, and seniors Paityn Noe from Huxley, Iowa and Ciara O’Shea of Richmond, Ky.
Quickly O’Shea was dropped and it was the last three who would all shared the lead several times during the remained of the race. Shea took the group through the two-mile mark with a split time of 10:55.4.
The trio ran within strides of each other until the steep uphill/downhill stretch that looms in the final half mile. From there it was all Baloga, who pulled away capping off one of the most competitive girls’ races in recent memory. Shea would dip under 17 minutes crossing the finish line in 16:55.1, six seconds ahead of Noe in 17:01.5. Rounding out the top five were sophomore Abby Faith Cheeseman (Bell Buckle, Tenn.) in fourth at 17:13.4 and O’Shea in fifth at 17:21.5.
You can watch Shea’s impressive race below: The race begins at the one-hour mark (1:00.00) and a short post race interview with Ellie is at 1:42.30