Photo: Belmont High student and Emerging Elite athlete Ellie Shea (Credit: Sage Zipeto, Brooks PRI)
Two young Belmont track runners – one already well-established and the other a newcomer breaking into the spotlight – came home with silverware over the same distance captured at separate national competitions earlier this month.
And this coming weekend, Ellie Shea and Dana Lehr could be competing against each other for the first time at the National Championships for athletes under 20 years old.
Shea continues her impressive track results, winning the two-mile at the annual Brooks PR Invitational (PRI) on June 14. Toeing the line against a deep field of speedy athletes, Shea was at the top of her game having smashed her PR in the mile two weeks earlier with a 4 minute, 37.22 second, the fastest mile ever by a Massachusetts high schooler (although it is not an official record as it was set in a mixed gender race).
Unlike some of her previous distance races where she would run away from the competition, Shea – wearing her trademark cobalt-blue sunglasses – would have all she could handle with a familiar opponent, senior Leah Stephens from Maryland (they battled each other at the Champs National Cross Country Championships in December) who ran shoulder to shoulder with the Emerging Elite athlete as they were running steady laps.
On the final of eight laps, Shea and Stephens were stride for stride as the Florida State-bound runner held off Shea on the final corner. But at the head of the home stretch, Shea increased the pace to pass Stephens breaking the finishing tape in 9:53.36 to be the fastest high school two-miler in the US this year.
See Ellie’s outstanding race here
Unlike the past two years, Shea would skip racing at the annual Nike Outdoor Nationals for high school student in Eugene, Oregon that weekend, leaving the stage to her Emerging Elite teammate Lehr.
At the New Balance National Outdoor Championships in Philadelphia, the Belmont High 10th grader ran in the Rising Star meet, highlighting the nation’s up-and-coming tracksters on June 14. Running in the first of two heats at the historic Franklin Field track, Lehr would benefit from the brave pace setting of junior Reece Landis of Ohio. Almost from the start, the race was a three runner affair with Landis out front followed by Lehr and junior Maggie Powers from Indiana in that order.
Landis would slowly stretch her lead in the second mile where a the bell lap she appeared to have shed her pursuers with nearly a 10 meters lead. But Lehr would erase the 1.2 second deficit using her impressive 800-meter speed – she won the MIAA Division 2 title in May – to marshal a 74 second final lap to take the heat in 10:41.59, winning by five seconds over Landis as the Belmontian lowering her 2-mile PR by a minute and five seconds since February. And when the second heat developed into a tactical contest, Lehr’s time stood up to take the title.
You want to see Lehr’s race? Here it is
After winning her contest, Lehr decided – why not – to jump into the Championship Mile, placing 6th in her heat and 33rd overall in 4:57.88, just a second off her PR.
With her time, Lehr made the qualifying time for the 3000 and 5,000 meters at the USATF U20 Championships at Hayward Field in Eugene taking place on July 6-9. And with Shea also qualifying in the 1,500, 3,000 and 5,000 meters – just a reminder: since it has been a very long season for both young women, there is no guarantee either will attend – it could be big couple of days for these residents.