New York City Is Her Stage: Ellie Shea Captures Indoor 5K National Title During Record-Setting Weekend

Photo: Belmont’s Ellie Shea set the second fastest indoor 5,000 meters by a high school student in history at the New Balance National Indoor Championships on Saturday, March 12.(Credit: John Nepolian, New Balance National Indoor)

One of the popular activities out-of-towners do in New York City is to head down to Broadway to take in a show.

This past weekend in NYC, Belmont’s Ellie Shea WAS the show. And the stage she starred on was The Armory’s New Balance Track & Field Center in upper Manhattan.

“Recognize this face?,” shouted the overexcited announcer introducing the Belmont High School sophomore before her third race in as many days at the New Balance National Indoor High School Championships held from March 11 to 13. “She’s back!”

Credit: John Nepolian

The Sunday afternoon race was the third time Ellie was racing at the premier high school competition, the only one of the top five runners in the race who ran more than just the mile. And despite running five miles on the boards over the first two days, all in world-class times for a 16-year-old, Shea did not disappoint when the gun went off.

In a dominating series of performances, Shea put her stamp on the national showcase indoor track meet:

  • On Saturday, Ellie destroyed a top-ranked field to win the 5,000 meters indoor title in 15 minutes, 49.47 seconds, a personal best by 20 seconds. She didn’t just break the previous 5K record ever run by a high schooler in the Amory, she took an baseball bat to it, lowering the existing mark by six seconds. She now holds the second best time by a high schooler in history. Shea is the current national 5,000 meter high school title-holder both indoors and outdoors. The race can be seen here: https://www.nbnationalsin.com/eprofile.php?event_id=1164&do=videos&video_id=323920
  • Friday, Shea finished second to Texas senior Natalie Cook – who won the Eastbay National Cross Country Championship in December – in the two mile. Her time of 9:49.2 broke Olympic bronze medalist Lynn Jennings’ Massachusetts record from 1978 by 18 seconds and Katelyn Touhy’s sophomore national record by 6 seconds. Her “enroute” 3,000 meter time – runners are clocked passing that distance during the two mile – of 9:13.4 was just above her PR of 9:08.54 set at Boston University in February. Shea is currently the world’s second fastest female under 18 years old in the indoors 3,000 and fourth in the 1,500, according to the iaaf.
  • In her final race, Shea finished fourth in the mile in 4:41 flat nearly catching senior Riley Steward of Colorado who out leaned the on rushing 16 year old. Her enroute mark for the classic 1,500 meter distance was 4:22.9. She ran her PR of 4:21.42 in the Boston University race where she set her mile best of 4:40.01.

In an interview after her record-breaking 5,000, Shea said her personal goal coming to the meet was “to get as many learning experiences as possible, to race a bunch of different events from 800 [meters] all the way to 5K. And I’m happy that I’ve now pretty much done all the events.”

Belmont’s Shea To Toe The Start Line At National X-C Championship in San Diego

Photo: Ellie Shea

Belmont High sophomore Ellie Shea will be at the start of the Eastbay Cross Country Championships National Finals in less than two weeks after finishing 6th in the Northeast Regionals this past Saturday, Nov. 27.

Racing over 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) in historic Van Cortland Park in the north Bronx, Shea clocked in at 17 minutes and 55.3 seconds for her top-ten performance and an automatic entry to the finals to be held on Saturday, Dec. 11 at Balboa Park’s Morley Field in San Diego, Calif.

Senior Angelina Perez from Lakeland Regional High School in New Jersey claimed the Northeast title in 17:21.5.

The Northeast finals comes four and a half months after Shea shattered the freshman 5K track record in the National High School Track Championships in Eugene, Ore. while winning the race. Showing she was primed for Saturday’s race, in October Shea placed second in the BAA Mayor’s Cup Cross Country championship in 17:12 against former collegians and professional runners including current 10,000 meter national record holder and two time Olympian Molly Huddle.

Belmont High’s only other participant in the National Finals – then known as the Footlocker Cross Country Nationals – was Victor Gras who finished 9th (earning All-American status) in 2003 after being the runner up in the Northeast race. As a junior in 2002, Gras finished 28th in the finals.

Belmont’s Ellie Shea Rocks High School Track Nationals With Stunning Record Breaking Run [VIDEO]

Photo: Ellie Shea is a really fast Belmont High runner.

Just how fast is Ellie Shea? OK, head down to Harris Field and step onto the track. Ready? Now start running. Keep a steady pace in which it will take you just about 71 seconds to complete a full lap. Whew, that took your breath away, didn’t it! But don’t stop! Do the same lap time for an additional three times around to finish in around 4 minutes and 44 seconds for the mile.

Yeah, Ellie’s is that fast. In fact, after this past 4th of July, the 15-year-old Belmont High student was the fastest freshman running the middle distances in the entire country.

“I like racing [against runners who] can push me to get a (personal record),” she told the Belmontonian in late May as she began her record-setting assault.

Shea demonstrated her growing prowess this spring and summer by clocking a series of outstanding times not just for freshmen but all high school runners including an out of nowhere 4:45.4 mile (on the roads) in her very first race against big time competition at the Adidas Boost Boston Games in May and then breaking the Massachusetts high school two-mile record running a 10:10.5 in early June.

Her half year of successes – she didn’t run cross country and participated in just a handful of “indoors” races during the Fall 2 Season – was so impressive that Shea was honored with the 2020-21 Gatorade Massachusetts Girls Track & Field Player of the Year award, just days before she would make a name for herself nationally on the July 4th weekend across the country in the Pacific Northwest.

Shea’s times and talent earned her way into the National Scholastic Athletic Foundation’s Outdoor Nationals – the equivalent of a high school national championships – where she had qualified to run three middle distance events (1 mile, 2 mile and 5,000 meters) on July 3 against top-ranked prep athletes at historic Hayward Field on the campus of the University of Oregon in Eugene.

But the nationals would have to wait until after Shea raced the mile at the Brooks PR Invitational in Seattle on July 2, her first major national track showcase. She held her own against older and taller prep runners – Ellie’s a slightly built 5 foot-2 inches, 98 lbs. – to set yet another personal standard by nearly two seconds, a 4:43.7 which is better than any ninth grader in the country has run the distance this year.

With little sleep and after a four and a half hours drive from Seattle to Eugene, Shea decided to compete in the 5,000 meters (3.12 miles), a race she last competed in seventh grade.

“I wanted to give it a shot after running a couple of fast two miles,” she said during an interview in Eugene. “The five K is intriguing and I want to see how it goes” with the additional benefit it was being run at 9:30 a.m. during Oregon’s historic climate-influenced heat wave.

Wearing the same spiffy blue framed polarized sunglasses she wore the day before in Seattle, Ellie latched onto the prohibitive favorite, junior Caroline Wells from Winter Springs, Florida (who finished one place ahead of Shea at both the Brooks meet and the Boston Games) from the start and wouldn’t let go, maintaining a stride-distance behind Wells lap after lap.

The final stretch as Ellie Shea powers to the victory in the 5,000 meters at the 2021 Outdoor Nationals.

After the two front runners dropped Shea’s club teammate, Margot Appleton, with a mile remaining, the pair kept logging in 78-second laps until about a kilometer to run (“two-ish laps” as Ellie put it) when Shea surged past Wells. But her move nearly went terribly wrong as she stumbled after hitting the inside railing. But Shea quickly righted herself to run about two seconds per lap faster than Wells, who had no answers to her rival’s surge.

Crossing the finish line a national champion

Down the final straight, Shea powered home to a sensational 16:10.7, obliterating the 41-year-old freshman national outdoors record by 29 seconds (her time is also under the existing sophomore mark), recording the fastest time ever by a US 15 year old while running the 9th fastest high school 5,000 in history. As of July 4, Shea’s time ranks her third among women under 18 years old worldwide, trailing only two 16 year old Ethiopians.

“I just wanted to go out fast and get in a good spot and race with some really fast girls,” said Shea after the race.

The Hayward 5,000 meters was a simply a remarkable performance just in itself, made the more so coming from a young runner who seemingly came out of nowhere in the past four months, not that she hadn’t shown promise before 2021 having won the 2019 Boston Mayor’s Cup cross country event for girls’ 11-14. Since the late spring, Shea’s times have fallen faster than the value of bitcoin. Coming into the year with a mile best of 5:17.9 (recorded when she was a 7th grader in 2019), Shea took off nearly half a minute off her PR while dropping her two mile best from an 11:23 set in 2019 to her current 10:10.5 in early June.

She credits her rapid improvement on focusing on a single sport. Before the pandemic, “I did a lot of sports,” said Shea. Besides town lacrosse and soccer, there was rock climbing, tennis as well as several years as a competitive alpine and nordic skier out of New Hampshire’s Cranmore Mountain.

But as COVID-19 closed down many sports and venues, “I made [running] my priority” and was able to train more consistantly. Shea also joined Emerging Elites in the spring of 2020 which concentrates on designing training programs for young runners. When asked by track commentator Larry Rawson at the awards ceremony about her training regiment, Shea said she doesn’t run too much compared to the high mileage other do. “I like to focus more on quality over quanity.”

What gives Shea an added advantage is natural competitiveness. Shea’s mom, Jamie – a Belmont High teacher and a member of the Belmont Middle and High School Building Committee – said Ellie has been “super competitive” at every venture she’s competed in. Jamie recalls when Ellie was a tee-ball player when an opponent hit the ball, she ran in from the outfield, dove into the scrum, and ended up with the ball.

“I really like pushing myself, pushing through pain … see how fast I can go and how good I can be,” Ellie said. That drive is also demonstrated in the classroom where she holds high honors. But there’s While she enjoys the sciences, “I don’t like physics so I’m excited for next year.”

In her near future, Shea is eager for a return to cross country “to have fun on trails” after being away for two years. Beyond the coming fall season, “I just want to keep racing in the big invitational meets.”

And while it’s clear that Ellie has found a home in running, the spark of another challenge for her is always there. Jamie Shea, a collegiate swimmer at Princeton who ran a 21:38 5K at the Friends of Belmont Education Apple Run in 2019, said recently Ellie saw the girls’ rugby team practice and told her “that looks exciting!”