Photo: Belmont High Junior Ellie Shea breaking the tape (credit Keenan Gray/New Balance Nationals)
On her last big race just a month ago, Belmont High junior Ellie Shea traveled more than 10,000 miles to compete in the World Athletics Cross Country Championships in Australia. Her latest major race was this weekend at the New Balance Nationals Indoor Championship in Brighton which is all of four miles from her Belmont home.
And whether its half way around the world or just down the street, Shea was the talk of the event: first running a historic 10th place in the U20 race in the world cross country title run while in Brighton, the 11th grader sparkled winning two national high school indoor track championship titles within 24 hours.
On Friday and Saturday, Shea – wearing her now iconic blue neon sunglasses – destroying talented fields in the 2 mile (Friday) and 5,000 meters (Saturday) by running away from some of the best high school runners in the country. And to top off the weekend, Shea stayed with the top high school miler in the country, sophomore Sadie Engelhardt of California, until the final 200 meters to finish third in the mile with a 4 minute, 40:76 second, finishing the meet as the only runner to win three individual medals at this invitational. [See the video of the race here]
In the 2 mile on Friday, Shea was off and running going clear of the others after one 200 meter lap and just increased the distance from the pack to win in 9 minutes, 49.82 seconds, more than 3/4 of a lap ahead of runner up Hanne Thomsen of California in 10:07.06. Her time was within shouting distance of the all-time US high school record (9:38.68) set by Mary Cain in Boston 10 years ago. [You can view the race here]
“My plan was not to necessarily go after [records],” said Shea in an interview after the race. “I just wanted to run a consistent pace and a consistent effort and test my fitness and have fun.”
But it was Saturday afternoon’s 5,000 meters (3.1 miles) where Shea, the defending champion, showed a dominance that’s rare in the era. Running 37 second laps to the others over 40 seconds, the race was essentially over after the second lap. From then on, Shea was running a solo race, clicking off 37/38 second laps, lapping the field twice before speeding up in the final two to break the tap in 15:46.28, [the race is here] breaking her own meet record and finishing nearly a minute ahead of second place Jolena Quarto in 16:43.18.
In her three events, Shea set personal best times. She is the leading US high school runner in the 3,000 meters, 2 mile and 5,000 meters.
Shea stated in an interview how she is able to transition from a world class cross country performance in the Australian outback to hammering a total of 6.1 miles over three days on an indoor track all within one month.
“I just trust in my training,” said Shea. “I know my training is going to set me up for whatever race I decide to do, whether it be on the track or the cross country course and however long it may be. So as long as I trust in my training, I know I’m prepared. So I was confident that I would be able to switch back to track quickly after traveling halfway around the world.”