Anoush Shehadeh ’15 captured fourth place at the Foot Locker Cross Country Championships (FLCCC) on Saturday to secure her spot as one of 15 female High School All-Americans. Shehadeh finished with a time of 17:35, 19 seconds after champion Tessa Barrett.
“Crossing the finish line in fourth was the perfect end to the season. I couldn’t be happier,” wrote Shehadeh in an email to The Phillipian.
Shehadeh, who is from Larchmont, NY, was the second-ever Andover runner to qualify for the FLCCC, a national 5K race annually held at Balboa Park in San Diego. The last Andover runner to complete the race was Melissa Donais ’02 in 1999.
The race has produced 12 NCAA Division I Cross Country Champions and 37 Olympians, according to the Foot Locker website.
After being unable to finish the FLCCC race last year, Shehadeh was determined to cross the finish line this year. “Not only did I not place at Nationals last year, but I didn’t finish. [I was] coming off a week of finals, my flight was delayed, I didn’t get there until 3 a.m. and I was feeling sick [last year]. So this year I was determined to cross that finish line no matter what it took,” wrote Shehadeh.
Shehadeh began her 2013 Cross Country Season by placing first in the Codfish Bowl on September 28 in Boston. Her 18:14 finish was enough to defeat college runners from schools such as Stonehill College and Merrimack College. From there, Shehadeh built an undefeated season that culminated with her second Division I New England Prep School Championship victory. In addition to breaking five other course records, Shehadeh broke Andover’s 5K course record with a time of 17:18.
Shehadeh’s success qualified her for the Foot Locker Northeast Regionals, where she placed second behind eventual FLCCC champion Tessa Barrett. Going into the race, though, Shehadeh was not seen as a contender. “It’s kind of cool going into big meets like [the Foot Locker Northeast Regionals] being the unknown factor because it takes a lot of outside pressure off of me and I’m able to just race within myself and see what I can do,” wrote Shehadeh.
Shehadeh then began to train for Nationals under the guidance of Cross Country Head Coach Becky Hession. One of Shehadeh’s training highlights this season was a hill workout with Boys Cross Country Captain Scott Diekema ’14 and Ian Whittall ’14.
Since Shehadeh already had a strong running foundation from cross country season, her main focus was to channel her nervousness into positive energy. “I’m a year more experienced, faster and stronger and after my second place at Regionals, I knew that I just had to stay focused and positive and not get too nervous,” wrote Shehadeh.
On Thursday, Shehadeh flew to San Diego to acclimate herself to the new time zone and weather. On Saturday, following a shakeout run, a warm-up and dynamic stretching, Shehadeh began the race at 9:15 a.m.
The race took off quickly, with Megan Reilly setting a 4:33 per mile pace. Shehadeh, however, stuck to her even-paced running style. “I never start fast so I was 38th [out of 40] going into the first loop,” wrote Shehadeh. “Around 400m into the race, I tried to move up, but someone’s shoe caught mine and I got spiked and I completely face planted into the dirt (I have the battle wounds to prove it). I told myself to get right back up but at the 800 point I was literally second to last, but I just kept telling myself to just relax and that my goal was to simply cross that finish line but I kept picking people off and I felt super strong at the end!”
Shehadeh’s ability to “pick people off” allowed her to pass previous race leaders—including Hannah Reilly and Sharon Jenks—en route to her fourth place finish.
Shehadeh attributes her running success to her family and Hession. “She is so awesome and one of the only reasons that I am the runner I am today. I owe her so much and I was so glad she could be there today. I also want to thank my family for always supporting me and my teammates,” wrote Shehadeh.
In the future, Shehadeh hopes to “stay healthy, finish off [her] PA running career strong and continue [running] into college too.”
“I want to be able to go for a run on my 90th birthday!” wrote Shehadeh.
Since Shehadeh is an Upper, she will have one more year to qualify for Nationals. With the support of her family, coaches and friends, Shehadeh might just return with the FLCCC Champion trophy next year.
Foot Locker Cross Country Championships
> Shehadeh’15 First All American at Foot Locker XC Champs 4th place finish! [@AndoverAthlete](https://twitter.com/AndoverAthlete) [@phillipian](https://twitter.com/phillipian) [@phillipsacademy](https://twitter.com/phillipsacademy)
> — Andover Girls’ XC (@AndoverGXC) [December 14, 2013](https://twitter.com/AndoverGXC/statuses/411914729423003648)