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High school Athlete of the Season for girls’ cross country

ELISABETH DANIS

School: Coe-Brown Northwood Academy

Class: Sophomore

Honors: She finished second in the Division II championships, third in the Meet of Champions and 15th at New England’s as Coe-Brown won all three.

What was it like going to practice every day with so many excellent runners? Going to practice today with so many great runners is such a blast and such a challenge at the same time. Everyone’s always cracking jokes or making fun of one another or shouting at the top of their lungs. On any given day something crazy could happen, like once we convinced (Coach) Tkaczyk that Katie broke her ankle on a run. When it comes time to work, though, everyone has the ability to quickly get ready to be serious, and what makes it great is that we all love to have fun with one another, but then we love to work really hard and put in the miles or hit our splits, too.

How has Coe-Brown been able to get this good in cross country, and sustain it? I think the key to our team being as good as we are lies in our coaching staff. Every runner comes ready and willing to work hard, but Cox, Tkaczyk, Kennedy, and the other coaches we have on the team do such a great job working with us. Cox and Tkaczyk especially put so much time and effort into looking up statistics for us, planning our workouts, making sure we’re getting the proper nutrition and keeping on top of our school work. They really make sure to connect with each runner and I feel like that connection and the chemistry between the team and the coaches is really what allows us to excel. They constantly are looking for ways to improve our training and that’s what makes it so great.

What’s your favorite course to run in the state? I love running on Derryfield so much. Mentally, it’s such a nice course to break down into three different parts: the flat first mile, the uphill, and then the downhill. Running uphill and downhill is something Tkaczyk and Cox make sure we know how to do. Our team enjoys Derryfield because we spend a lot of time there throughout the season, and we feel as if we know how to run it pretty well. The hill really breaks apart the packs and really separates the runners. It’s such a great indicator of who’s really put in the hard hours over the season.

What would your ideal course be like? (Ex: flat, shady, dry, etc.) My ideal course would probably be a more uphill course like Derryfield, with a downhill like Derryfield, too, but instead of having that first mile on the field and the road, something with more trails or single track. Running in the shade is nice and cool. I think the mud is really fun to run in, too, just because it adds a little bit of extra challenge.

You beat Hannah Parker in D-II and MOC, but she beat you in the NEs. Do you push each other in practice? I’m so fortunate to be able to train with Hannah, because she and I are always pushing one another to run faster or train harder. Running with her was and is always one of my goals, and it’s really nice in practice to know that we’re going into a physically or mentally challenging workout together because it makes it easier on the both of us. Over the past year we’ve really worked on being able to push one another but also work together as teammates instead of against one another in practices and it’s really allowed for us to help one another become a better runner. It’s not just Hannah and I pushing one another, though, it’s our entire team pushing one another to become better. Jessie Carney, Brooke Laskowsky and Megan Scannell often run right with or close behind Hannah and I, so our team is always working together! Katie Scannell definitely keeps everyone on their toes, too. Mary Fowler is also an excellent short-distance runner, so for 400s or 800s or even hill sprints she pushed the pace!

What was the team mindset heading into the D-II, MOC and NE championships? Heading into D-II and MOC, we knew that as a team, if each of us did our jobs, we could really dominate the races. There really wasn’t pressure on us individually or as a team from our coaching staff at those two events. When our boys’ team made it to MOC and placed fourth at MOC, we were so happy for them! At New England’s, Cox and Tkaczyk had shown us the statistics earlier in the week and we knew we had a shot at the title. We also knew that Barrington and La Salle had a few girls that could run in the 17:00s. Our basic attitude was that if we worked hard, stayed in position, and hurt until the two-mile mark, then the downhill and the race was ours for the taking, but it was anyone’s race.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given as a runner? I think the best advice I’ve gotten has come from Tkaczyk and Cox. Tkazcyk is always telling me I need to relax and a lot of the time it’s true. At big meets, or even small meets sometimes to my dismay, I can get myself worked up before a race. He says I have “crazy eyes” and right before a race, crazy eyes are a good thing to have, but not an entire day before or on the bus ride to the meet. Cox has given me equally good advice, too. Not only when it comes to running, but when it comes to school (mainly my geometry class) Cox has told me that if I go put the adequate amount of effort into something, and go in with the right attitude, then no matter what the results are, at least I know I tried my best.

What goes through your mind in the seconds before you hear the starting gun? Right before the race, I don’t usually think about much. One of the benefits of having such strong senior leadership from Jessie Carney is that the rest of us don’t really have to think too much, aside from knowing the game plan for that race. Jessie makes sure each of us is where we need to be when we need to be there. My first instinct is to always follow Hannah, and the rest of the team works off Hannah and me, too, similar to the way we work off one another. Jessie and Hannah really take responsibility for us during racing, as Jessie makes sure to keep us focused and Hannah does what we call the “Parker Plow” at big meets to help the rest of us get out. Usually I just focus on keeping under control and doing my job during the next five kilometers.

Who’s got the best sense of humor on the team? Katie and Megan Scannell absolutely have the best sense of humor on the team. Sometimes it’s hard to even figure out what they’re laughing about or why they think something’s funny, but they’re both masters of the sarcastic, witty comments, or cracking a joke at just the right time. One time Katie had the idea to fake a broken ankle on one run, but sometimes we’ll be running and Megan will say something utterly ridiculous out of the blue. When we’re on long car rides, the music is always up to them, and it can be really funny to listen to them jam out in the van, like on our way to New York. Our team is never without entertainment thanks to the Scannell Sisters.

If you could change anything about high school cross country, what would it be? If I could change one thing about high school cross country I would probably want to run against more teams from surrounding states, like Vermont and Maine. I think there’s already such a great atmosphere when it comes to New Hampshire cross country, but I think going against different teams more often, like at the Manchester Invitational, would only add to that competitive atmosphere.

If you didn’t run, what would your main sport be? If I didn’t run I would want to play basketball. I played all throughout middle school and the last team I was on with Megan and a couple of our friends from school was such a great time. It’s still really fun to go to basketball games that some of my friends play on, and I really want to catch more Coe-Brown basketball games this winter!

What’s your favorite brand of running equipment? I really like Nike running clothing and jerseys, but Adidas has my favorite trainers right now. My flats/spikes are Brooks, too, so I guess it really depends on whether the equipment is running clothing or shoes! I have a couple pairs of Under Armor and North Face that are great for running in the winter, so I guess as long as it works well it doesn’t really matter!

If your town could add any restaurant, which would it be? If I could add any restaurant, I would want a Fresh City in Nottingham! There was one in Newington a few years back and they had really, well, fresh food! They also had delicious smoothies and the majority of the food they sold was healthy, so that would always be a good stop!

Do you have any superstitions? I can be really superstitious sometimes before a race. Hannah always runs on my right side, whether working out or racing. The night before a race my parents always go out to dinner and I have a pasta dinner. In the morning I have one bowl of cereal and one peanut butter sandwich, and then drink 100 oz of water. During a season, I pick one song and play it before every race on the bus. I wear two different pairs of socks for race day, one pair for warm up and one pair for racing. This season we were doing some work on our course and Tkaczyk told me I couldn’t move the barrels of dirt through the new single track. Cox told me the same night I couldn’t play in the pickup basketball game at our spaghetti dinner. Then after feeling like I raced well at Manchester Invite, I made it a point for myself to do something that made either one of them tell me I wasn’t allowed to do that before the big meets, and so I gave Brooke Laskowsky a few mandatory piggy back rides before the races!

What’s your favorite style of music? I listen to a lot of different music, so I don’t have one ‘type’ per say. On any given day, it could range from country to Top 100 or to Sum 41 and The Offspring. Right now I’m really into Fall Out Boy, though.

Who’s your favorite actor or actress? I don’t really have a favorite actor or actress, but I think Jennifer Lawrence and Adam Sandler are both pretty funny in some of the recent movies that they’ve done. The Hunger Games is on the top of my list right now, but Grown Ups is good, too.

What’s your favorite class in school? My favorite class is either my World History class or my Geometry class. I really think history is an interesting class and I usually enjoy the essays that we write for each quarter, even if they can be tedious while I’m writing them. My Geometry class is by far my most challenging course at the moment, but the teacher is really passionate about the subject, and it makes it more fun. Plus, I really enjoy a good challenge.

What are your goals for next year? I really want to improve in all my major races again next year, but as a team I really think the goals will be to win D-II and MOC again, shoot for New England’s, and each of us would love to make it to Nationals again next year. Nationals is definitely something we are going to strive for and use to keep us motivated throughout the rest of our season. Improving on what we did in previous years is always the goal.

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