Three Days And Three Big Efforts From Ellie Shea

* Ellie Shea after winning the 5K on Saturday at New Balance Nationals Indoor

Photo Credit: Joe Swift/MileSplit

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"Every race I learn something new." -- Ellie Shea 

By Cory Mull - MileSplit

NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK -- The races kept on getting harder. Ellie Shea kept on getting stronger. 

It was one of the major takeaways from New Balance Nationals Indoor this weekend inside the Armory. 

Over three days and three races, the sophomore from Waltham, Massachusetts -- who runs for Emerging Elites -- looked far beyond her years, like the kind of poised and determined young runner whose future is only just beginning. 

All together, Shea, 16, was on another level as she finished second in the 2-mile on Friday, first in the 5K on Saturday and fourth in the mile on Sunday, picking up two sophomore class records in the process. 

"I just wanted to give it my best go," Shea said on Saturday after her performance of 15:49 in the 5K, second all-time in the record books. "I would only gain something from running this race, so it was worth it to do it and I'm happy with how I felt." 

Just how impressive was her 9:52.35 in the 2-mile on Friday?

She not only hung with Natalie Cook, the reigning Gatorade National Player of the Year in cross country, and Angelina Perez, a state-record holder in New Jersey and one of the top girls distance recruits in the country, but was just as comfortable alongside them. Cook ended up with the second-fastest time in high school history in 9:44.44. Shea had the sixth best, surpassing Katelyn Tuohy's class record of 9:58.89. To be clear, this wasn't a surprise, either. 

On Saturday, Shea ran 15:49, which was second best all-time, only behind Tuohy. It currently stands as a top 50 world time. Early on, she looked like she was on auto-pilot, clocking laps with ease. And even when it got late, even when a slight grimace began to form on her face, her legs didn't betray her, and she finished the job. She became the third girl ever under 16 minutes indoors. 

"It is a fun event if you kind of zone out a bit because it can be a lot of laps," she said of the race. "It's fun, especially with the crowd cheering you on." 

The comparisons are often easy. To evaluate a runner based off someone else's accomplishments in the past. 

But at least with Shea, that's not something she's thinking about. Or at the very least, she says she's not defining herself by records or comparisons to former greats. 

"I don't put a lot of emphasis on where I stand with everyone," she said. "I just want to see what I can do and try to get the most out of my ability in each and every one of my races." 

Shea burst on to the scene last year as a freshman, finishing fifth in the mile at Brooks PR in 4:43, and going 9:30.64 in the 3K and 16:10.42 in the 5K, both national top 10 performances -- the latter being a freshman class record. 

"I just wanted to give it my best go. I would only gain something from running this race, so it was worth it to do it and I'm happy with how I felt." 

She qualified for the Eastbay Cross Country Championships in the fall, and things noticeably heated up over indoors, with Shea unloading for U.S. No. 1 times in the 1,500m (4:21.42), mile (4:40.01) and 3K (9:08.54) and a U.S. No. 8 performance in the 800m -- and two of those performances, the 1,500m and mile, were sophomore class records. 

Perhaps her hardest race of the weekend was the mile. After 25 minutes of running over two days, most athletes would feel the burden of that intensity and mileage under their legs. 

But Shea went out and finished fourth in the most competitive mile of the year in 4:41.00, just a shade behind Riley Stewart, just seconds back from winner Juliette Whittaker and runner-up Sadie Engelhardt. 

How did she do it? How did she conquer each day as it got increasingly more intense? 

Mostly, she took it one day at a time. 

"I signed up for pretty much everything that I could possibly want to do because I wanted to have options," she said.  "I wanted to take it one day at a time and see how I felt and see what events I would feel like."

And when she leaves New York and goes back to the grind and starts preparing for the next season, all this won't be forgotten.

There are a few things she always keeps in mind, she says. One of them? 

"Every race I learn something new," she says.