Brendan Shearn enters his senior campaign as the defending state AA champion in Cross Country. He is a two-time District 11 XC Champion, and a two time PIAA XC AA Medalist, (including the 2011 title). In track, he is the defending champion in the PIAA AA 3200 and is a returning medalist in the 3k PTFCA Indoor Championships. Most recently he tied the #4 All-Time effort on the oft-traversed Belmont Plateau XC course in Philadelphia with his 15:41.4 on September 17, 2012 in Briarwood Invitational. Only the Rosas, and Dustin Wilson have gone faster. And only Tony Russell of Henderson has gone as fast.
Journal Entry #4 (February 5, 2013)
Yale Classic - a painful 3k
Hello Pennsylvania, it has been a while since I wrote a journal, but the past few weeks have been a whirlwind of ups and downs for me so I hope you excuse my tardiness.
The winter break was very good for me as I had some much needed time off. I was able to take two weeks off and then begin running again. I began a gradual build up in mileage as I want to have a late run into the spring this year. I planned on running a fast 3k in mid January so that I could get a qualifying time for indoor states and then from there I would try to rest and train. The race I picked to run a fast 3k was the Yale invite. I knew it had always been very fast and I wanted to get a fast time there. I figured if I were to run fast there I had better have a tune up race before. I chose at the last minute to go to the Dickinson invitational to run the mile and 800. It felt good to get back to the track and watching some of the earlier races made me excited to race again. Unfortunately when I went to check in for the mile I was informed that I had not been put in the fast heat because I had signed up late. I was completely shocked and a little angry, I pleaded with them to put me in there but they refused. The first heat with a really good race between Alec Kunzweiler and Matthew Calem. When they brought the second heat up to the line for my race I was the last seed in the second heat and they made me stand behind the first line for the start. The race began and I fought through the crowd to try and get to the front. It took most of the first lap but I finally made it too the front. Once there I tried to push the pace so that I could set a good time. The laps clicked away and I felt I may have pushed too hard early. In the end I finished with a 4:36 which I was pleased with for my first race back. Later that day I also ran the 800. This was a pretty new experience for me as I had not run a really competitive 800 since 9th grade. I was pretty nervous lining up next to Alec as he was one of the best 800 runners in the state. The gun went off and Alec zoomed away from me faster then I could match. I tried to sprint as hard as I could to stay with him, but my speed just wasn’t there. I managed to fight through a grueling 3rd lap to finish with a near pr of 2:09. I was pretty happy with the race and when it was over I wanted to do again. It was a pretty good day and I was excited for things to come.
The next day, since I was still training as hard as I could, I went out for a 16 mile long run. The run was grueling and by the end of it my entire body was aching and I believe this is the start of my problem. The next day when I woke up I felt a weird pain in my foot when I walked on it. I tried stretching it but it still remained all morning. I went to school and it wasn’t too bad but I still noticed it was there. When it came time for me to run for the day I ran about 7-8 miles and for the first 2 I felt OK but for the last few my foot began hurting and it became quite painful. I was alarmed at this but I have had minor pains before and I figured that by tomorrow it would be cleared up. Unfortunately the same thing happened the next day and it made me really worried. I feared a stress fracture and I didn’t know what to do. I decided it would be best to keep it to myself until after Yale so that I would still be able to run. I decided to just train through to Yale regardless of whatever pain I felt. When Wednesday came, however, my mom found out that I had foot pain and she told me to take the next day off. I did this with much reluctance. Friday I ran an easy mile on it to see how it felt. It didn’t hurt during the jog and I felt like I might be ok.
The next day we rose early and drove to Yale for the invitational. I was excited to run because I knew almost every runner in my race. I knew it would be fast and I was excited because I was sure I would be able to run a fast time. I tried to get in a long warm up since I hadn’t run much the past two days. I felt fine for most of it but by the end my foot began hurting a little bit. I dismissed it as just a ghost pain. The race went off and throughout the first mile I felt pretty comfortable and relaxed. I managed to move myself up into about 5th or 6th place right behind Trevor Crawley and Rob Napolitano. Coming around one of the turns I felt like I placed a lot of pressure on my foot and it began to hurt. I gritted my teeth and I kept running. The straight-aways were fine, but every time I rounded a turn my foot began to hurt. After two more turns my foot felt like it was throbbing. I had lost track of where I was in the race as the front group managed to slip away. I tried to keep running, but the pain kept mounting with every subsequent step. I considered stepping off the track, but when I saw I had only two laps to go and I was still on pace to go under 9:00 I stayed on. The last lap was brutal, but I managed to sneak under the 9:00 minute barrier. I was fortunate that I had qualified for indoor states for I feared I would not even finish the race. Also, a big shout out to Tony Russell, Reiny Barchet, Sami Aziz, Lyle Wistar, and my Footlocker friend Trevor Crawley for running awesome races. Also, to Marissa Saenger for winning the girls race!
After this my parents and I knew I would have to go to a doctor for X-Rays and a MRI. All day Saturday and most of the day Sunday I was pretty depressed thinking that I had a stress fracture and that my season was over. I feared that my last season of High School track would not happen and I would not be able to accomplish all that I wanted. Then I thought that no matter what I would not let this happen. I wanted to go out with a bang and I would do whatever it takes to make that happen. I got my dad's stationary bike and I knew I would cross train every way I could until I was back running. We went to the doctor’s office on Monday and after looking at it he imagined that it was a stress fracture. He set me up for an MRI a few days later. During this time I began biking and swimming as often as I could to try and maintain fitness. I had no pain in my foot for any of these activities and I began to believe that maybe it was not a stress fracture. When the results of the MRI came in I was overjoyed to find that it was not a stress fracture but a case of Bursitis. When I heard that I was so relieved. It cost me a week of training but it was basically gone. I began running a week later and I got back into the swing of things fairly quickly. I may run one race before indoor states, but I also might not and just train through. I hope to get back into good form by the time indoor state and New Balance Nationals rolls around.
While all of this was happening I was notified that I had won the Gatorade XC Runner of the Year for Pennsylvania. I was ecstatic to have received such a prestigious award. The physical award came in last Friday and was presented to me in front of my entire school. I am extremely grateful for all of the support they have shown me as well the support that my parents and coaches and have shown me without them I would not have accomplished this. Lastly I would like to thank all of the athletes I have competed against. I would like to mention everyone, but just to name a few guys who have motivated me to do by best in every race and every workout are Sam Williams, Curt Jewett, Conner Quinn, Ryan Smathers, Tom Coyle, Jack Huemmler, Dan Jaskowak, Vinny Todaro, and Tony Russell. There are hundreds more that I could mention but I would like to thank you guys especially. I know how hard you work every day and I strive to do the same so that when I come up against you I know it will be the best race it could possibly be. Thanks again.
Journal Entry #3 (December 5, 2012)
Three days before Foot Locker Nationals
So again, I am pretty late on doing my blog, but that’s what you get when you take 4 AP classes. I don’t think anyone reads this to hear me talk about school so onto the running.
The past month for me has been a complete whirlwind of emotions. I left off my last journal after my league meet which now seems like an eternity ago. After that race I had my district race which went really smoothly and gave me a good deal of confidence going into the State Championship. I would also like to congratulate my two teammates Abby Warner, and Devon Mashack for qualifying.
Leading up to the State Meet I felt really good and things felt like they were beginning to come together. I felt like my old self again and I had the snap back in my legs. I really did not do any workouts between my district meet and the State meet because I wanted to be as fresh as possible for it. The day before running the course I felt like I would have a great race. I knew my plan and it seemed like everything would go right.
After a good nights sleep and some cheering on of former competitors it seemed like my race had arrived earlier then last year even with the extra class being added. While warming up it seemed ridiculously colder than it should have been and I decided that for the first time in my career I would start the race with gloves on. It was odd going into this race because it seemed like I was not racing any of the people that I normally do as most of them had been moved to A. It was weird not knowing my competition as well as I had before.
Before I knew it the gun went off and a runner slipped next to me. I ran out as fast as I could trying to avoid getting caught it the back of the pack like I always seem to do. As it turns out I did get caught back a little bit, but I will still close enough to the front that I could work my way up. By the time I did reach the front I saw that Aaron Valorosa had made a bold move and was pressing out in front of the pack. I saw Dan and Vinny sitting in the middle of the lead pack so I decided to slowly work up to Aaron. As I did I felt the rest of the pack move with me. We hit the first mile in a lot slower than I had hoped and I began to panic. As we went down by the river I was indecisive as to whether to stick to my original plan or to begin to push it now. I split the decision as I stayed in the front, but did not push the pace. We hit the first hill and there was still a pretty sizable pack of people and that is when I really began to panic. I had wanted this race to be a race between only 2 or 3 men and with a pack this large I knew the pace was much too slow. As we went down the first hill and through the 2 mile check point the clock confirmed my fears as we were running nearly the same pace as last year. I abandoned my plan of waiting for the downhill of the second aloha hill to make my move. I made my move on the uphill. I attacked hard and fast as I wanted to break my competitors as quickly as possible. I passed Dan and Vinny and I sped on with reckless abandon. As I hit the dirt path I am told that I had a pretty sizable lead. I don’t really remember much of the race as I surged away. I only remember the downhill before poop out hill.
When I flew down the hill, it seemed to shock me out of the surge that I was in and my body began to shut down. I tried as hard as I could to keep pushing, but it seemed so cold and everything in my body began to hurt. As I crested the hill Vinny passed me and sprinted toward the finish line. I tried as hard as I could to counter his move, but there was nothing I could do. Congratulations to Vinny for running a great race as well as Rico, and Tony for winning as well.
The next few days after the State Championship were tough for me. I had so many regrets about the race, about what I maybe could have done to win, but it all meant nothing now. I was so distraught I did not know what to do. I really think it's quite ridiculous to be upset over a second place finish, but it was such a painful experience after winning the year before that I was devastated. I cannot describe how just disappointed in myself I was. I wish I had worked harder or had run smarter. All of this anger and frustration I began to take out on my training. I realized that up to states this year I had been training much more cautiously. I had thought I was injured during the summer months and that fear had held through the season. I threw caution to the wind and began training as hard as I could possibly handle. I began doing my 16 mile long runs at 5:30 pace. On some shorter runs I began to push 5:10 and 5:00. I trained so hard that I knew when the time would come for Foot Locker I would be ready.
Just to touch on some of the workouts I did before Foot Locker, I did a 16 mile long run every Sunday somewhere between 5:30 pace and 6:00 pace. I also did a killer hill workout up a 400m hill 20 times with about 15 seconds rest after returning to the bottom of the hill. Some speed workouts I did were 12-16 by 400m between 67-70 with 100m recovery in between. I also went up to Van Cortland park the Saturday before and practiced on the course a little bit.
Going into the Regional Race I felt stronger than I ever had before. I knew that I was still peaking and that my best races were still ahead of me. I was extremely excited as well that there were so many good PA runners there. I said before the race that 4 people would qualify from PA. I had no idea what 4 it would be but I knew we had a good shot at sending a lot of guys. I also knew that this could potentially be my last XC race with a lot of my good friends. On the line right before the race I wanted to do something sentimental that everyone would remember. I yelled the first thing that popped into my head “PA DON’T PLAY”. I received some weird looks from the assorted New Jersey, New York and Massachusetts runners around me, but I thought it helped out some of the other PA guys.
The gun went off and I started uncharacteristically well. I found myself somewhere in the 30-50 range in the opening straightaway with a lot of familiar faces around. As we rounded the giant Foot Locker man I ran really wide so that I could move up without being impeded. This worked to my advantage as entering the woods I was in about 15th place. Going through the woods I pushed a little bit and found myself in the lead chase pack. I had found as I reached the front that Edward Cheserek had already left and that Jonathan Green had left as well. This came as a disappointment to me as I had hoped to maybe stick with Cheserek at least for a portion of the race, but I guess I will have to save that for nationals. Going across the bridge the field really began to spread out. I simply stayed in qualifying position through the middle miles. I was in a good position throughout the whole race and I simply kept pushing the pace. When we crossed the bridge on the way back it seemed like everyone was shot out of a cannon. From that point on it seemed like the whole race was an all out sprint. I was in sixth place when I saw the finish line and I managed to catch 2 kids. I had really wanted to get Shawn Wilson, but I will have to save that for nationals too. When I crossed the line it was like I had finally had the race I wanted to all year. When I turned around I saw Max Norris cross the line followed closely by Brent Kennedy and Austin Pondel. I was so pumped for everyone to had made it I was bouncing with joy. After a few painstaking moments of writing in the tent I was able to see the other PA boys in the race. I had really wanted everyone to make it as I talked with everyone else who had medaled. I had been in their position last year and it really is tough medaling and not getting to go to nationals. While on the medal stand we saw the girls race finish and I saw Regan Rome and Kennedy Weisner qualify for Foot Locker as well. It was very exciting. It was very disappointing when I found out the PA had lost to NJ in the team scoring. Which I still do not understand, but oh well.
My training has gone very well since nationals. I have been training as hard as ever and I know that my best race is still ahead of me. I am extremely excited for nationals. I am going to represent PA as best as I can and hopefully I can bring back another All-American status for PA. Congratulations to everyone who competed at Foot Locker regionals. I know you all ran your hearts outs. Also Congratulations to O’Hara and Henderson for killing it out at Nationals in that mud fest. Good luck to everyone going to San Diego, I will see you soon. PA DON’T PLAY.
Journal Entry #2 (October 23, 2012)
Hello again Pennsylvania. A lot has gone on in my running career since my last journal entry so I hope you enjoy this slightly lengthy update.
First off many weeks ago I ran the Briarwood invite which turned out to be a fantastic race. It took everything I had to dig deep and pull off a great finish against a great runner Tony Russell. I know he has a great career ahead of him after a race like that.
The next race that I ran was the Foundation Race on the State Cross Country Course. I was very excited for this race because I would get to face a lot of very good runners. The race went out somewhat slow through the first mile (about 4:57) but from the first mile to the first Aloha hill the race picked up significantly. I knew the race would be between myself, Dominic Deluca and Dan Jaskowak, and this pack began to form early in the race. I know Deluca had raced very well early so it was my goal to run him out and make sure he was very tired after the hills. This plan had seemed to work as Dom and myself gained a slight amount of separation from Dan going into the hills. After pushing the pace I knew he was starting to hurt, but unfortunately so was I. As we raced up the second hill Dan caught up to us and began to press again. When we crested the hill I was feeling very tired, but I knew the race was far from over. On the downhill I threw everything I had into a surge to try and break them. I gained the lead and was pressing up the gravel hill. On the flat I tried to find another burst of speed to break clear away, but it wasn’t there. I usually had another gear to go to late in the race that I used to deliver a hammering blow to break my competitors, but it just wasn’t there. I continued to press, but Dan managed to take the lead and started to gain ground. Going up Poop-out hill I managed to pull even with Dan, but I had nothing left to give. Dan raced a very smart race and big congratulations to him for that win.
After the Foundation Race I was disappointed but, I was still optimistic about the next race. The next weekend I traveled to North Carolina to run the Great American Cross Country Festival. It was one the biggest races in the country and I was excited to show what I was capable of on the national stage. The course was very fast with a long downhill at the beginning that we would then come up twice on the course. As the race started I knew my plan was to go out in the back of the front pack, and then to hammer the end of the race. Unfortunately, the race did not go as I planned. As I went down the first hill I was in decent position, but as I rounded the one corner at the bottom of the hill a runner fell in front of me and I was dragged down in the chaos. I hit the ground hard, but I managed to scramble up quickly. I lost my position in the pack and began to panic. I forgot my race plan and began a mad dash to regain position. I started sprinting up the first hill pushing much harder then necessary. I continued pressing as hard as I could through the second part of the race. I managed to claw my way back into a top 20 position, but the wheels were beginning to come off. I pushed up the last hill, but my earlier surges to regain position began to take its toll. At my highest point, I was in tenth position, but in the closing meters I faded to 15th. I ran a fast time, but I was extremely disappointed because I feel I could have done better if I had stayed calm and stuck with my plan. Also, a quick shout-out to Dan Savage and the O’Hara boys for running an awesome race.
These two races left me feeling very disappointed and doubting in my abilities. It took a lot to refocus my energy to begin training hard. I thought a great deal about all of the hard work I had put in and how my hard work had paid off in the past. I knew that I could still achieve my goals of winning States and qualifying for Foot Locker Nationals. With that revelation I began training with a new vigor. I began doing my long runs a little bit quicker and my workouts a little bit harder. I knew that I was still getting stronger and I yearned for a chance to show my abilities.
During this time I was also visiting colleges and trying to decide where I would like to continue my running career. My first official visit was to the University of Pennsylvania. I met with Coach Dolan and Coach Martin and got to talk about the team and the direction they were headed. After I ran with the team and sat in on a class I knew Penn was a place that I could see myself attending. I had a great time meeting all of the guys on the team and really liked what I saw there. The next weekend I visited Georgetown University. This was also very fun as I got to meet Ryan Gil, one of my idols and spend some time in Washington D. C. I also met Darren Fahy and Ahmed Bile, two very accomplished high school runners. They told me about why they picked Georgetown. This weighed heavily on my decision as I knew that I could do very well at Georgetown. My final visit was taken at the University of Notre Dame. I had always liked Notre Dame and I was able to see a Football game while I was there. I spent time with some great runners like Jeremy Rae and PA runner Jake Kildoo. They both loved Notre Dame and really enjoyed it there. After taking all of my visits I knew that I wanted to make my decision very soon so that I could return to focusing on running. I contemplated for a long time and switched back and forth several times. When the day came that I knew I was going to make my decision I thought I knew what the choice was, but I had one thing to take care of before I decided.
My final Schuylkill League Championship race. The race was held at Tuscarora park which holds a lot of history for me. I had run this 5k many times throughout my career. The first two times I ran it was when I was in 7th and 8th grade. I was unable to finish either of those races as I had an asthma attack both times. I also ran my first race as a high school runner there where I managed to pull of a 4th place narrowly beating a great competitor who I would race many more times that year, Tyler Rauenzahn. I also won my first league title there in 10th grade. I managed to repeat that feat in 11th grade. Both of those wins were very important to me, but there was one thing about that course that was still looming over my head. That was Isaac Dunkleberger’s course record of 15:29. He was a great runner in his career and had won a State Championship as a junior as well. He did not however repeat as a senior. I wanted to prove once and for all that I was not Isaac and that I could do better than he. So when I set out on my final league championship I had one goal in mind. To smash the course record. The race starts out with about 800 meters of flat, then a very steep long hill. This hill always leads the first mile to be very slow. After the first mile I began to press down the flat and downhill portion of the course. I pressed as hard as I could, and when I began to slow I would just remember the record and that would motivate me to keep pushing. As I was nearing 800 meters to go I heard the split someone yelled out of 13:08. After a quick calculation I knew I was going to be very close to the record. I started sprinting as fast as I could to get to the finish. When I neared about 400 meters to go I felt the familiar spring in my stride that I had so often last year. I was able to turn it over to another gear as I blasted to the finish. As I crossed the line I glanced at the clock and it read 15:17 a full 12 seconds faster than the record. I was ecstatic with my time and how I had run the race. It took a supreme effort, but the best feeling in the world is being exhausted after a race.
After some deliberation I knew what my college decision would be. I called Coach Martin and told him that I would like to commit to the University of Pennsylvania. I loved both of the other schools I visited, but I knew deep down that my heart was at Penn.
Sorry this journal dragged on everyone, but I had a lot to write about. Best of luck in everyone’s upcoming races!
Journal Entry #1 (September 17, 2012 - Initial Posting)
(Publisher's Note: An email issue with MileSplit caused a delay in receiving this post,
which was written priort to the Briarwood Invite)
"Hello, everybody! My name is Brendan Shearn and I am a senior at North Schuylkill High School. Milesplit has asked me to Journal for them periodically throughout the year and I could not be more excited. I would like to thank everyone who has supported me in my career including my parents, friends, teammates, coaches, and also my competitors. Without all of you I do not think I would have had the opportunities that I have had.
I began running as way to show everyone that I could compete with the best. Growing up I played many different sports including soccer, basketball and baseball. On each of the teams I was a good athlete, but I rarely played because the coach’s kid would always start over me. This was very upsetting to me and when I went to 7th grade I decided to try Cross Country, because I knew no matter what, everyone had an equal opportunity. I would like to say I came in to seventh grade and was a great success, but that is not true. In 7th grade I spent most of the season getting so close to winning a race only to be out kicked in the end. I worked so hard every day and finally I won my first race at the very end of the season and set a new course record. Since that day I have been hooked on running.
Going into my senior year it has been very different from other years. Before I used to know that I may not be at the front of every race pressing for the win and that there would always be guys to chase. This year is very different as now I believe that I am one of the guys that people will be chasing. I have tried not to let this affect me, but I believe I am just beginning to get over it now. My training has reflected this as most of this summer I have worked hard on pressing my runs from the beginning and pressing hard the entire run. I believe I am in better shape than I have ever been and I am looking forward for a chance to show it this weekend.
I better not get ahead of myself as last weekend was a very important race as well. Last week I competed in the PTXC4 meet. I came into the meet as the defending champion and I wanted desperately to defend my title. I believe, however, that a higher power had a different idea in mind for that race. As it turns out I was a little sick for a few days before the race and I really did not feel my best. I raced hard and felt like I was in a good position, but I when I went to that extra gear to break the race open it just was not there. I fought desperately to hang on, but I finished a slightly disappointing 7th place behind a great field. I would like to send a shout out to Sam Williams for running a phenomenal race for the win. Despite losing I learned a lot from this race. I learned that not every day is going to be your day and sometimes you just have to deal with it and run as hard as you can. I know now that this race will be just a minor set back on the way to my ultimate goals.
This weekend, however, I am looking for a little redemption at the Briarwood Invitational. I am feeling recovered from my illness and I have a new fire to try and win this race. I am expecting there to be great competition and for it to be a great race. Also, this will be my first time racing this course and sometimes I feel like you run your best when you race a course for the first time. When you run a course for the first time you are more focused on the race rather then the course itself. I think that this will benefit me on what I have heard is one of the toughest courses in the state. Lastly, I have to remember this is my senior year and that these are some of my last races. I will try to have fun like I used to back in 7th grade. I would like to wish everyone the best of luck this weekend and maybe I will see you out on the course."