CONTRIBUTED BY SONJA NAGLE AND MYLES LISS-RIORDAN
The belief that winning a gold medal, being an olympian, or winning a world championship happens to the world’s best athletes naturally is far from true. Natural ability is only a small part of an athlete’s success.
Being a track star does not mean that an athlete has worked tirelessly to improve his or her times, has overcome obstacles to compete at a high level, and runs with persistence and passion to achieve their goals.
Running is not a sport that most people start at a young age, despite many people having impressive natural talents. Like many others, running started becoming a highly competitive sport for juniors Sonja Nagle and Myles Liss-Riordan when they got to the high school.
This year, both are running in all three high school seasons. For them, this means rigorous training schedules, intense competitions, and very limited free time.
According to Nagle and Liss-Riordan, these are all sacrifices that will help them in the long run. Their commitment to the sport has made them standout athletes on the team. But like all success, there are many challenges that come along with it.
Liss-Riordan said track can be a grueling sport that requires great amounts of work and commitment from the athletes. However, this work does not go unrewarded.
“I like how much of a challenge track is. Most of the time when you’re in the sport, you’re in pain. It’s about that feeling of overcoming the pain and really rising to the top,” Liss-Riordan said. “It’s a satisfying feeling after you’ve done a work out and you’re really tired, and you are able to finish it. It just gives you a feeling of success.”
According to Nagle, balancing track with school work, standardized testing prep, and work can be difficult, and can make things more stressful. However, the two track stars have overcome the challenges of running and have found major success in their events.
Last year, Liss-Riordan’s 4×800-meter-relay team placed fourth at nationals. The team was the runner up at the Allstate meet, meaning they were the second fastest in the state. They also placed fifth at the Penn relays meet, a prestigious competition with runners from all over the world. Liss-Riordan has won multiple invitational meets, such as the Freshman-Sophomore meet (in the 800-meter-dash), and the Andover Boosters Invitational (also in the 800-meter-dash).
In Nagle’s first cross country season, she was sixth in the state. She has beaten her 800-meter-dash competition in multiple events, and is currently first in the state for the 1000-meter run. Her 4×200-meter-relay team is number one in the state as well, and her team qualified for nationals this year. Last year, in her outdoor season, she placed fifth in New England, and she was featured in the Boston Herald and the Boston Globe as one of their cross country athletes of the year.
Nagle said her success comes from making decisions that are constantly influenced by running, and that will benefit her in relation to track.
“Everything I do in my life at the moment is for running. I have to think about when I’m eating, when I will have my homework done, and it’s not just my training that pays off. It’s everything I do, and the small decisions I make, those all play into my accomplishments,” Nagle said.
Similarly, Liss-Riordan discussed his attention to the small details, and how his focus on these helps him maintain his athleticism.
“I try to emphasize all of the small things that will help me get better. Stuff that doesn’t seem like it’ll help us does actually help. For example, stretching. I make sure I stretch and take care of myself really well and that helps me to not get injured,” Liss-Riordan said.
They both plan to run in college, and are starting the recruitment process. According to Liss-Riordan and Nagle, these goals have motivated them to perform well, and have contributed to their intense work ethics.
Liss-Riordan’s coach, Michael Glennon, discussed Liss-Riordan’s strengths, and the important role Liss-Riordan’s goals play in his future.
“He is very competitive. I think he enjoys working hard, and he sets very high goals for himself, and works as hard as he can to reach them. He has one of the biggest ranges I’ve ever seen in an athlete, and he leads by example by working very hard,” Glennon said.
According to Liss-Riordan and Nagle, the running community at the high school and in the state is tightly knit, and they both described the friends they have made as one of their favorite things about the sport.
“A lot of runners are some of the kindest people I’ve met, so being surrounded in an atmosphere with a lot of kindness is really fun. I’ve made many of my best friends through running,” Nagle said.
Liss-Riordan also mentioned that one of his favorite things is being on a team with his supportive friends.
“I think the most important thing is just the team aspect, I’m really close with everyone on the team. Some of the guys on the team are my best friends, and I really enjoy being with them,” Liss-Riordan said. “It’s really fun to work hard and be with the people who you really care about.”
For the two athletes, track has become a major and defining aspect of their lives. Not only have they become incredibly involved in the sport, they have also had the opportunity to improve themselves and their lives outside of running.
“Running has taught me how to be a better student,” Nagle said. “ how to take care of my body, and just be a better person entirely.”