For young high school track athletes, competing amongst the best runners in the country is like a dream.
But for Sachem East juniors Rachel Paul and Kelly Maranchuck, that dream became a reality late last month.
Paul and Maranchuck competed in the USATF Junior National Championships at the University of Oregon June 24 and 25. Both girls described the meet, which is open to high school, collegiate and professional athletes, as an unforgettable experience.
"It was an amazing experience going to the meet and I'm really happy I went, even if it was a little scary being surrounded by such amazing athletes," Maranchuck said.
"The entire Oregon environment was thrilling," Paul said. "There were so many professional runners and collegiate runners that I've always looked up to, and finally I was able to run on the same track as them. It was mind-blowing and an experience I will never forget."
Paul competed in competed in the 1,500-meter run, running 4:27.69 in semi-finals and 4:26.35 in finals.
"Semifinals and finals were something different for me, but just knowing I was around the best of the best in our country assured me I could do it," she said.
Maranchuck competed in the racewalk. But instead of the event's usual 1,500-meter distance, Maranchuck and her competitors raced 10 kilometers, which is roughly 6.3 miles. She finished the race in 58:55.
"It was my first 10k ever and most of my competitors had already done more than one 10k so I was pretty nervous, but it was still a great race to be a part of," she said. "I definitely want to do more 10k races."
This meet was the last of the season for both athletes. That fact is something Paul said pushed her during her race.
"I knew that I deserved to be there and just wanted to go out there and really run my hardest and make sure I wouldn't leave Oregon unhappy," she said. "Knowing that it would be my last race of the season, I wanted to leave it all out there and show [USATF] that I am someone to watch."
Paul and Maranchuck will be entering their senior years at Sachem East this Fall. They are currently training for their final cross country seasons.