RUNNING INTO SUCCESS

December 19, 2001 12:00 am
AHEAD OF THE PACK: Shannon Mitchell of Union was one of the top cross country runners in the area this past season. (The Observer file photo/ PAT PERKINS).
AHEAD OF THE PACK: Shannon Mitchell of Union was one of the top cross country runners in the area this past season. (The Observer file photo/ PAT PERKINS).

By Pat Perkins

Observer Staff Writer

She runs for the same reason must runners run, to get away. Yet she runs because a friend encouraged her to do so.

Shannon Mitchell has run into some elite company in her short cross country career, culminating Dec. 8 at the Junior Olympics National Championships in Lincoln, Neb. Mitchell was 33rd in that race, having qualified at a regional meet last month.

The Union High School sophomore has been running since the seventh grade, when friend Stephanie Upshaw, a freshman then, recruited her to the Bobcat team.

I didnt think I was very good at it, Mitchell said.

She knew quickly she was good, especially when she started dominating junior high races. As a freshman, she was 10th at the state meet, where Union finished second. This year she finished fourth overall on Unions state championship team.

She felt her biggest improvement this year.

At the beginning (of the year) I was still at 22 (minutes for 5,000 meters) but as I kept training through the year I was getting faster, she said. About the last four or five races I felt that I could run a 20.

She almost didnt get to run at state at all. She collapsed near the finish line at the district meet in Pendleton, and it was later determined she was dehydrated and needed to adjust her diet.

After that, she ran three elite races in three weeks.

She was eligible to run in Nikes Border Clash III the week after state in Beaverton and that qualified her for the Junior Olympics regional meet.

She continued to improve. She finished the regional race in 20:29, two weeks after finishing the state meet in 20:20.

Both the courses at regionals and nationals were really hilly and up and down, and (the time) was really comparable to the one at state, which was not as rough.

At nationals, she finished in 20:26.

It was an excellent race. It just felt like I was flying. (From) the beginning I was passing girls. I wanted to be able to keep my pace, but all through the race I was passing girls, up until the very end.

I felt something different than before, like I was able to run as fast without getting tired, she said. I was really expecting to be in the 60s or in the 50s. And it really surprised me that I was 33rd.

She will keep running, although shes playing basketball now. Track season beckons, and more training will happen in the summer.

She hopes to run in college, which would be another chance to get away.

It just gives me something different, maybe a way to get away from things, something that Im good at that I like to do.