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February 06, 2021
Makayla Paige is January 2021 Athlete of the Month
Tewksbury HS and Greater Lowell Road Runner start runs well in abbreviated indoor season.
(Tewksbury MA/Greater Lowell Road Runners) is USATF-New England’s Athlete of the Month for January 2021.
The award comes in recognition of her continued success throughout her high school career, as well as her recent performances in January. At the Bay State Running Invitational, Paige ran a season-best 2:58.23 in the 1000m and winnng by two seconds. Two weeks later at the MSTCA Coaches Invitational, Paige set another seasonal best, this time in the 600m. Paige finished the race in 1:34.53 600, nearly six seconds ahead of her nearest competitor. She also ventured to the VA Showcase meet and placed 6th in the 800m in 2:12.83, a race that featured the top 800m runners in the country.
Joe Ferris, youth coach with the Greater Lowell Road Runners who has coached Paige for eight years, said what sets her apart from other runners is her mentality.
“It’s the way she worked in practice. Makayla has natural ability, but she was willing to listen, learn, and really love what she was doing. Her mental toughness is one thing, and just being a student of running--learning not only what to do, but why she’s doing it--and she was a very good learner,” Ferris said.
Paige has made her greatest improvements in terms of race strategy. With plenty of natural talent, her work in race execution has pushed her to the level she is at.
“There was one girl beating Makayla like 3-4-5 races in a row when they would compete. I told Makayla that the reason she wasn’t catching up is because she would always come into the final turn and be behind her. She couldn’t catch her. So I said, ‘change your strategy. I want you to go ahead of her in the back stretch and make her catch you.’ She did that in the next race and that girl never beat her again,” Ferris said. “The mental toughness was another thing. She was in a lot of races where she didn’t win by a lot but most of the time if it was close, she was going to beat the other person.”
Ferris also notes Paige’s contributions to the team go beyond her performances. In addition to still running with Greater Lowell when she doesn’t have commitments to her high school team, Paige has been a great teammate, captain, and coach for the younger club athletes. After practices with her high school team, she would go to Greater Lowell practices to help coach.
“She’s learning a lot not only about running but also take what she knows and how to pass it on to the younger kids,” Ferris said.
The Gatorade Athlete of the Year for Massachusetts in 2019 and 2020 will attend the University of North Carolina in the fall.
When did you start getting into running?
: I started at a very young age. My parents were both college athletes, so I started when I was like eight. I really started competitively running when I was about ten years old. When you’re eight, you don’t really know too much about what you’re actually doing, you’re just on the track running around.
You used to play soccer, why did you decide to focus solely on track and field?
I wanted to continue soccer through high school originally, but I decided to change because I just fell in love with running. I always felt like it was a big part of my life, and if I didn’t do cross country, it would have been a really weird experience to just have it off to the side.
You often run with the Greater Lowell Road Runners, particularly this winter with no formal school season. What has your experience been training and competing with them over the years?
It was the first club that I ran with, they sort of took me in because there were a couple of Tewksbury people in the club. I just kind of like training with them over these years and I just kept coming back because the coaches are wonderful, the people are wonderful, everyone is super nice. It’s a really good community to be a part of. I helped coach for a little while, but then I got busy with my schedule. But the kids are awesome, I love seeing them, just getting to run in the Greater Lowell Road Runners jersey is always fun.
: How had coaching affected how you view your own training?
: It helped me think of each thing step by step. When I was trying to explain to the younger kids, you had to explain, ‘this is how you do the correct running form,’ but it made me think of each individual part instead of as a whole.
What performance on the track are you most proud of?
: This was a while ago, I was in eighth grade, and I’ve run faster times than this, but at Ocean Breeze on Staten Island was one race where, it was an 800, and I was just going into it like, ‘I haven’t PR’d in anything this season,' I was just stuck at the same time. All of a sudden, this race just worked. Everything just clicked. The start went well, I stayed with the girl that I never thought I’d be able to stay with, everything just seemed to fit together at that race, sort of like where everything started to get better again. That one was definitely a turning point.
Why did you choose the University of North Carolina for college?
I’ll be honest, when I first saw UNC, I did not think it was the school for me. It was a bit hot, I was a bit grumpy after nationals. But then I started talking to the coaches. The first person I talked to was really nice. I started talking to coach Sorenson, and he moved me with his positive attitude. He was saying how they recruit people instead of runners, and that was a big thing for me. I knew I was going to be around these girls all the time. When I actually met the team, I knew it was going to be right for me. I haven’t had any regrets because the girls are such great people.
Do you have any goals you are working towards in this upcoming track season?
I’m hoping to get 2:04 in the 800 meters.