TEWKSBURY — It's pretty seldom that you come across a kid like Sarah Polimeno. Extremely friendly, engaging, bubbly and with a terrific outlook and attitude about life, her family, her future and athletics, Polimeno is a mature young lady, with an incredible drive to be successful.
That being said, she's also fallen on some tough times in her athletic career, which makes her constant positive energy even more impressive.
As a freshman, she had a back injury which kept her on the sidelines for some time. Then this past winter as a member of the resurging TMHS Gymnastics team, she chipped a piece of bone off of her ankle during her floor exercise routine at the Merrimack Valley Conference Championship Meet. She tried to be as brave as she could, attempted many times to complete her routine, but just couldn't.
That injury kept her out for almost the entire spring track season, although she did compete at the MVC Championship Meet.
After the summer break, Polimeno has returned to TMHS as a senior three-sport athlete, who yes, is finally healthy. With that, she also decided that she wanted to come back to the cross-country program, after taking a year off to compete for her Gymnastics Club team.
"I’m so glad that I’m with the cross-country team," she said. "I was debating it because of my foot injury, and then I wasn’t sure if it was the best decision to make because I’m really not a long distance runner. I’m more of a sprinter.
“Once I went to the first practice (of this cross-country season), I went home and told my mom that I made the right choice because the girls on the team are just so great and just so supportive of everyone. The coaches and the boys are the same way. It’s just a really nice group and I love it.
"I don’t regret doing club gymnastics last year. I had a good time with it. It was nice to be able to experience some different things. That was back then and I’m happy that I did it, but I’m also happy to be a part of this team during my senior year."
This year's cross-country team has five seniors but only one was part of the team last year. Two juniors Makayla Paige and Izzy Carleton are returning all-league runners, while. Meghan Ostertag was all-conference as a sophomore, but went to compete for the swim team last year due to injuries and is now back running. Polimeno said that with some additions, like Ostertag, this year's team could surprise a lot of people.
"I am really excited about this team actually," she said. "I think we are a really great group and we have worked hard, we really have. Everyone gets along so well, everyone is so supportive and so nice. I really think this team is going to make this season like ten times better. We just have such a really nice group and I’m just so happy to be a part of this team.
"It is a different mix. There’s some girls who came over from the track team like myself and Jess Satterfield, who is also a sprinter. There’s also a couple of talented freshmen who have come in, so that’s great to have them added in. It is a different group and a different mix, but no matter the abilities of everyone, we’re all going to have a good time together. Regardless of what anyone can do, if you work hard and have a good time, and try your best, that’s all you can do."
It took a little while, but Polimeno was able to get in a solid amount of training during the hot summer months. Her ankle felt much better, and she said today there's no issues with it whatsoever.
"I had a small Avulsion Fracture," she said. "It went to the side really fast and a piece of the bone broke away. I could walk on it. I was in a boot for a while and I came back, just really slowly. The injury kind of transferred into the spring track season so I was out for the majority of that season and then I re-injured it when I was doing physical therapy during the summer so I didn’t get to do as much (summer training) as I would have liked. I tried to be smart about it and I didn’t try to push it too hard. Right now, I’m doing really well with that so I’m in a good spot."
That 'good spot' is hoping to turn into a 'good spot' on the team. The Redmen lost four of its top seven runners from last year and have some holes to fill. Polimeno is coming off of her injury and is known to be more of a sprinter/middle distance runner, than distance runner.
"I think Sarah is another kid who is more of a sprinter than a distance runner per se but she has been working really, really hard and her workout have been good," said Cusick. "I’m hoping she can be happy with her achievements. I say this to all of these kids that the important thing with cross-country is not where you end up, it’s how far you gotten from where you started. If she can progress throughout the season, regardless of where she starts, if she can make progress from there and get better, each week and each meet, that will be successful."
Regardless if Polimeno finishes first or last in every cross-country meet this season, she will be a success story because she has overcome so much adversity, and because of what lies ahead. She is an outstanding student, member of the National Honor Society and is looking at a number of schools in either New England or California to study Oceanography.
"She is a phenomenal kid and she is just such a kind person," said Cusick. "It doesn’t really matter who she is paired with (during practices) because she is just such a compassionate, considerate, really empathetic and caring about her teammates and about her friends. It’s great to have her back on the team because she has such a warm presence."
Polimeno's friendly nature and great attitude certainly is similar to the way her older sister Lauren has been throughout her life, and seems to be the same way younger brother Nick is today.
"We all get along," said Sarah. "We have all done running so it’s nice to have that as we’re all in the same boat. We all know we’re all feeling after a run, or this hurts or that hurts and it’s like ‘OK I understand’ because you are sore and you get it but it’s nice to have a support circle. We’re all very close. Lauren is down in Florida and she is doing so great but I miss her. She’s happy so if she is happy, than I am happy and she is absolutely crushing it down there."
Lauren is a scholarship track athlete who is attending the University of Jacksonville and has had her own individual success through her first two years of competition.
Both Sarah and Nick are members of the TMHS girls and boys' cross-country and track teams and Nick also did well last year as a freshman. The three of them have followed parents Matt and Lesley, who were athletes during their high school and college days.
With Lauren away at school and enjoying the warm temperatures and the Florida beaches, Sarah said she is trying to soak in her family time before she goes off to college to study oceans and geology.
"I do drive Nick around sometimes," she said. "It’s different. It’s not a sister-sister relationship, so sister-brother relationship is different and it’s just so much fun. We tease each other and shove him around sometimes and we just have so much fun together. I hope that I can spend as much time with him as I can before I go off to college."