TEWKSBURY – As a freshman, Joshua Linnehan came out for the spring track team and had the typical rookie numbers, running a 5:55 mile and a 2:30 time in the 800-meters.
After that season was over, his thoughts were to stay with track but perhaps move down to the sprinting events. But that changed with a conversation with his friend Zach Connolly.
"Zack told me to try out (for cross-country and then winter track)," said Linnehan before last Friday's practice. "I was going to do the sprint events at first and then he kind of helped me change my mind by telling me what means to be a distance runner, how he looks forward to it everyday so I really wanted to try it out.
“The first season I did it, I really had a great time and then after that over the summers, I just tried to train as hard as I could. The whole experience has just been amazing."
Since that spring track season as a ninth grader, Linnehan has become a three-season runner with cross-country and the indoor and outdoor track seasons. Not counting last spring season which got cancelled due to COVID, he'll end his senior year with hopefully nine seasons under his belt. But this upcoming one, his seventh, will indeed be a little strange.
"It's definitely a different season and it's going to he hard to adapt, but everyday we have to keep on going and keep on working just as hard as we would any other year," he said. "It's the same old business."
While this fall cross-country season will be different because of the modifications due to COVID, it didn't take away from Linnehan logging all kinds of miles during the quarantine period.
"It was definitely tough not being around my teammates," he said. "At that time, I was just running on my own because we were all in quarantine. I still tried my best to go out everyday to get in a nice run or a nice workout, and by the time summer came and some of the restrictions were lifted, we met up for some summer running pretty much everyday. For the past six months I have really worked hard to get into shape for this cross-country season.
"I ran outside and always had a mask around me and then when someone came close to me, I moved it up to cover my face just to be safe. I prefer running outside so I just made sure I remained as safe as possible."
After that spring track season, his times have gotten significantly better. In cross-country, as a sophomore, he participated in the JV race at the MVC Championship Meet and was 50th overall with a 5,000 meter time of 21:02.
Last year as a junior, he made the jump to the varsity line-up and finished 67th overall at the same meet with a time of 19:40. Two weeks after that, he chopped his time down to 19:09.36 finishing 150th overall at the Eastern Mass Meet.
"This year I'm shooting for 18:40 — anything better than that, but preferably 18:40. If I can do that, it would be awesome,” said Josh, who also has an older sister Kayla.
His coach says that along as Linnehan continues on the track that he's been on, that goal is certainly not out of reach.
"Josh is enjoyable to be around," said Peter Fortunato. "He works hard. He has put in a pretty good summer and I'm excited to see what he can do. He's more of a fast twitch guy so his better events are probably the 1,000 meters and mile, but we're going to look for him to be in our top five this year. We are hoping to get him down to the low 18-minute mark. He's a hard worker, a good kid and he always does things the right way. He listens and he's coachable."
Josh added that he has other goals as well, including going onto college, perhaps in the sports or film/media/journalism field.