The words ‘tremendous potential’ have been written on her face and arms for the past three years. The words’ never give up and keep fighting’ have been planted on her worn out sneakers over the hot summer months. And now the words ‘course and school record holder’ surround the name Laura Patriarca, who last Wednesday afternoon made Tewksbury Memorial High School sports history.
The junior three-sport runner at TMHS — and top three ranked student of the junior class — finished the Redmen’s season opening cross-country meet with a time of 18:14, which not only shattered the school record set by current UNH star Kaitlin Rose by 31 seconds, but it also edged out the course record held previously by Chelmsford High runner Meghan Curran, who went on to have a brilliant four-year running career at West Point.
Patriarca came across the finish line at 18:14, just one second better than Curran’s 2005 time - who at that time she was a three-time all-conference selection, a three-time Lowell Sun All-Star, a two-time Boston Herald All-Scholastic and a two-time Division 1 Eastern Mass individual champion.
Now Laura Patriarca established her own incredible feat(s).
“At the two mile mark Coach (Peter Molloy) yelled out to me my time which was 12:10 and I knew I had a shot (at the records). But to be honest I was actually pretty doubtful that I could do it - that I could run that fast and keep pushing myself.”
But she did. And that last kick in her final mile of the 3.1 course at Tewksbury’s Livingston Street Park ‘hurt a lot”, but it all started with an incredible work ethic well before this season started. Patriarca first dramatically improved her long distance running performing the two mile in indoor and outdoor track. Then during the summer it was very hard not to notice the same brown hair girl on the sidewalks and roads of Tewksbury nearly every single day of the gruesome hot summer days.
“I just tired to keep my (summer) training even and I tried to do five miles a day, 30 miles a week,” she said. “But I think training so hard for the two mile during indoor and outdoor track really helped me. That was such a confidence booster to be able to get through the first two miles.”
Molloy echoed those comments that Patriarca went from a potentially good runner to now a tremendous one, with even more upside after the season opening performance.
“I think her training had a lot to do with it,” he said. “Plus her development as a distance runner. She went from running a 12:15 two mile time in indoor track to running a 11:37 two mile time in outdoor track and that’s just phenomenal. I think her development in track and the contuining progression from training so hard in the summer, all added up to this one fantastic effort.”
Last Tuesday, the day before the season officially started with the meet against Methuen, Patriarca was curious about the program’s records.
“She knew she had a chance at the record this season,” said Molloy. “In fact she asked me about them on Tuesday. Once she hit the two mile mark at 12:10, I knew she had a great chance. She ran her last mile at 6:04 so she was very consistent from start to finish.”
Tewksbury ended up losing the meet although it had the top three finishers, including Patriarca, who was well ahead of teammates Ashley Toland (20:07) and Christina Dick (20:31). And once Patriarca grabbed the lead for good, she knew it was a race between her and the stop watch.
“They all told me that I got the records but I still really don’t believe them,” she said with a laugh. “I’m still kind of in shock over it.”
Patriarca didn’t really know much about the two former record holders, Rose and Curran. Rose is one of the all-time best runners to go through the program, and Curran was a field hockey player, who turned to cross country after her freshman year and had a brilliant high school and college career in both cross country and track, excelling in many distance events. The Patriarca family are no strangers to excelling at the collegiate ranks in cross country.
“I got involved (in running) because my uncle George Patriarca was a three-time All-American runner at Brandeis University, and my father, Lou was also into the sport - he just wasn’t as competitive as my uncle. So knowing they did it, I assumed I had to do it,” she said.
Her assumption, her love for the sport, and her love to work hard and succeed at it, has led her down a number of new paths.
“To take down that record (from Meghan Curran) is quite impressive,” said Molloy. “There are two types of races in cross country — the one where you run all alone, and the one where you fight it out for 3.1 miles with a pack of runners. Today she proved she can run alone and we're confident she'll prove she can succeed the other way too.”
Today, Laura Patriarca stands (or runs) alone as having the the all-time best time in a 3.1 mile race — now her blazing 18:14 time can be written down in the school’s record books.