If third time’s the charm, Marissa Sheva might just have her way next month when she competes in the mile at the NYRR Millrose Games, the most prestigious indoor track and field event in the nation.
The Pennridge High (Pa.) senior automatically qualified last month when she set a meet record for the mile in 4:50.73 at the Bishop Loughlin Games, the oldest and largest high school indoor meet in the country.
The Millrose Games, held in New York City on February 14, attracts the country’s top professional, college and high school athletes. This will be Sheva’s third appearance. She finished sixth and eighth as a sophomore and junior. This time, she is aiming to crack the top five, and for a personal best around 4:45.
“Everybody who is there wants to be there,” Sheva said of the intense competition. “I’ll run my own race. I won’t go lead wire to wire, but I want to be in contention and ready to go in the last lap.”
Sheva, who won the state title for the indoor mile in 2013, said she’s a much difference racer now than she was as a sophomore. She remembered sitting near professional runners and was in awe as she watched Olympian Nick Symmonds warm up. She later approached him and called him “Mr. Symmonds” before she introduced herself before she stepped to the line to race.
“I was completely terrified. It was scary looking at the girls I was going to race,” said Sheva, who placed sixth overall for the mile in 4:56.26.
The experience motivated her to requalify the following year so she could rectify her performance. Plagued by mono during cross country season as a junior, Sheva recovered to qualify for and compete in the games, but finished eighth in 4:58.69. Sheva intends to overthrow her previous performances to run her best race yet.
Averaging 35 miles a week, Sheva said she’ll rely on endurance from the recent cross country season, during which she placed fourth at the state meet. She’ll also count on speed from playing soccer to support her finishing kick.
Sheva, bound for Penn State for soccer and track, started running at age 9 because she wanted to be just like her older sister Caitlyn, now a sophomore on the track team at East Carolina University. Both also played soccer growing up, and Sheva continued throughout high school while on the cross country team. She credits being involved with both sports for shaping her into one of the nation’s fastest milers.
Pennridge track coach Bill Smith also points to Sheva’s acquired mature training approach. She runs more on her own and lifts outside of practice.
“She’s a very talented individual, but talent alone doesn’t get you to the top,” Smith said. “She has tremendous work ethic. She’s always trying to prepare to face the best competition.”
Her drive to succeed at a high level permeates among teammates. Senior sprinter Taylor Chapman said she’s in awe when she watches Sheva practice and compete.
“She has so much love for this sport,” Chapman said. “I wouldn’t expect her to do anything but perform at a high level. She’s always been able to compete with the best, and now she’s one of the best. I’m very excited to watch what she’s going to do at this year’s Millrose Games.”
Added Smith, “She’s an intelligent runner — aggressive, but not overly aggressive, and she makes definitive moves.
“I expect her race at Millrose will be her best performance. I think she’ll be battling to win.”