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Sacred Heart Academy athlete enjoys prom before heading to Ivy League

Ellen Byrnes, of Port Washington, and her date,

Ellen Byrnes, of Port Washington, and her date, Joe Reich, of East Islip, attend Sacred Heart Academy's prom at the Woodbury Country Club on Thursday. Credit: Rebecca Anderson

Ellen Byrnes has been running since the age of 4. Now, more than a decade later and after countless races, the Sacred Heart Academy senior will be sprinting in a new direction.

Byrnes, 18, of Port Washington, has committed to competing on the track and field team at the University of Pennsylvania this fall and will be majoring in finance at the Wharton School of Business.

“I fell in love with the school, the team, and the coaches on my visit,” she said. “I am overjoyed to have been given such an incredible opportunity.”

Byrnes, who specializes in mid-distances including the 400 meters, 800 meters, and 400 meter hurdles, will be participating in the New York State Championships in Cicero, N.Y. Friday and Saturday. The following week, she will be competing at the New Balance National Championships in Greensboro, N.C.

But Byrnes took a break from competition to enjoy her senior prom last Thursday at the Woodbury Country Club. She danced the night away -- including one dance that she’ll never forget.

“My favorite part of the night was when our principal, Sister Joanne Forker, invited all of us girls on to the dance floor for our final dance with her,” Byrnes said. “Sister Joanne is leaving Sacred Heart this year, so this is her last prom as well. She is an incredible woman and has done so much for our school and we are all really going to miss her.”

Emma Sullivan, Sacred Heart assistant principal of student affairs for more than 15 years, said that Byrnes is respected and loved by all of her peers.

“She is very kind, sweet, and steps up to the plate when something needs to be done,” Sullivan said.

Byrnes received the Woman of Heart Award at the graduation liturgy last Friday. The recipient, chosen by teachers, administration and peers, is a student who embodies the Sacred Heart mission and who has led with heart throughout her years at the school.

“I have been able to lead with heart on the track by leading through example and encouraging my teammates to always give 100 percent,” Byrnes said of her time at the all-girls school in Hempstead. “I am surrounded by women who all embody the mission of Sacred Heart, and in my interaction with those around me, I have been able to grow as a woman.”

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