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Sacred Heart runner Maggie Maier keeps her eye on the prize

Sacred Heart Academy's Maggie Maier attacks the hill

Sacred Heart Academy's Maggie Maier attacks the hill and finishes in 10th place in a time of 19:02.5 at the New York State Federation Cross Country Championships held at Bowdoin Park in Wappingers Falls, New York on Nov. 18, 2017. Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

Sacred Heart’s Maggie Maier has long established herself as one of the top distance runners on Long Island…and she’s only halfway done. Only a junior, Maier is the defending CHSAA cross country Intersectional champion and is coming off her 10th-place finish at the state Federation Championships last year. In a stacked field of New York runners, Maier is up there with the best of them and loving every minute of it.

“I’ve had a lot of good experiences over the past two years, but we’re in New York,” said Maier, who ran the Bowdoin Park 5-kilometer Federation course in 19 minutes, 2.5 seconds.  “Even though I feel like I’ve been doing good myself, there’s so many girls to chase. Every time I reach a new goal, I know right away that there’s another goal to set because there’s just so many good girls, no matter where you look. I try not to just look within my own league or within Long Island, because I know every meet there’s going to be somebody else or somebody new.”

Maier is one of nine returners  that placed in the top 10 at last year’s Federation meet. That’s not unusual in a sport where underclassmen tend to excel, but it does speak to the raw strength of New York girls distance running.

“I just feel like the competition in New York is just so great, that no matter where I go, it’s nice to have more to strive for,” Maier said. “Of course, I want to be on top, but it’s nice to know that if I want to run a fast time, there’s going be another girl that’s going to help me push for that time. But, in the end, I want to be the one that’s coming out on top.”

In the CHSAA, that hasn’t been a problem. Maier ran a 15:11.13 on the 4K course at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx to win her first Intersectional Championship last November. She won her second consecutive league title by clocking a 19:30.24 on Sunken Meadow State Park’s 5K course.

Maier’s CHSAA success, specifically last year, was no surprise. Her high finish at feds, however – especially coming off a finish outside the top-50 in her freshman year – was a bit of an unexpected development, she said.

“That really came as a surprise to me,” said Maier, who lives in Atlantic Beach. “My goal was just to get into the top-40 and medal. Coming in tenth was really a big wake-up call. That was a turning point in where I was like ‘ok, I could really be one of the best if I keep working.’ Now, that’s letting me have even bigger goals for this season.”

Those goals are spelled out and specific – she wants to break 19 minutes at Sunken Meadow, win both CHSAA titles again, and place in the top-5 at the Federation meet. Nineteen minutes at Sunken would be quite an accomplishment. Only one runner, former Shoreham-Wading River standout and current Georgetown strider Katherine Lee, was able to dip under the mark at the Suffolk State Qualifier or the Suffolk Division Championships last season – the two biggest meets in the county.

Maier upped her summer mileage a tad this year, running between 40-45 miles a week and, more often than not, finishing up closer to the 45- mile mark. She also did strength exercises to build up her core and increase her mobility.

Summer days saw her running around Norman Levy Park in Merrick, visions of further success pushing her farther and farther.

“I just like seeing the progress each day,” Maier said. “Over the past two years, I’ve just developed such a love for it. I don’t really know what I would do if I didn’t run.”

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