Early named PAL’s top girls runner

NASHUA – The Police Athletic League announced that its 2016 Girls Cross Country Run­ner of the Year is Shannon Earley, of Amherst.

Earley, 17, will be honored along with PAL’s athletes of the year in football, boys cross coun­try, boxing and basketball at the sixth annual PAL Sports Dinner at Conway Arena on Thursday, June 30.

Also honored will be the PAL of the Year, Mike O’Malley, a Hollywood ac­tor, writer and producer.

Earley, a junior who is an accomplished cross-country runner at Souhe­gan High School, set her sights on USA Track & Field All-America status two years ago, running in her first national cham­pionship race in Myrtle Beach, S.C., and finish­ing 31st in the country, missing her goal by only six places. Determined to achieve it in 2015, she became an All American by placing an impressive 22nd in the girls 15-16 age category at the 2015 USATF Junior Olympic National Cross Country Championships in Albu­querque, N.M., in Decem­ber.

Earley attributes her success in Albuquerque to a stringent train­ing regimen that began early in 2015 during the high school winter track season, and continued through spring track and the summer, when she completed more than 350 training miles during the break.

In late November, while concluding a successful high school season – which included a Souhegan team invitation to the Nike Cross National North­east Regionals in Wap­pinger Falls, N.Y. – Earley jumped right into USATF competition with the PAL Gate City Striders, achieving individual and team qualification at the local and regional levels, advancing to the USATF nationals in New Mexico.

As an extra measure to prepare herself for competition at elevations of 5,000 feet and above, Earley trained wearing an elevation training mask used for high-altitude breathing adjustment dur­ing the weeks leading up to nationals.

Earley is an honor roll student at Souhegan High, and holds down part-time jobs baby-sitting and at a local retailer. She is also one of the principal direc­tors and organizers of Team Earley, a nonprofit that raises funds in sup­port of melanoma cancer awareness, education and prevention.

All proceeds from the PAL Sports Dinner sup­port PAL’s academic, ath­letic and other enrichment programs available to all Nashua children, includ­ing its at-risk youths.

For tickets, tables and sponsorship information, call 594-3733 or email youthsafehaven@nashua­pal.com. For information about Nashua PAL, visit nashuapal.com.