Junior Olympian

  • Lyla Somero on the run. PHOTO BY Lauren Somero

  • Lyla Somero of New Ipswich competes in the USATF Junior Olympic Cross-Country National Championships last week. PHOTO BY Lauren Somero

Wednesday, December 13, 2017 5:18PM

On Saturday Lyla Somero of Valhalla Running Club laced them up for the last cross-country race of the season in Tallahassee, Florida, the site of the USA Track and Field Junior Olympic Cross Country National Championships. Competing in the 8 and under division, Somero took 126th place out of 197 racers, finishing the 1.25 mile course in 9 minutes, 45 seconds.

“Very impressive,” remarked Mascenic HS coach and the coach of the Valhalla Running Club, Mike Smith. “Lyla held up great, never being on such a big stage as this. It would have been easy to be overwhelmed here, with the level of competition and sheer number of competitors. She’s got a bright future in this sport.”

Over 3,300 athletes came from all over the US to compete at the National championships. There are 16 regions with the top five teams and top 30 individuals qualifying for the championship races in each of the two year age groups. Valhalla had two qualifiers in it’s debut season in junior olympic cross country, Somero and Mascenic high schooler Michael Fappiano. Somero qualified as the last spot, finishing 30th at Regionals. Fappiano finished 16th in the 15 to 16 yr old age group but elected to not travel to the championships.

While Valhalla had its first competitor at the national championship, this is not the first time area athletes have competed at Junior Olympics. Logan Lucas and Jacob Crawford, who elected to run with VRC this season ran the 2016 championships in Alabama for the Granite State Flash. 

Smith’s own kids have run in the JO championships before as well competing for the Flash and were on hand to watch Somero become Valhalla’s first official athlete at Nationals.  

“Amelia (Smith) is really Lyla’s coach,” jokes Smith, “She helped Lyla warm up and was hugely supportive, staying with her in the starting corral for the early meets.  She made Lyla’s experience a good one.”

“We’ve been moving towards a local club with some name recognition for the past couple years,” says Smith.  “Our goal has always been to home grow some talent that can compete at JO’s and offer this programming to the kids in and around the district.  And Lyla’s performance was a great way to kick off our inaugural season.”

The National Championships were held at Apalachee Regional Park in Tallahassee, on the course Florida State calls their home course and will be the site of the 2021 NCAA DI Cross Country Championships.