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Tennison tenacious for Newport Harbor

Daily Pilot High School Athlete of the Week

Her first love was soccer, but Sailors sophomore now excels in distance events in track.

April 15, 2011|By Matt Szabo, matthew.szabo@latimes.com
(Kent Treptow / Daily…)

Newport Harbor High girls' track and field coach Eric Tweit said it's tough to get any words out of Paige Tennison.

She isn't the most vocal athlete. Even when she talks, it's in a soft tone.

In running, none of that matters to the Newport Harbor High sophomore. Her time in the 3,200-meter run last weekend was loud, deafening even.

Tweit brought his first-year competitive runner to a first-year event, the Irvine Distance Carnival at Irvine High April 9.

"Distance carnivals are starting to take off," Tweit said. "Most of the reason they're taking off is they're so easy to run. They don't have field events, they don't have hurdles. Usually they don't even have blocks."

Tennison knows about taking off. Her running career has done just that this year. She showed it again in what she said was just her third time running the 3,200 meters.

She crossed the finish line first in the invitational race in 11 minutes, 7.75 seconds, a personal record. She was seventh in the 1,600 in 5:15.27, also a personal-best.

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In the 3,200 Tennison said she tried to keep pace with a particular competitor. With a lap and a half left, she turned a theoretical corner.

"I realized, 'I can beat her,'" Tennison said. "I just went for it and I ended up getting a better time."

Thrilling, yes, but this wasn't how Tennison's high school athletic experience was supposed to go. She joined the cross country team last year just so she could stay in shape for soccer, the sport she's played since she was 6 years old. She ran track last year too, not really competing in too many meets but just running in practice.

Soccer was always the priority before, but the midfielder started to love running. Running cross country for Tweit this past fall, she was the team's No. 1 girl. She placed 17th at the Sunset League finals, tops among the Sailors.

Tennison played varsity soccer for Newport Harbor this winter as well, part of the Tars squad that made the playoffs for the first time in six years. Her father, Lance, said she should stick it out for at least one more year to see if she wanted to keep playing.

She said she doesn't know if she'll keep playing soccer for Newport, but either way the pendulum has clearly swung in the direction of running.

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