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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

"When you consider her running experience, it's pretty amazing how far she's come," Tweit said. "Last year at this time in track, she'd only ran about three races. She ran the half-mile and she was on the frosh-soph team. We knew she had some ability, but at that point she hadn't really bought into running. Soccer was kind of her sport. Somewhere over the summer, she decided she enjoyed the running part."

DyeStatCal is not a website Tennison would have needed in the past. Now she can go there and see her 11:07.75 at Irvine, though not entered at the site yet, would place her 11th among California sophomores this year in the 3,200.

"It's really exciting," Tennison said. "As I got better, I just was realizing, 'This is what I want to do.' I didn't even think about soccer anymore. I used to be dreaming and thinking about playing soccer in college, but then I started thinking that running was all I wanted to do. I was thinking that I just want to run for the rest of my life.

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"I just love it. I don't know why. I was always that person at soccer who was like, 'Oh, we have to run?'"

Now Tennison loves running with her cross country and track friends, new and old. Fellow sophomore Katherine Maddox is one of the old ones.

"We've always played soccer together and I'm so happy that she's running with me," Tennison said.

The Sailors are happy to have Tennison as well, but Tweit said he is not in a hurry with two more years of experience left for his sophomore. In Saturday's Orange County Track and Field Championships he has her running the distance events in the frosh-soph races, not varsity.

Small steps are fine for now, although Tweit knows that Tennison has a good chance to make the CIF finals if she keeps improving.

"It's kind of overwhelming, but she's handled it really well," he said. "She's got the right demeanor for it. She wants to be good, which is not uncommon for a lot of distance runners. But I would just say with my fingers crossed that there's going to be a lot of improvement before she's done. She's such an easy person to coach.

"The hardest part is getting her to talk. She doesn't really like the notoriety; she just likes to run. Our conversations aren't very long."

Tennison said she's had conversations with her younger brother, Stafford, an eighth-grader at Ensign Intermediate. He's more of a soccer and basketball guy himself, but she's trying to recruit him into cross country.

Prior experience is nice, but not always necessary. Determination can do plenty. Stafford can just look at his older sister for proof of that.

"Soccer was my life," Paige Tennison said. "I always thought I was going to be a soccer player. It's a lot more mental strength with running. You have to really just give it everything."

Those last words speak loudest of all for Tennison.

*

Paige Tennison

Born: Sept. 11, 1994

Hometown: Newport Beach

Height: 5-foot-5

Sport: Track and field

Coach: Eric Tweit

Favorite food: Cheese ravioli

Favorite movie: "Finding Nemo"

Favorite athletic moment: "Probably my first track race this season, because I just started applying myself more and started really trying. I saw my time drop so much from last year when I was a freshman; it just felt good."

Week in review: Tennison won the girls' invitational 3,200 meters at the Irvine Distance Carnival on April 9, in a personal-best time of 11:07.75. She also won that event against Huntington Beach (11:29) on April 6.

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