Penelope Greene is just 15 years old, a sophomore at Pierson High School, but she has already proved to be a seasoned runner with the potential for great success. Greene has run in two consecutive New York State Cross Country Championships with Pierson and now is competing for the first time on the East Hampton girls winter track team.
“This is Penelope’s first winter season and she is becoming a much stronger runner,” girls track coach Yani Cuesta said, adding that Greene dropped her personal-best time in the 1,500 meters to 5:11.86 at a meet in early December at Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood. “It was an incredible run and we were so excited for the progress and promise of the season.”
“I was feeling really strong, especially after cross country,” Greene said about her performance. “My time from a couple of weeks ago is better than my PR from last spring’s track season. I’ve been working on speed more and form.”
Unfortunately, Greene’s season has been setback somewhat by a foot injury suffered in a competition late last month. She has been in rehab with a trainer, working in the weight room and riding a bike to keep up her endurance as the Lady Bonackers season is set to resume on Sunday, January 6, at the Art Mitchell Meet at SCCC-Brentwood.
“We hope that the time off the track has been helpful rest,” Cuesta said. “This past Friday and Saturday were the first times she ran with us. Since she had been out for a significant amount of time we had her run slower than the workout required to make sure that she slowly integrated herself back in. We’ll see how she feels when we return to practice on Wednesday and if she feels up to compete on Sunday. Only time will tell.”
The addition of Greene and two other Pierson track athletes, Grace Brosnan and Juliana Barahona, already had lifted the program to an important height. The Lady Bonackers last year could only compete as individuals without a required roster of 10 athletes. This season, with the addition of the Pierson runners, the team has a total of 12.
One of the biggest challenges of the winter season for athletes at East Hampton is getting enough practice time on the track, since the school does not have an indoor running facility. Another adjustment for Greene and other distance runners is transitioning from cross country, where the standard distance is a 5K, to the shorter bursts of 1,500 or 3,000 meters.
“To train for a 1,500 we usually aim for speed,” Greene said. “Some things that we do is run timed 400s, 200s or 300s at like 85 percent or 70 percent or even 90 percent. We do these for intervals of six or four. To be honest, l think I prefer the 5K because I like running cross country and longer distances more than track, but track is still a great experience.”
One of the benefits for Greene will be running alongside teammates like Ava Engstrom, a sophomore at East Hampton High School, who recently set a new school record in the 3,000 meters. Greene said running alongside Engstrom is helping her get faster and stronger.
“She pushes me to keep up with her.” Greene said about Engstrom, who she will presumably run with for three more seasons. “I really enjoy running for coach Cuesta and with the girls at East Hampton. After running with them in the spring last year, I am glad to be back and running in the winter. And I’m looking forward to the spring track season.”