Briarcliff Middle School Runner Ahead of the Game

Briarcliff Middle School's Sophia Gelard up for NYRR Runner of the Year award.

Briarcliff Middle School eighth-grader Sophia Gelard is in the running for a prestigious award – literally! Sophia has been nominated for the New York Road Runners “Runner of the Year” award for her age group. NYRR, one of the nation’s premier community running organizations, will announce the winners at a gala event to be held at the Hard Rock Café in NYC this March.

Sophia, 14, has been running recreationally since the age of nine, when her father invited her to run with him in the Rockefeller State Park Preserve, which encompasses more than 1,400 acres of open space with scenic but hilly paths through a series of wetlands, woodlands, meadows and fields. “Every time I ran I would get to a certain point, stop, and then look to run more to surpass that distance—now I can complete my runs without stopping,” said Sophia, whose first organized event was a 5K in Central Park.

Five years since her first run and only two years into competitive running, Sophia is an established member of the Briarcliff High School varsity winter track team, having earned All-League Honors this year. According to her head coach, Sean Ryan, she is only the second middle school runner he has promoted to the high school varsity squad in his five years of coaching the team.

“School should serve to develop the talents of young people, including student-athletes,” said Ryan. “Sophia clearly has earned her place on the team and her stature among her fellow runners. She is also a jack of all running trades.”

This includes excelling at sprinting and long-distance running, from 55-meters to 800-meters. Sophia has also run in 5K and 10K runs through the NYRR club. Ryan hopes that Sophia, a multisport athlete, will consider running competitively year-round, including  spring track and perhaps even cross-country in the fall. 

Sophia is also “an excellent all-around student,” according to Briarcliff Middle School Principal Susan Howard. While running is sure to remain a passion for years to come, Sophia hopes to some day become a veterinarian.


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