Athlete Spotlight: Mia-Claire Kezal of Thornton Academy

With the indoor track and field season basically on hold without many competitions, we wanted to highlight some of the top athletes in the state. For the next month or so we will have interviews with athletes across the state. Today's feature is with Thornton Academy junior standout Mia-Claire Kezal.​​​​​​​

When did you first start running, and do you recall any of your childhood races?

I first started running when I was five years old. I recall many of my childhood races. My dad, mom, brother, and grandfather used to run the Burn off the Turkey 5k in Gorham on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. One year we all finished within the top 3 in our age group! I also remember running for Saco Bay Striders and competing against Delaney Hesler, Megan Randall, Sofie Matson, Karley Piers, Kylie Bedard, and Emmaline Pendleton in many races.

Was there a certain moment when you realized you'd be able to compete at such a high level?

I realized I could compete at a high level after I won states my freshman year. Being able to compete against the best athletes in Maine and come out on top gave me confidence that I could compete at a high level.

What are some bumps in the road that you've encountered when it comes to training for different events during the season?

I haven't really encountered any bumps in the road during training. The only thing that is sometimes unfortunate is the snow because I can't use the track for sprint workouts. I don't mind running in inclement weather since it makes my shower more rewarding though :)

How has COVID impacted your training this winter as you prepared for the season?

COVID hasn't had a huge impact on my training this winter since I usually do most of my training by myself. However, I have missed not being able to see my team and be around the girls.

You play soccer in the fall, do you see yourself making the switch over to XC in HS?

As of right now, I do not see myself making the switch to cross country in high school. I enjoy playing soccer and it gives me a change of pace for the fall.

You went down to Virginia to compete in the VA Showcase earlier this winter, how did you feel your races went?

I felt like my races at the VA Showcase went decent. I wasn't completely happy with my 1600m performance because my form was off and I couldn't get into a rhythm. I was happier with my 1000m performance as I was able to get into a solid rhythm. I wish I had kicked sooner though. In both races, I was hoping for faster PR's but for the first race of the season, I was happy. Overall, I was extremely grateful to have the opportunity to compete alongside some talented athletes.

Do you have any more out of state races planned for 2021?

Yes! I will be competing in Virginia at the East Coast Invitational on February 5-6th. I will hopefully be competing at Nationals on Staten Island, New York in March. If that meet is canceled, I will be back down in Virginia for the AAU Indoor National Championship.

Is there another track event you wish you were good at? What is appealing about it?

High jump has always been appealing to me but when I tried the high jump my freshman year, it went pretty bad. Hurdles have also always seemed interesting to me but my family/friends always joke that I can't walk in a straight line without tripping so what makes me think I can jump a hurdle. I wish I was a better sprinter as well, my coach (as a joke) said to me he knew I wasn't a sprinter when he saw me striding down the backstretch when I ran the 200m. 

What are some hobbies and interests you have outside of running?

I love to cook for my family. I enjoy trying to incorporate as many vegetables into dinner as I can and also love baking desserts for holidays and parties. I like to hike, go on walks, and study the Chinese language too.

Who is your role model, and why?

I have many role models but one of them is Tom Brady. He is extremely successful and arguably the best quarterbacks to ever step on the field. I love how even though he is one of the best players, he never lets it go to his head. He works hard and is so humble.

Everyone has a bucket list, so give us some of the things on your list!

My mom and I would love to hike the Camino de Santiago (the pilgrimage from Saint Jean de Port, France to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, Spain). I also want to travel the world on a food tour, run the Boston Marathon, and like most runners, compete at the Olympics. 

What is the best advice you have received?

After I ran at Southwesterns (Indoor) my freshman year, my grandfather sent me a text and said: "so either you let them dictate your race or you force them to accept your plan... you get tougher n stronger than them, but only if it's what you want to do! Remember, you decide your effort and desire to compete. Winning is great, but expect occasionally it will be a loss no matter how hard you have trained or how hard you have raced. Do it because you love it." I was disappointed in how the 800m went and super excited about how the 4x400m went (we were Southwestern's Champs) so to see his support for me was great. I read this message before races.

What is your favorite pre-race snack, tradition, etc.?

My tradition before races is that the night before I eat toast with crunchy peanut butter and make Shalane Flanagan's Tropical Greens Smoothie Bowl. Then, I usually do yoga for an hour while watching Netflix. The morning of, earbuds go in while I get ready, I braid my hair (tying off with yellow elastics), do some light stretching, and either eat an English muffin with almond butter if I'm racing later on in the day or rice cakes and peanut butter with cinnamon if I'm racing in the morning. 

If you could do a sport other than XC/Track, what sport would it be, and why?

If I could do another sport other than XC/Track, I would want to play football. My dad is the Head Varsity Football Coach at TA so I have grown up being surrounded by football and have always found it interesting. I love the strategy behind the plays and tackling people looks like a lot of fun, haha. We used to play football in the living room until my brother and I got too big and kicked my dad's butt!

Kezal's High School Personal Bests

High Jump 4-4
200 Meter Dash 29.10
400 Meter Dash 1:01.78
800 Meter Run 2:17.44
1000 Meter Run 2:58.35
1600 Meter Run 5:16.07
One Mile Run 5:16.97
Two Mile Run 11:32.83
400 Meter Dash 1:05.01
800 Meter Run 2:18.82
1600 Meter Run 5:30.27