Salute to Seniors: Mia-Claire Kezal (Thornton Academy)

When and how did you get into track and field?

I first started running when I was five years old. My parents recreationally ran and encouraged me to begin running. My Pa had always been a runner and was the one that inspired me to keep running. I started Saco Bay Striders when I was about five which got me into track. As I got older, I fell in love with running.

Who would you consider your biggest competition over your four years?

My biggest competitors began when I was five and they have stayed my competition ever since - Delaney Hesler, Emmaline Pendleton and Megan Randall.

What was your greatest accomplishment?

My greatest track accomplishment was winning New England's this year in the 1600. To be able to end my high school career on a high note was a special feeling.

How has track and field impacted your life?

Track and field has impacted every aspect of my life. Track has given me my best friends and the opportunity to run D1 at my dream school. Furthermore, it has taught me to be mentally tough and to work hard. It has challenged me with time management and taught me how to deal with stress (even though sometimes it's my biggest cause of stress, haha). Track has given me something that I love and has overall changed the way I look at life.

What were the most difficult obstacles you had to overcome?

Trying to overcome mental barriers of self-doubt has probably been the most difficult obstacles to overcome. Last outdoor season, I hit a plateau. My 800 time from the beginning of the season and the end of the season differed by less than 1 second. I felt like I did not run well all season. Once indoor started, I was challenged with other events going on in my life and could not PR. I felt like I was doing everything right but when it came to race day, I could not execute anything. However, once I PR'd at BU, I gained some of my confidence back and tried to remind myself that track season is not all highs.

How do you prepare for competitions?

As my teammates and parents know, no matter what race it is, the pre-meet schedule is always the same because it is the one thing I know I can control: three mile shakeout with strides, cherry smoothie bowl and peanut butter toast for dinner, yoga, roll, massage gun and legs up the wall, an orange and rice cake with peanut butter for a bedtime snack and early bed time (9:06 to be exact, haha). The morning of race day is always chocolate oatmeal with peanut butter and an apple. Braiding my hair and listening to music is also always a constant in the morning of meets and helps me to get into the right head space.

Do you have any hobbies or interests outside of track and field?

Baking/cooking (basically anything in the kitchen) is my favorite hobby. I also like lift and to be outside - walking, hiking, swimming, reading, etc.

What influence has your coach had on your high school career?

My coach has had a huge influence on my high school career. Coach Defo has helped me keep my love of running through some shaky times, given me some of the hardest workouts I have ever done, taught me to run with confidence, and worked with stubbornness when it came to races, workouts, or goals. He was always there for a conversation, phone call, text or email whether it was an in-depth analysis of a workout or race, friendly "how are you doing" conversation or a confidence booster and always knew what to say to make things better. I could not thank him enough. He has taught me to look at not only running but life in a different way. My other coaches, Coach Tripp and Coach Smith have also given me many fun memories and laughs. Coach Tripp is always able to see the positive while Coach Smith knows how to give a pep talk that makes you ready to run through a brick wall.

What are your college plans?

I plan to run cross country and track at the United States Naval Academy. I plan to major in Operations Research and minor in Chinese.

What are your long term goals?

I want to run at a high level and be successful. I feel like every runner's dream is to make it to the Olympics so that would be pretty cool. I am not sure where the Naval Academy will take me but I want to serve our country.

Who would you like to say thank you to?

There are way too many people to say thank you to as I am extremely grateful for the support system that has gotten me to this point.

To my dad, thank you for fighting with me during every 5k and sprint workout we use to do together and for yelling my 100m splits in indoor and my 200m splits for outdoor.

Thank you Mom for reminding me to have fun in everything I do and for allowing me to pick what we eat for dinner almost every night.

Thank you Brady for making everything a competition with me. I would not be as competitive if it wasn't for you.

Thank you to my grandparents for making it to almost every possible sporting event I have ever competed in. I am so lucky to have four amazing grandparents that want to be involved in every aspect of my life. Special shout out to Pa, the fourth corner will ALWAYS be yours.

Thank you to all my coaches - Defo, Tripp, Smith, and George for all that you have done for me throughout my high school career. I am so grateful to have been coached by you all and for all your support.

Thank you to the Milesplit team for all the coverage you do for our meets and the articles you write about all the athletes. The amount of work you guys do is amazing. Thank you for keeping me entertained during class and for making it easy for me to stalk all my competitors, haha :)

Thank you to my TA teammates for dealing with my crazy obsession of running, planks, cheerios and rice cakes with peanut butter. Thank you for all the fun memories. I will miss you all.

Finally, thank you to the people that have pushed me since day 1 - Delaney, Emmaline and Megan and for all the girls that I met through my four years that have joined them and continued to push me. I wouldn't be the runner or the person I am today if it wasn't for all the great athletes in Maine. It has been an honor to step onto the start line with you all and give hugs at the finish line. There truly is no support like the track community. I thank you all for all the fun memories and love you guys have given me

What advice you would give to younger athletes?

HAVE FUN!! It took me until senior year to realize that I run best when I am relaxed. If you have done the training, then there is nothing you can worry about. When you step onto the line, trust all the work you have done and go out and run (or jump or throw) the best you can. Being worked up before a race does absolutely nothing for you. As my dad says, it is wasted energy. It is normal to feel nervous on race day but do not let it take the joy away from this sport. You deserve to be on that start line so go out and kill it :)