Warren teen competes in National Junior Olympics for track

By Ethan Hartley
Posted 8/3/23

Eleanor, a rising 8th grader at Kickemuit Middle School, traveled with the Fast Track team out of Central Falls, one of just four runners from the team to travel for the event (and one of 13 to qualify), which featured the best young runners from around the nation.

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Warren teen competes in National Junior Olympics for track


The drone of the public address system at a train station in Seattle was still audible in the background as Jennifer Reynolds-Lial looked back on what was a whirlwind weekend for her and her 13-year-old daughter, Eleanor.

“It was a great weekend,” she said, awaiting a train that would begin their long journey back to Warren after traveling to Eugene, Ore. for the USATF National Junior Olympic Track & Field Championships — held this past weekend at the famed Hayward Field at the University of Oregon.

Eleanor, a rising 8th grader at Kickemuit Middle School, traveled with the Fast Track team out of Central Falls, one of just four runners from the team to travel for the event (and one of 13 to qualify), which featured the best young runners from around the nation.

“I spoke to one parent who was traveling with a club from Houston,” said Jennifer. “And they brought 200 runners.”

Eleanor had only joined Fast Track this June, but quickly showed a prowess and determination that impressed her coach, Ernest Fennell, who began the Fast Track team originally in East Providence in 2008. It has since evolved into a sort of Rhode Island all-star track team, bringing together the most talented young runners throughout the state.

“She was disciplined. She listened to everything I asked her to do, didn’t complain, asked questions. She’s smart, she’s articulate,” said Fennell. “She was always willing to learn. I’m not even her primary coach, but she jumped into a totally different system with a bunch of girls she didn’t know.”

Also enticing was that Eleanor’s event of choice was the 3,000-meter run, which Fennell said was difficult to find enthusiastic participants for.

“Everyone usually runs away from the 3,000-meter,” he laughed.

The road to Oregon began on June 24 with a qualifying race at Fitchburg State. Eleanor finished sixth in the 3,000-meter with a time of 11:58.09, good enough to qualify for the USATF Region 1 Championship at Taconic Hills High School in Craryville, N.Y. in early July. She placed 4th overall with a time of 11:57.37 in that one.

That led her to Nationals, held this past weekend. In the 3,000-meter race, held on July 29, she finished 5th in her heat and 41st out of 64 total runners in her age bracket, also setting a PR (personal record) of 11:33.40. She shaved off a whopping 23.97 seconds from her practice runs.

“I still have that time burned into my head,” Fennell said, recollecting on her performance. “It was amazing to watch.”

Eleanor also stepped up and volunteered to be a part of the team’s 4x100 and 4x400 relay events because multiple teammates were unable to commit the finances necessary to travel with the team. The team wound up with a personal record in the 4x400, running a seasons-best time of 4:50.09.

“It was definitely scary, because there are so many people there,” Eleanor said, reflecting on the event. “And they’re all at the finish line for the 3,000. When you finish, you’re just running in and all of these people are screaming and cheering. It just gives me the chills.”

Eleanor’s athletic abilities are not an anomaly, at least in her family. Her eldest sister, Parker, was chosen for the Girls 15 National Player Development Camp for USA Hockey in St. Cloud, Minn. when she was 14 years old. He other sister, Mae, has also played in USA Hockey Nationals on her club hockey team. Eleanor plays hockey in the winter as well, and will be able to qualify for her own nationals team this year.

Although such an athletic pedigree is found throughout her family, Eleanor’s mother said that it doesn’t require any kind of coercion to get her to train to be the best she can be.

“She takes training really seriously. I don’t think she’s missed a day, even in this hot weather,” Jennifer said, adding that Eleanor will train Mondays through Fridays and also completes “running homework” on the weekends. “Generally speaking, she’s lacing up her shoes herself and saying ‘I need to go do my runs.’ She has the capacity and determination to do it on her own. This is not something generated by [her father] Scott or myself.”

Eleanor said she was grateful for the opportunity, and was excited for whatever comes next in her athletic career.

“It’s really fun to run, and I find it really fun to win and compete and see the other teams and travel,” Eleanor added. “I would definitely thank my mom and my dad and my coach for taking me here and giving me this opportunity. I definitely recommend starting track so you can travel the world.”

2023 by East Bay Media Group

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