Finishing a 5K in less than 20 minutes can be hard to accomplish, especially at the high school level, but in the case of sisters Marissa and Maya Spottiswood, of south Merrick, they have already acquitted themselves as experienced runners.
Last month, the Spottiswoods, who run cross-country for John F. Kennedy High School, became the first pair of teammates — and siblings — to complete a 5K in less than 20 minutes during the same race within seconds of each other, laying the foundations for a new school record.
This season, Marissa and Maya have been running track at a level all their own as compared to the rest of the county. Besides setting a new school record, the sisters have placed in the top three at each race in their division.
“Breaking 20 minutes is a big barrier,” Marissa said, adding that she and her sister were “happy” to have set a new record for the school. And the Spottiswoods have managed to maintain that momentum throughout the season. Marissa’s personal best is 19:08 minutes, and Maya’s is 19:42 minutes. The national average for high school runners is 20 minutes.
Marissa, a sophomore, has been on the cross-country team since eighth grade. This season marks her third year on varsity. Maya, a junior, started her high school career just a year ago. In only her second full season on the team, she is already one of the top five runners in the county, according to cross-country coach Chris Mammone.
“It has been so much fun watching these two compete in every race,” Mammone said. “They are two of the top girls in Nassau County. Anytime they toe the starting line, there are big things to come.”
Marissa said she reveres Mammone as a staple of the team. “He puts us in a system to succeed,” and has been “dedicated to the team,” she added.
Mammone gives tough training regiments to his athletes every day. The Spottiswoods said that this conditioning has allowed them to build endurance and strength to outrun their opponents all over Nassau. “Each race they only seem to get faster and faster,” Mammone said.
For the Spottiswoods, success begins with practice. Mammone called the sisters “extremely hard workers” who “always come ready to work.” Typically, this sort of work ethic can be hard to teach and implement in young athletes, but Marissa and Maya have no problem pushing each other and their teammates to go the extra mile.
Marissa said that “Maya pushes me the most,” whether it be in races or during practice.
Both sisters placed in the top five at the cross-country state qualifier on Nov. 3, and will compete at the state championships in Plattsburgh this weekend. Mammone said that if all goes well, “they both have an extremely good chance at states.”
“Running is all mental,” Maya said. “[You] always have to have a positive outlook.”