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Sports

Ally McCarthy Uses Writing Skills To Attend Running Camp With Olympian

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Only the fastest runners can excel in a track or road race, but those with a knack for writing and sharing their story have a chance to keep up with an Olympian and international medalist.

Just ask Ally McCarthy. The standout distance runner, upon hearing about a contest from her Newtown High School Coach, Becky Knapp, entered into an essay competition for a spot in Brenda Martinez’s Altitude Training Camp, which was held July 30 through August 2 in Big Bear Lake California.

McCarthy, who will be a sophomore at Newtown High this fall, was selected as one of just 11 runners — including only three representing states other than California — to join Martinez, a 2016 Olympian, on a four-day running excursion for girls.

Martinez, who was a United States Track and Field outdoor runner-up and indoor runner-up in 2013 and 2012, respectively, and a bronze medalist in the 2013 World Outdoor competition, accepts essays from runners each year and liked McCarthy’s topic and writing abilities upon receiving her entry this past winter.

“I was so excited,” McCarthy said of finding out she had been selected just after the school year ended.

McCarthy’s essay touched on 12/14 was about “how sports has helped our town and brought us together and how it has helped me become a better person,” she said, adding that soccer and track have given her confidence while providing an outlet.

“I love running for a lot of reasons. When I run alone, it’s a time to think and escape from the outside world. It’s something my dad and I love to do together as well. When I run with my friends, we always have so much fun talking, sometimes singing, or just enjoying each others company,” she added.

The opportunity to train with Martinez gave McCarthy another reason to like running. The participants ran approximately ten miles each day of the camp, and they stayed in a cabin as part of this unique adventure.

“I look up to her so much. She’s such an inspiration to me. It was so cool,” McCarthy said.

"I started following Brenda on Instagram when I started to see Ally’s potential as an 800 runner. Brenda posts her workouts and I used them as inspiration on training Ally. When Brenda posted the contest I immediately thought of Ally, not only because of her talent but because she’s genuinely a great kid. Ally is a hard worker, gets along with everyone, and inspires everyone not just in sports but in life. She’s a great kid and deserved this experience to continue to inspire her with her desire to run and train," Knapp said.

McCarthy, who first got into running around the age of eight and started participating in track competitively in middle school, runs indoor and outdoor track at NHS and is an All South-West Conference honoree. The top female in the most recent Newtown Turkey Trot 5K, she also helped the soccer team capture the SWC championship this past fall and is part of the AC Connecticut club soccer team that qualified for a national competition this summer.

Clearly, McCarthy has plenty of running talent, but said she gained a lot from participating in the camp.

“I learned so much from Brenda. She’s so humble, and she’s really into giving back to the community and inspiring you. She gave us a lot of tips and tools for running,” McCarthy said.

Race strategy and an emphasis on nutrition were among those pointers given by the Olympian,” McCarthy said.

According to the USA Track & Field website, usatf.org, Martinez first started running with an after-school track club when she was five, and while she didn’t find success in her first race as a 100-meter sprinter, she kept going until she found her niche as a middle distance runner. Martinez set numerous school records throughout high school and college. She is sponsored by New Balance.

This experience also provided runners a chance to see a different part of the country — McCarthy had traveled to California before, but this was her first time to the southern portion of the state, where she and the other participants ran in elevations as high as 8,000 feet — and a chance to meet new people with common interests.

“I always love meeting other runners. It was so fun, and everyone can relate really well,” said McCarthy, adding that the trip was not just about running and included paddle boarding and hiking.

McCarthy, who is a middle-distance and distance runner, is looking forward to putting some of the camp experience to the test this coming school year.

“I’m super-excited. We didn’t lose that many seniors this year, so I think we’ll be pretty good,” she said.

And win or lose in a given race, nobody will be able to take away the fact McCarthy ran along side an Olympian.

Ally McCarthy, left, is with Olympian Brenda Martinez at the Brenda Martinez Altitude Training Camp, held July 30 through August 2 in Big Bear Lake California.
Ally McCarthy, far left, was one of only 11 runners selected, based on a written essay, for the running camp.
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