OSWEGO — For brother and sister Andy and Madeleine Shaver of Oswego, running cross country is a case of sibling revelry.
They’ve been training together and competing locally and nationally for a few years now. Not only do they enjoy running and bonding with each other and their father Jon Shaver, but they have proven to be among the nation’s best in their respective divisions.
Both Andy, 12, and Madeleine, 11, competed in their third U.S. Track & Field National Junior Olympic Cross Country Championships on Dec. 12 in Lexington, Kentucky. Each division had close to 200 participants for the three-kilometer distance, Jon Shaver said.
Andy placed 52nd in the boys 11-12 age group with a time of 11:47.
“I was hoping I could get a little bit better in my position, but it was pretty good,” Andy said. “It’s a lot of fun being able to compete with the best runners in the country. It feels really good when you place well.”
Madeleine finished 24th in the girls 11-12 age group in 11:55. By placing in the top 25, she earned All-America honors for the second consecutive year. Last year she finished 14th in the 9-10 age division in Madison, Wisconsin.
“It feels pretty good to get All-American. It makes you feel like you’re one of the top 25 fastest runners in America. It feels like a pretty good accomplishment and I was very happy with it,” Madeleine said.
She said knowing that her brother and her father are rooting her on motivates her to go faster.
“It’s pretty fun when I’m running to know that they’re watching me and cheering me on,” she said. “It makes me feel really good and makes me push myself a little bit harder.”
While Jon Shaver said he’s excited about the success his children are enjoying, he’s just as happy knowing they are participating in a lifetime sport.
“Running is something they’ll be able to do their entire life. It allows them to become more in tune with their body and their health. It’s great to see them enjoying something like that,” he said.
For Andy and Madeleine, their interest in running began when they took part in the first year of the Trinity Turkey Trot, put on by Trinity Catholic School in Oswego.
“Madeleine was 6 and Andy was 7. They went out to run it just for the fun of it,” Jon Shaver said. “They were able to run the entire 5K without stopping. That was, to me, an indication that maybe they have good running ability.”
Madeleine is now in sixth grade at Trinity, while Andy is a seventh-grader at Oswego Middle School. Both might eventually be part of school cross country teams, following in the footsteps of their father, who ran cross country in Oswego from middle school through high school.
Jon Shaver gives Andy and Madeleine the benefit of his experience, and he also guides them through a training program prior to major races. They follow a 12-week training plan he found online to build endurance and speed.
“It has very targeted workouts that are geared toward improving your long-distance race time,” he said.
The plan is geared toward each individual’s personal fitness level, and it is working well for Andy and Madeleine.
“They are each running and challenging themselves at the same level,” Jon Shaver said.
When they aren’t working through the specific training regimen, Andy and Madeleine run about five days a week to maintain their fitness level, said Jon Shaver, who runs alongside them.
“It gives me 45 minutes of uninterrupted time where I have a captive audience,” he said with a laugh. That time together allows them to chat about school, laugh together, and bond.
“When we go running every day we talk to each other and have fun running with each other,” Andy said.
In prior years, Andy and Madeleine were required to qualify in order to take part in the National Junior Olympics event. This year, qualifying was waived because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
That made the Junior Olympics race a little bit different as well. Spectators and participants were screened for COVID before being allowed on the grounds where the race was held. In addition, they had to wear a mask until the start of their race. After the start they could remove the mask, but had to put it back on after crossing the finish line. Also, each division was split into two groups to allow for better social distancing.
As soon as each division’s race was over, the participants had to leave, Jon Shaver said.
Andy and Madeleine would normally now be preparing for the indoor track Junior Olympics, but Jon Shaver said he is not sure about the status of that event during the pandemic. So the next races for his children could be local 5K events in Oswego.