She's an All-American woman

"Joey Shapiro, a 1997 South Whidbey High School graduate, placed third in the Nov. 18 NCAA Division III cross country championships.Matt Johnson / staff photoIn nine years of running, Joey Shapiro thought she knew who she was as an athlete.The 1997 South Whidbey High School graduate was consistently one of the top three runners on her high school track and cross country teams and was a regular face in the pack at the state meets for both sports. At Williams College in Massachusetts Shapiro still ran strong, achieving second alternate to the NCAA Division III national cross country championships her junior year. And this fall, as a Williams senior, she ran consistently as one of the school's top three cross country runners.But until last week, she had no idea that she was one of the three best 5-kilometer runners in the entire country.Racing in the NCAA championships on Spokane's Wandermere Golf Course, Shapiro had the performance of a lifetime. Slogging through an inch of hard-packed snow in her most important race, Shapiro passed 16 other women in the last half-mile of the race to place third and become only the third All-American collegiate athlete to graduate from South Whidbey High School. It was definitely the most exciting, Shapiro said while home for Thanksgiving break.And surprising. Since graduating from South Whidbey, Shapiro has spent four years retooling herself as a runner. She moved up from high school's 2-mile races to 3.1 miles, and began a heavy college training regimen her freshman year. The extra mileage proved to be too much, so she struggled with injuries during most of that season. As a sophomore, Shapiro took a year off cross country, choosing to run only on the track. Back on the team as a junior, Shapiro spent 1999 steadily improving, eventually running as Williams' number nine woman. I had a really good season last year, she said.This fall as a senior team captain, Shapiro moved to the front of the Williams pack. At the New England Small College Athletic Conference meet early in November, she led the team by placing seventh overall. After that race, she said, she knew she had more to give than her 19:30 time indicated.It was a fast race, but I didn't really feel like I was racing it, she said.Two weeks ago at the 42-team New England Cross Country Championships, she did. On a rainy, muddy course, she was almost two minutes faster, running a personal-best 17:49, which helped qualify her and the third-ranked Williams Ephwomen for the NCAA meet.In Spokane, Shapiro felt at home. Not only was she running in her home state, but she was able to run in the snow -- a common training condition in Williamstown, Mass. Urged on by a hometown crowd that included her parents Steve Shapiro and Debra Valis, former coaches Tim Gordon and Carl Westling and former teammates Megan Maynard and Ryan Reed, Shapiro stayed with a tight pack through most of the race, then slammed into a gear that her coach, Peter Farwell, said he didn't know she had.With a quarter-mile to go, Shapiro started her sprint early, and with 200 meters to go, she was in second place, just in sight of eventual race winner Johana Olson of Luther College. Her kick started giving out as the finish approached, and one runner went by. But she was the only one. Shapiro's 18:10 finish won her a place atop the podium.Her father said seeing his daughter on that spot was the best moment in his career as a hard-core cross country fan.We're so sky-high right now, he said.Shapiro's finish was one of three All-American performances by the Ephwomen, who as a team placed second (123 points) behind Middlebury (103). Iowa's Luther College finished third in the meet with 196 points. Shapiro said she will take two weeks off from running, then will begin training for the indoor track season. She will be one of three tri captains of the Williams track team, which begins competing on Dec. 2. Megan Maynard is the only other South Whidbey runner to become an All American. She did that two years ago at the NCAA Division I track meet. "

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