Leslie Sherman’s legacy lives on


Photo courtesy of milestat.com

Sophomore Aidan MacGrath competing in the 3200 meter run. She finished first with a personal-best time of 10:54.05 and qualified for States.

The Leslie Sherman Memorial Invitational was held for the first time in three years, taking place just before the fifteenth anniversary of the tragic Virginia Tech shooting that took her life.

“I’m starting to see that some of the other long-standing meets in our area haven’t come back from the pandemic,” said Head Track and Field Coach Chris Pellegrini. “It’s nice for us to see if we can get this off the ground again, and try to get the meet going again. It’s definitely important.”

The Leslie Sherman Memorial Invitational has been held every year over Spring Break since 2010, and it represents an opportunity to recognize both athletic success and the merits of sportsmanship. During her twelve seasons running in high school, Sherman was never the fastest athlete on the team. But, to her, whether or not an athlete finished first was less important than trying one’s hardest and being supportive of one’s teammates; a legacy that is further reflected in the meet.

“We don’t do medals and we don’t score the meet from a team perspective, but we do try to recognize an athlete at the end of the meet that best represents some of the positive traits that Leslie herself had,” said Pellegrini.

Naturally, the meet still represents a rare chance for athletes to compete in a big-meet environment on their home track. Even though the current class of seniors is the only one who could have competed in the meet prior to the pandemic, anyone who has ran on the WS school track in the past decade has done so on the Leslie Sherman track, which made the moment that much more poignant for those in attendance.

“I can’t really compare it to [my] freshman meet because I don’t remember much,” said senior Kevin Tran. “I imagine [it would have been] the same, but, comparing it to other invitationals, it’s cool because I know the backstory of the meet; how it’s honoring Leslie Sherman and the [Virginia Tech] shooting. It’s pretty cool to honor someone like that.”

With a heavy downpour of rain coming the night before the meet, many events were hampered by almost swamp-like conditions. In the most extreme example, the pole vault area was deemed so unsafe that the event was delayed and ultimately conducted several days later. But, despite the somewhat dour and unpredictable weather, athletes still performed quite well. A total of 20 individual Spartan athletes and relay teams managed to qualify for the postseason, as 10 District standards, eight Regional standards, and two State standards were collectively met by the team over the course of the meet.

“I’m used to running the mile and the 800 [meter run], so the two-mile is just very long,” said sophomore Aidan MacGrath. “I had nobody to run with and challenge me, so I was bored. I definitely could have done better if I had someone to run with, but, considering [it was] my first time ever running it, I did better than I thought I would do.”

Even if it was a somewhat dull experience for MacGrath herself, her first time competing in the 3200 meter run was certainly memorable. She lapped the field by nearly a minute and a half, ran more than 25 seconds under the State standard, and snagged the third-fastest time in school history with a finish of 10:54.05. That time currently ranks as number two in the state for the Girls 3200.

“[I’m] happy with the effort [I put into the 1600 meter run],” said senior John O’Donnell. “I think, coming through the 800 [meter mark] in the time I did at 2:06, that’s something that I feel comfortable doing and, just with a little bit of extra training and better fitness, I think I can break 4:20.”

O’Donnell’s showing may not have been quite as dominant as MacGrath’s, but he also won his event by a comfortable margin. His time of 4:23.73 marked a personal-record (PR) by nearly four seconds and put him under his respective State standard by just over a second, although he is still hoping to shave a few more seconds off his time at the team’s next meet.

Of course, with so many meets left in the season, neither MacGrath nor O’Donnell were necessarily concerned with qualifying for States, and by the same token, not every competing athlete was even vying for a postseason spot. At its core, the Leslie Sherman Memorial Invitational was created to represent the best of athletics, and while athletic success is a part of that, Sherman’s legacy is more so rooted in sportsmanship, positivity, and teamwork.