STAMFORD, Conn. – A little more than a year after picking up distance running, Megan Rule will compete in a national meet Saturday in New Mexico as the the Stamford High sophomore jumps on the sport’s fast track.
Rule will race in the National Junior Olympic cross country championships at Balloon Fiesta Park in Albuquerque in the Intermediate Girls division. She qualified by finishing 19th in a race last month on Long Island.
She has made quick strides climbing up the running ladder while running for Connecticut Elite, a Wilton-based team coached by Kevin Foley. Rule ran 20:53 for five kilometers (3.1 miles) in the regional race, an improvement on her personal best by nearly two minutes.
“If you had told me this time last year I’d be doing this, I don’t think I would’ve believed you,’’ she said. “I’m kind of shocked myself. But it’s a good shock.”
Rule is competing at the national race primarily for experience. The event includes nearly 3,000 runners in six two-year age divisions for girls and boys. Rule is one of the younger girls in her division.
She earned her trip to the national race with a furious finish at the regional event. Coming into the final 400 meters, Rule and two other girls battled for the final two qualifying spots. Rule finished 19th, followed by Maggie Reid in 20:54 and Erin Colford in 20:56. The top 20 runners advanced to nationals.
“I’m not totally sure what my goals are, because I’m not sure how many runners there are going to be,’’ Rule said. “I’ll look at the numbers and see when I get there.”
Rule was a dancer for eight years before turning to running. Her father showed her a movie about distance running legend Steve Prefontaine, and it inspired her try the sport. “I like how hard it is,’’ she said. “It’s a challenge.”
Although she is making her mark in cross country, Rule’s favorite event is the 1,600 meters. She’s hoping for a big season for the Stamford High team in the outdoor season in the spring.
“I think I’ve made a lot of progress, but I hope to make a lot more,’’ she said. “I’m building up my endurance now, but running the mile outdoors is what I’m really looking forward to.”