Emily Sisson has been a nationally-ranked runner since she was in eighth grade. She’s won more races in the last five years than most have done in their lifetime.
Still, despite an abundance of confidence that stems from her overall talent, the senior from Parkview Central (Mo.) High School is never in a relaxed state when she’s at the starting line.
“I’m just always nervous,” Sisson said. “When I’m at the start, I just try to re-focus that energy and put myself where I’m supposed to be. But I am just always nervous.”
It’s obvious that those butterflies have transformed into nothing but positive energy for the 18-year-old distance ace, who this Saturday will be aiming for her third national title in her brief career. Sisson will be among a stellar field when she answers the gun for the two-mile run at the Nike Indoor Nationals inside the confines of the Reggie Lewis Athletic Center in Roxbury, Mass.
She’ll be joined by the current four fastest two-milers in the country: Cornwall (N.Y.) High junior Aisling Cuffe (US #3, 10:28.20), Rochester (Mich.) High senior and 2009 Foot Locker champion Megan Goethals (US #4, 10:29.29) and Kathleen and Joanna Stevens, the Blacksburg (Va.) High twins, who own the top two times in the nation at 10:23.45 and 10:24.24, respectively.
Sisson goes into the meet with a personal best of 10:15, set last year.
“I’m hoping to run pretty fast at Nike,” she said. “I’m hoping to run a good PR there. The competition will be tough.”
Even though she hasn’t run the two mile this year, Sisson does hold this year’s nation-leading time of 9:25.70 for the 3,000. She blasted to a more than 20 second personal best in winning the Jayhawk Classic in Kansas on Jan. 29. Her time ranks her No. 3 on the all-time list.
Sisson had only competed in a handful of 3K races prior to her performance.
“I was just blown away,” she said. “I didn’t know I could run that fast. It was really exciting.”
Sisson, who earned a scholarship to attend the University of Wisconsin this fall, will not be finished when she competes at NIN. Sisson, a third-place finisher at Foot Locker this past fall, will be back on the cross-country trails competing in the World Junior Cross-Country Championships in Poland on March 28.
In the weeks ahead, Sisson will have a lot on her plate. It would be safe to say, though, that she’ll have it all under control. After all, it’s not like she’s not used to it, considering that she’s been competing at a high level for five years already.
Before she even got a taste of high school competition, Sisson was already on the national radar as an eighth-grader when she clocked a winning time of 9:46 for the 3,000 at the KJ Open in Kansas. She beat a field that consisted of mostly collegiate runners.
“I started running in seventh grade but I really wasn’t doing that much. I was just running to keep in shape for soccer,” said Sisson, who competed in youth soccer for nine years. “In the eighth grade, I dropped soccer because I liked running better. At the KJ Open I won by under a second. I didn’t know how I’d do. I was definitely shocked. I just wanted to stay with them.”
Sisson instantly adjusted to high school competition. Before moving to Missouri during her junior year, she earned a pair of individual state titles in Nebraska her freshman and sophomore years. She continued that trend at Parkview with two straight MSHSH State Cross-Country Championships.
Sisson, who captured the mile and two mile at the outdoor state meet last spring, also has a pair of national titles under her belt. She won the Youth Girls cross-country crown at the Junior Olympics in the eighth grade and last year garnered gold in the 5,000 at the Nike Outdoor Nationals.
Additionally, Sisson has twice (2007, 2009) represented the U.S. at the Junior Pan Am Games, including taking home a bronze medal in the summer of her sophomore year. She also placed third at Foot Locker on two occasions, matching that placement as a freshman.
Sisson, who averages about 40 miles per week and incorporates about two speed workouts and some cross-training into her workouts, generally prefers the longer races; although she does own a best of 2:12 for the 800 and 4:49 for the mile.
“I really want to run well in college and contribute to the team,” said Sisson, whose father was a 4:02 miler at Wisconsin. “I think I’m going to be a 5K runner and eventually move up to the 10K. I like the longer races. I really don’t know why, I just enjoy it more.”
Sisson has a simple motivator when it comes to her running: “I just have a desire to get better and improve.”
How does she plan to run Nike with such a talented field?
“I don’t really have a strategy,” Sisson said. “It depends on the race and who is in it. Every race my strategy is different. If I run my own race, hopefully it will be a good one.”