USATF U20s: Shea Qualifies For World X-C Championships

Braving cold, blustery conditions in Virginia, Belmont native secures her fourth Team USA selection in the last year by placing sixth overall on the 6K course.


RICHMOND – After a low-key fall of cross country racing, Ellie Shea extended her cross country season into late January by competing at the USATF U20 Cross Country Championships in Virginia on Saturday.

The Belmont native and Emerging Elite runner made it a worthwhile trip by placing sixth overall with a time of 20 minutes, 53.3 seconds for the six-kilometer course. With her top-six finish, Shea earned her a qualifying spot for the upcoming World Athletics X-C Championships in Belgrade, Serbia on March 30. It’s her fourth Team USA selection (cross country & track) in the last 12 months.

Hosted on a two-kilometer loop course at Pole Green Park, Shea was excited to take on the frigid conditions and bone-chilling wind. Despite a persistent head cold that left her with limited breathing capability, Shea was determined to race the 6K course to earn one of the qualifying pots. New for 2024, the race organizers added six barriers per loop, four logs and two hay bales, which added a dynamic element to the racing.  

With many U20 women racing without tights, the race went out very quickly and Shea worked her way into the lead pack within the first 500 meters, being mindful of the strong headwinds in the opening section of the course. At 1K, there was a lead pack of 11 athletes who were vying for the six spots on the Team and Shea was one of them. The Emerging Elite talent helped dictate the race by setting the pace. By 2K, the lead pack had dwindled to nine athletes and Shea navigated the tangents and tucked into the pack to smartly avoid the headwind. Reaching the halfway mark, she was content to race with the lead pack as it was now down to eight athletes. Entering the final 2K loop, the racing began after the lead pack cleared the hay bales at 4K. Ellie found herself in the eighth position and knew that she needed to make her move to get on the team by chasing the lead pack. By 5K, she moved into sixth, only four seconds from the leaders and, more importantly, she held a three-second gap over seventh place and a seven-second lead over eighth place. The last kilometer was a challenge for Shea as she knew she needed to race hard to maintain her qualifying position.

The multiple All American and national champion dug deep and crossed the line in sixth overall and was promptly rewarded with an American flag for earning another Team USA selection. New York’s Zareil Macchia of William Floyd won the race. Zacchia, who captured the Foot Locker Northeast title at Franklin in late November, was timed in 20:31.