Esko athlete exceeds all expectationsPREP NEWSMAKER: Marisa Shady already ranks as Esko’s most accomplished girl cross country runner with a Minnesota Class A victory in 2010 as a sophomore and a third-place finish in 2011.
By: Kevin Pates, Duluth News Tribune
The Cloquet Public Library was a favorite stop for Marisa Shady as a youngster, taking home numerous books a week as an insatiable reader. She was homeschooled through ninth grade and has received only A’s in her academic career.
Athletics at Esko High School have been pursued with equal verve.
Shady, a senior, is regarded as one of the school’s best multisport athletes of the past 20 years alongside Michelle Maunu (Class of 2005) and Gina Perich (1996).
Shady already ranks as Esko’s most accomplished girl cross country runner with a Minnesota Class A victory in 2010 as a sophomore and a third-place finish in 2011.
“The only thing we’ve asked of our girls is, when they’re involved in something, give it their best,” said Joanna Shady, Marisa’s mom. “Marisa has always been driven, very determined. She went right through the class curriculum I had for her at age 5 and 6. She would complete that in two months. She has far exceeded our expectations in everything she’s done.”
Although running is what Shady does best (she’s ranked No. 5 in Class A this fall), she and younger sister, Erika, are tied for the Esko-Carlton soccer scoring lead, and Marisa is a point guard for Esko’s basketball team, which has been one-step away from the Minnesota Class AA tournament the past two years.
The two-sport fall athlete is up at 5:30 a.m. for Esko’s 6 a.m. cross country practices, and is often tending to homework past midnight. She started combining athletics and academics as a
seventh-grader and has been to nine state tournaments, five in cross country and four in track. This fall she’s taking anatomy and physiology courses at Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College in Cloquet.
“We have a seventh-and-eighth-grade race every year before the season starts, with some other schools, and Marisa, as seventh-grader, finished third, behind two boys,” said cross country coach Jerry Zimny, with the program since 1978. “I looked at my assistant, Tim Lindquist, and we just knew she was something special.
“If I were a college coach I’d be looking at her. She has Division I talent and a lot of untapped potential; she’s just getting better. She’s durable, she pushes herself, she never coasts, she’s focused. Her work ethic and attitude are right up there as good as any of the best girls we’ve had at Esko.”
Shady is the oldest of four sisters and all have running, soccer and basketball aspirations, including the youngest, 11-year-old Savanna. Marisa, junior Erika and eighth-grader Selena are on the No. 2-ranked cross country team that competes in the 62nd Swain Invitational on Saturday at Enger Park Golf Course.
Five-foot-7 Marisa tried cross country at the suggestion of classmate Amanda Belden (now on the volleyball varsity) and found she enjoyed the endurance sport. Fellow seniors Molly Meyesembourg and Kallyn Knutson also joined as seventh-graders and are now in their sixth season. (Knutson followed in the footsteps of her sister, Kaycee.)
“It was my first experience with high school sports and I liked the family feel of the team and stuck with it,” said Shady. “Running is the hardest sport out there and no one knows that better than other runners. It takes commitment, pain, miles and persistence, but you have a welcoming family to help you through it.
“Soccer adds another dynamic to a long (fall) season because it’s good cross training. I absolutely love basketball because it’s a lifelong sport. And running relays in track is something I’m passionate about because you all have to work together to accomplish something. I’ve been so privileged to be in these sports with so many people I care about.”
Shady was homeschooled through ninth grade, took two classes at Esko as a sophomore and became a full-time student at the high school as a junior. The family lives on 10 acres just a mile-and-a-half from school.
This season, she’s won all but one cross country race (placing second in the Milaca Mega Meet on Sept. 22) while claiming victories by 30 seconds or more. She’s had to miss just one cross country meet and one soccer match due to conflicts. Ahead on the schedule is the Section 7A meet Oct. 25 at Cloquet Country Club and the Minnesota Class A championships Nov. 3 at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn.
Shady has won two straight Section 7A individual titles, been part of three straight Section 7A championship teams and been named News Tribune’s girl cross country runner of the year in 2010 and 2011.
“Definitely my goal is to get back to the state meet and be there with my team,” said Shady. “I think we have our strongest group of girls and doing well as a team means the most to me.”