NFA's Lenehan wins state's top honor

Norwich Free Academy's Brianna Lenehan, who won the State Open title last fall, was named the Gatorade Connecticut Girls' Runner of the Year in cross country on Thursday. Lenehan will be attending Columbia University next season.

It would be hard to top Brianna Lenehan's superb senior season.

Lenehan added to her list of accomplishments by being named the Gatorade Connecticut Girls' Cross Country Runner of the Year.

The humble Lenehan learned the exciting news at Norwich Free Academy's indoor track practice Thursday. She is the first NFA girls' runner to accomplish the feat since the award's inception in 2007.

"I was really surprised, actually," Lenehan said. "I'm just grateful and honored."

Lenehan, The Day's All-Area Girls' Cross Country Athlete of the Year, pulled off a tough triple last fall, winning the Eastern Connecticut Conference, Class LL and State Open championship races.

She finished her memorable season by placing ninth at the New England Championship.

She became the first ECC runner to win the State Open since Killingly's Meghan Owen won three straight from 2000-2002 and the first NFA runner to capture the Open since Jill Akus won back-to-back titles in 1995 and 1996.

"Brianna was phenomenal this year," said NFA coach Kara Kochanski-Vendola in a released statement. "She was very focused on what she had to do to be successful and she put in so much hard work, not just in season, but all summer."

All the awards and accomplishments are a product of her hard work. She bounced back from an early season-hip injury and earned all-state honors.

"I just feel like everything went perfect this season," Lenehan said. "It shows my hard work this season."

The well-rounded Lenehan also excelled in the classroom, maintaining a 3.91 grade point average. She also has served as a volunteer for youth running events and toy drives for underprivileged children.

Lenehan will attend Columbia University next year and compete in cross country and track.

Her goal now is to continue her success during the indoor and outdoor track seasons.

"I love the sport," Lenehan said. "Indoor season is my favorite anyway. I'm excited to get into the season."

By earning the state award, Lenehan is a finalist for the Gatorade National Girls' Cross Country runner. The winner will be announced later this month.


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