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High School 800m Specialist Shepard Focused On Podiums, Then Stanford

  • By Chris Lotsbom
  • Published Jan. 7, 2014
Karina Shepard put on a show at the Hispanic Games last weekend. Photo: Chris Lotsbom | Race Results Weekly

Karina Shepard says she wants to earn All-American honors this season.

(c) 2013 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission.

NEW YORK — Dracut (Mass.) High School senior Karina Shepard put on a show at the 20th Hispanic Games last Saturday, winning the girls 800m in a nation-leading time of 2:10.68. Reflecting on her performance, the Stanford-bound middle distance ace believes it was just the start of a special 2014.

“I was very excited to come to The Armory,” Shepard said after her race. “It’s very exciting. The atmosphere is great here.”

Shepard’s 185-mile trip southwest from Massachusetts to The Armory was well worth it. From the start, the tall Shepard established her position at the head of the field, leading through 400 meters in roughly 63 seconds. After an ever-so-slight glance at the clock with a lap remaining, Shepard extended her lead in the final 200 meters to win by more than two and a half seconds.

“I definitely like to run out front so I wanted to get out hard today. I think I did that, and I just tried to hit splits and it worked out pretty well,” she said.

Shepard’s quest to become the nation’s top high school 800m runner is one that spans three years. As a freshman and sophomore, Shepard admitted that she was a “back of the pack” athlete who even considered giving up the sport at one time.

“But then I had a couple of races that were good for me and I liked how that felt. I ran a ton the summer going into my junior year and I surprised myself with the season I had and just kept going,” she explained.

Indeed Shepard kept going, finishing first at last year’s Massachusetts All-State Championship in 2:09.29, then seventh at New Balance Nationals Outdoor (2:09.54).

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Shepard’s credentials on the track drew the attention of Stanford, a school she fell in love with immediately upon visiting the campus.

“I kinda knew since I got contacted by Stanford that that’s where I’d love to go. But I think officially in late October I pulled the trigger,” she said. After taking an official visit to the Pac-12 school with fellow Hispanic Games champion Maddy Berkson (who won the 3,000 meters in a Rhode Island state record and U.S. No. 1 9:49.35), Shepard had made up her mind. At Stanford, she’ll join an already stellar middle distance team that includes Amy Weissenbach, who was seventh at the U.S. Outdoor Championships last year.

Considering Stanford has already gained commitments from Shepard, Berkson, Massachusetts distance runner Abbie McNulty, and New Jersey sprinter Olivia Baker, the Cardinals have demonstrated recruiting success in the Northeast.

Before Shepard moves west, she still has some big goals.

“I would like to compete for at least an All-American spot this year. I’m really excited,” she said, noting that the next time she’ll run at The Armory will be for New Balance Nationals Indoor in March. She would also like to improve her personal best.

“I took about a minute and 20 seconds off my 5K (in cross country last fall), so I’m hoping to be under 2:05,” she said.

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Indeed, Shepard hopes her Hispanic Games title is only the tip of the iceberg.

“I think it was a good confidence builder and it felt good pushing it,” she said. “I didn’t want anyone to get past me so I tried to maintain the pace and I think that was good for me to realize that I could do that.”

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