This is a printer-friendly version of an article from

02/14/2023 09:44 AM

Herlihy Heralded as Freshman Phenom for Valley Girls’ Track

Rowan Herlihy has already made a fast impact as a freshman for the Valley Regional girls’ indoor track squad, qualifying for postseason action in several distance events this winter. Photo courtesy of Rowan Herlihy

Many athletes can face tremendous trepidation when venturing out into the spotlight for the first time, especially in such a solo-focused sport like track, and even more so as a freshman. Yet Rowan Herlihy has raced right past any of those anxieties and is already on the fast track to success.

The Valley regional girls’ indoor track freshman runner grew up with a background in dance before first joining track in middle school. While she additionally does horseback riding, she has ridden out to a wave of resounding rookie success–qualifying for the Shoreline Conference Championship in both the 600 and 1,000 distance running events for the Warriors. Rowan additionally qualified for the Class S State Championship in the latter race, with a time of 3:27 at Shorelines on Feb. 3.

“I had always wanted to do track, as my parents both did it growing up,” says Rowan. “I really have surprised myself this year; I did not think I could do all of this. I have had great coaches and supportive teammates. The great workouts we have in practice have helped me, too, and I have just run off of a lot of adrenaline.”

Speaking of those intangibles, Rowan understandably had some pent-up nerves heading out under the bright lights of the Floyd Little Athletic Center for the first time. Still, the drive to put her fastest and steadiest foot forward carried her past the finish line and calmed those same nerves.

“I was definitely nervous before that first meet this year,” Rowan says. “I just want to go out there and do my best. Everyone has been so supportive here on this team. The fact that I just wanted to perform my best I think helped me. I never knew how to pace myself before those first events, but I learned.”

In terms of that sprinting strategy, Rowan remarks that it is not about winning a race wire-to-wire in front. Rather it is focusing on one competitor apiece and knowing when to hit that winning stride in the home stretch of an event.

“When I go into a new event, the goal is to never start in first place,” says Rowan. “I like to hang out in the back for a bit. I think about one person in front of me at a time. I also save that final kick for the end based on whatever distance I am running.”

Rowan started off her Warriors’ tenure with a bang, as the times that qualified her for the conference championship meet in the 600 and 1,000 were her inaugural runs for each heat.

“It felt super awesome to me to qualify for Shorelines in those events,” Rowan says. “Qualifying for them after running each of them for the first time was also awesome, and it was a great confidence boost for me going forward.”

Not to solely focus on her solo feats, Rowan additionally loves to dabble over in the relay race department of track. She notes that the 1,000 run can be quite grueling, but it can potentially be the most rewarding once figuring out the proper pacing.

“I love doing the 4x400 relay. It is the last event of the meet, and I like it because you run with a team,” Rowan says. “I like running the two laps on the track. I also like competing in the 1,000, but it is also the toughest because it is the longest run, and you have to keep the pace up.”

Warriors’ girls’ indoor track Head Coach Brian Drinkard adds that no matter what race they throw Rowan into, she can excel with the best of them and anticipate what she can do down the line across multiple running seasons.

“Rowan is highly motivated at practice. She works hard and is very encouraging to her teammates and the team,” says Drinkard. “She began the season running shorter distances and qualified for Shorelines in the 600. We felt like Rowan could do well with distance, so she entered the 1,000 and qualified for Shorelines in that event as well. The coaches believe she can run even longer distances and look forward to her joining the cross country team in the fall after outdoor track.”

Rowan is not pumping the breaks after just one successful winter campaign, as she looks to reach the state championship plateau moving forward. She additionally echoes her coaches’ desires in looking to challenge herself further on the cross country course and outdoor circuit.

“Hopefully, I can qualify for states in the 1,000 and sprint medley relay,” says Rowan. “I want to perform well in the outdoor season this spring and see what I can do and hopefully also qualify for states with indoor next year. I also see myself doing cross country, indoor track, and outdoor track throughout my high school career.”