The East Lansing Invitational is a popular cross country event held in October as runners begin to head for the final stretch of the season. The invite splits the runners into two categories based on grade with a 9-10 race featuring freshman and sophomores and an 11-12 race for juniors and seniors.
Huron’s Lucy Paliani showed her youthful potential during the Oct. 7 event when she finished first overall in the 9-10 race with a time of 19:57.5.
How good was the Huron freshman?
Her time would have placed her second in the junior-senior run. So, yeah, she’s pretty good regardless of her grade, age, competition. And she’s only going to get better.
Paliani was sixth at the 21 Legends Classic on Oct. 2 and 17th at the very competitive SEC Jamboree on Sept. 28. She was second at the 52nd annual Huron Invitational (Sept. 18) with a PR time of 18:58.2 and 13th at the SEC Jamboree 1 (Sept. 14).
Paliani had a strong run to the finish line in her first year with the River Rats. After placing 20th at the competitive SEC championships, she won the Lake Fenton Invitational for freshman-sophomores with a time of 21:20.3.
She ran a time of 19:36.8 to finish seventh at the LP Regionals at Hudson Mills to qualify for the MHSAA Division 1 State Finals. Running against the very best in the state, Paliani finished 63rd at MIS on Nov. 6.
So, yeah, she’s pretty good – and what a freshman season to kick start what could be a very special career at Huron.
Lucy, 14, is the daughter of Paul and Debbie Paliani. She first became interested in running when she was in third grade through a program called “Girls on the Run.”
“It was really fun to spend time with my friends and also run the big 5K at the end of the season,” she said. “When I got to middle school I joined the Clague cross country team and track team, with Coach Yamada, which got me interested in more competitive running. It has allowed me to compete as an individual as well as on a team.”
This year’s Huron team was smaller than in recent years but not short on determination or talent or youth. They are clearly headed in the right direction.
“We made big improvements, both individually and as a team,” Paliani says. “Our team was on the younger side, with only one senior, so with our success we are very excited to see how we do with more experience and knowledge next season.
“I’ve learned so much from them in a short amount of time. One of the main things I’ve learned is to always be proud of yourself, no matter your time, place, or anyone else’s opinions.”
Making the adjustment to high school cross country was easy for Paliani because of her “awesome” teammates. “Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I missed my 8th-grade cross country season, so I was very excited to run cross country this year. I knew many of my teammates before the start of the season from soccer and middle school, so seeing and competing with them again really added to my excitement.
“Although I did well in middle school, I hadn’t run competitively in two years and was a little surprised by how I did this year.”
Paliani attributes part of that success to being focused and locked in.
“I think the mental side of running is the most important part,” she says. “It is hard to not get discouraged throughout a race, whether it’s 100 meters or a 5K. I don’t have a ton of experience, but one way I approach the race is by breaking up the distance into smaller parts, similar to creating short-term goals to reach longer ones.”
Paliani also plays soccer and has played club soccer for the MPSA Crush. She is clearly enjoying her time at Huron.
“As a freshman, I am finding out and exploring the clubs and teams at Huron,” she says. “I joined the Huron Green Team, which is a club that works on making Huron and the Ann Arbor community more environmentally friendly. I also would like to try track and Huron soccer.”
And outside of school?
“Outside of sports, one of my favorite things to do is bake,” she says. “I make my dad carrot cakes for Father’s Day and his birthdays, an Italian pastry called cannoli, and other various things.”
Paliani hasn’t given much thought yet about her long-term plans or goals when it comes to sports. “I want to compete in college especially with soccer and other clubs, but I am hoping my goals become more in focus as I continue throughout the rest of high school.”
She is clearly off to a great start!