If you had asked Michelle Reidy in fall 2005 what she thought of running, she might have responded that one would have to be crazy to like doing that. Fast forward to Dec. 11, 2010, and she would tell you that running has given her focus in her academic and personal life as well as the knowledge that if you have a dream and are willing to work extremely hard, you can accomplish anything.

Michelle, a senior at Islesboro Central School, competed in the National Junior Olympic Cross-Country Championship meet in Hoover, Ala., Dec. 11, placing 43 out of 73 runners in the Young Women’s division. The experience was the topping on the cake and an exciting way to end a successful six years of her school running career.

In seventh grade, Michelle hesitantly joined the Islesboro Eagles Cross-Country team training under newly appointed Coach Johanna Rogers. Rogers, new to Islesboro and a runner with years of experience, took on the task of building a cross-country team that, although had seen success in the past, was in need of new energy and rejuvenation.

Michelle was one of the first recruits to that team and grew in stamina and ability during the next six years. Under Coach Rogers’ training, what began as nothing short of torture — running five or six days a week, traveling to meets, learning the ropes of cross-country competition, as well as some character building homework — all became a necessary part of everyday life.

Although Michelle followed the normal student athletic schedule of turning to basketball once the cross-country season was over, she still had the desire to run. After two seasons on the basketball court she made the decision to focus exclusively on her running.

There was no turning back once the decision was made. With Coach Rogers guidance in training as well as firm guidelines that family was a first priority, school work was second and running was third, Michelle transformed from a student who didn’t like school to a focused and organized honor student who has maintained the desire to learn and do the best she can both academically and as an athlete.

The opportunity to participate in Green Mountain Running Camp during summer 2008 gave new life to the desire to run when Michelle was immersed for an entire week in the mountains of Vermont with hundreds of kids, just like her; they had that same strong desire to run and to become better at it.

As with all athletics, there is always the chance for injury and in the fall of her 10th grade year, Michelle began having issues with continuous pain in her foot. Months of physical therapy and hard work with little improvement, led to the discovery of a torn tendon in her ankle, not something any runner wants to hear.

Perhaps one of the darkest periods of time in Michelle’s young life, running was not an option without necessary surgery, mandatory rest and a few months of physical therapy. She took it all on with surgery in early December 2009 and as soon as she was able, she was back to training and running the roads of Islesboro with Coach Rogers and teammates on a year-round schedule.

Leading up to her Junior Olympic experience, Michelle ran seventh to 11th grade as an Islesboro Eagle, qualifying for the Maine State Cross Country Championship races in ninth, 10th and 11th grades. Wanting more in regard to training and self-improvement is often a challenge for small school athletes. After a bit of soul searching, assessment of needs and a lot of discussion, a new opportunity was introduced.

In late spring 2010, three Eagle teammates, Davis Boardman, Eva Marie Olson and Annika Rogers, along with Michelle and Coach Rogers formed the Dark Harbor Harriers, a United States Track and Field team. The team caught several ribbons for the Dark Harbor Harrier runners during the 2010 fall season and saw all four teammates make it to the USATF Junior Olympic Regional Competition in Rhode Island, Nov. 20, 2010. Michelle qualified for the USATF Junior Olympic National Competition at the Rhode Island race – proving that hard work and determination can make dreams come true.

Ask Michelle what the best thing she has gotten out the running experience and she’ll tell you, “Everything.”