The award-winning Shaker Heights High School student news organization

The Shakerite

The award-winning Shaker Heights High School student news organization

The Shakerite

The award-winning Shaker Heights High School student news organization

The Shakerite

Cullen Runs to Shaker Success

Senior Erin Cullen has run far enough to cross the country three times.

The cross country and track standout runs 50 miles a week, seven days a week, 48 weeks a year, in any weather. She gave up candy and soda, along with time with friends, to run. Some may call it insane, but those who know Cullen call it devotion. 

“Erin’s been the most successful runner in school history,” cross country coach Dave Englander said. Cullen runs the 5K in cross country and the 4×800 meter relay, the 3200 meter run and the 1600 in indoor and outdoor track. She broke the school record for the two-mile time—twice – and is the only Shaker runner to have qualified to the state meet more than once. 

 “Competitively, I began to run in seventh grade. I ran middle school track,” she said. “I always liked running.” Cullen’s earliest success in running was placing second in the Woodbury Fun Run, when her parents realized she could run and should keep running in middle school. 

Since freshman year, Cullen has worked harder and harder. Her dad, Kim Cullen, also noticed the change. “She had a good middle school career, but she worked a lot harder in high school, and she ended up doing a lot better,” he said. 

Cullen set a record in the 4×800 relay her freshman year. “She just has a huge capacity for work,” said Englander, who became aware of her talents and dedication when she was keeping up with her superiors during workouts. “She has never accepted that anyone was better than her. She’s always wanted to work as hard as or harder than anyone else there,” Englander said.

“My freshman and sophomore year, there were people on the team who made me scared to run because I didn’t want to beat the captains on the team,” Cullen said.  She later realized, “I’ve trained my whole high school years for this and shouldn’t let anyone stop me.”

Cullen, naturally competitive, finds her parents and coach don’t have to push her to work too often. “She hasn’t needed that much encouragement. Truly great athletes are willing to have their own motivation,” Englander said. 

Her dad described her drive. “Especially in sophomore year, competitiveness came naturally in races,” he said. “She wanted to improve more and more.”

Cullen is co-captain with Nikki Mercer and Sara Martin on the cross country team, and she is the team’s conscience. Cullen pushes Martin to improve, and Martin admires the way Cullen encourages others. “She goes out there, she takes pictures, she yells her loudest,” said Martin, who has run with Cullen for five years.

Cullen’s teammate Ilana Sadholz, a sophomore, noted her positive attitude. “She comes to every practice and she doesn’t complain . . . she encourages us to get faster,” Sadholz said.  

Englander said Cullen’s strong individual work ethic doesn’t interfere with teamwork. She “did everything she could to help her teammates realize their goals,” he said.  

Cullen’s father said she accepted the challenge of pushing her teammates to achieve. “She’s had to motivate the runners to run more,” said her dad. “She has to work more with the younger girls to get them more competitive.”

Despite her success, Cullen isn’t sure she wants to run in college. “I’m more interested in going to college for an education, and I kind of want to see what I have to offer that isn’t running related,” she said. 

A few Division I schools have recruited Cullen, including Loyola University Chicago.  “I’ve been on a recruiting trip there,” Cullen said. “I’ve been informed of the kind of stringent time the runners spend at their athletic training. It’s a lot different than high school.”

For now, Cullen still influences the Shaker sports program. The Raiders have been district championships twice since Cullen started high school. “Her time here at Shaker — it’s been the most successful time the school’s ever had,” Englander said.

Cullen’s motto is, “Never give up on something you can’t go a day without thinking about.”

A version of this article appeared in print on 13 December 2012, on page 13 of The Shakerite

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