Haddonfield's Gess is a superstar and still in middle school
When Briana Gess of Haddonfield was 4 years old, she decided she was over riding in her parents' jogging stroller. They competed in local road races, usually with their daughter in front.
Her protests grew so loud that her father let her out of the stroller during a small 5k, figuring she'd run for a bit then want to get back in.
That never happened. She finished the race on her own.
"I've liked it ever since," said Gess, 14, chatting in the Saxby Coffee in downtown Haddonfield. She doesn't look much different than other teenagers hanging around Kings Highway, dressed in a white T-shirt and black running shorts, four hair bands around her wrists and long, wavy blond hair in a side ponytail.
But in running she's a standout, and saying she's good is an understatement. At 11, she won the AAU Cross Country National Championship. At 13, with a time of 17 minutes and 27 seconds, Gess was the fourth female overall in the 2012 Haddonfield Adrenaline 5k, which is one of the most competitive 5k's in the region. Her personal record in the 800 meters is 2 minutes, 13 seconds. Her best mile is 4:58.
"We knew from an early age that running came easy. It always seemed effortless to her," said Pamela Gess, Briana's mom. She and her husband are teachers at Haddon Township High School. "When she started beating us before she hit double digits, we knew."
Briana and her parents (mom ran in college, and dad played soccer) take a come-as-it-may approach to training. She'll never run more than 25 miles a week, and this isn't a year round sport. Right now, she's playing basketball. In spring, she'll run for Haddonfield Middle School. When she's a freshman at Haddonfield High School next year, she plans to run cross country and spring track, but stick with basketball in the winter.
While other tweens and teens have made headlines for running marathons, her longest race has been the 2011 Mayor's Labor Day Race in Ocean City, a 5-mile beach run, where she finished 10th overall and second female (last year, she ran the 5k and finished fifth overall, first female).
“I just like running because you can forget about all the stress of school for a little bit of time,” she said. “You always feel better after you run.”
Follow @byJenAMiller on Twitter.
2013 Running Calendar
Sunday, March 17: Abominable Slowman 5K, Wilson Farm Park, 500 Lee Rd., Chesterbrook. Fee $35, benefits Tredyffrin Township Foundation for Parks and Recreation. Registration begins 7:30 a.m., Kids Run 8:45 a.m. 5K starts at 9. actsportsmanagement.com or tredyffrin.org
Saturday,March 23: Sasquatch Night Trail Run, 6.5 K., Alloway, N.J. Register at active.com
Saturday, March 23: Central Bucks Family YMCA 5K, Doylestown PA, Register at www.bucks5kseries.com
Sunday, March 24: Ocean Drive Marathon and 10 Miler, Cape May, N.J. Register online or at March 23 expo. odmarathon.org
Sunday, March 24: Billy Mock 5k run and 1 mile walk, Ridley Creek State Park, Delaware. Register at signup2raceusa.com
March 30: Butterfly 5K Run, 9 a.m., Great Valley High School, Malvern. Lbrun.org
March 30: Back on My Feet's 5-miler, up to the Belmont Plateau around Memorial Hall and back down to finish next to the Art Museum. $35, 8:30 a.m. start. bomfphilly5miler.com
April 6: Fifth annual Garden Spot Village marathon, starting at 8 a.m. The USATF-certified Boston Marathon qualifier course begins and ends at Garden Spot Village, 433 S. Kinzer Ave., New Holland. There is also a half-marathon. gardenspotvillagemarathon.org
April 6: Ghost Gallop 5K run /walk. Abington High School, 8 a.m. start, 7 a.m. registration day of race, $20 per person, pre-register, $25 day of event www.signmeup.com/90535
April 7: Codependency 5k run/walk, 8:30 a.m.; Cooper River Park; cash awards to top three male and female winners. 1st: $250, 2d: $150, 3d: $100. $50 to first place male&female walker; www. StartingPoint.org or www.RunSignUp.com. Early registration by April 1; 856-854-3155, ext. 100.
April 13: 5k run, 2-mile walk. Wilson Farm Park, Chesterbrook, PA. Fee $25 for Run, $15 for Walk. Benefit the Dathe Family - Fighting Cancer. Registration 9 a.m., race at 10 a.m. www.bigorangerun.com
April 14: AIM Race to Read 5k, 9 a.m., Schuylkill River Trail, Tech T-shirt guaranteed if registered by March 22. Preregistration is $25, $30 on race day, $10 for the 1 Mile Fun Run/Walk. http://www.aimpa.org/RacetoRead.shtml
April 21: 18th Annual Dash for Organ and Tissue Donor Awareness / 5K run, 10k run, 3K walk. Philadelphia Museum of Art. Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. donordash.org
April 27: Fourth annual "These Boobs are Made for Walkin'" Breast Cancer 4-mile Walk/Run, 10 a.m. Sign-in at 9 a.m. Rowan University Recreation Center. Centrasl & South Jersey affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure®. Single pre-registration by April 5, $25. After that, $30. Team pre-registration $15 per person. After April 5, $20 per person.
April 27: Trails 5k in Tacony Creek Park and Community Day at Friends Hospital, 9 a.m. Registration begins at 8 at the start line on Friends Hospital Campus. The 5k will take place on the trails in the Tacony Creek Park. Runners: $20, walkers: Families of four or more: $50. Students: $10. www.healthytrails5k.com. The first 70 runners to register at a special $50 rate will receive an exclusive opportunity to purchase a bib for the 2013 Broad Street Run.
April 27: Apple Core 5K Challenge, USATF certified, benefits Orchard Friends School, 9 a.m., Riverton, along the scenic Delaware River. orchardfriends.org
May 5: 7th Annual Richard's River Run, 9 a.m. at Cooper River Pennsauken, NJ. Go4thegoal will host. runsignup.com/Race/?raceId=1335
May 5: Long Branch Half Marathon, Long Branch, N.J. njmarathon.org
May 5: Bucks County 10 Miler, Washington Crossing, Pa. runbucks.com
May 11: Rock N' Run 4 Kids, 5k & Kid's Fun Run. Coca-Cola Park, Allentown. rocknrun4kids.com
May 11: Elwyn 5K, on Elwyn's campus, outside of Media, PA. Cash prizes, fee: $25, 9 a.m. start. 610-891-2298.
June 9: 2013: 3d annual Haddon Glen 5K, www.LMSports.com
To add your race, e-mail email@example.com. Please send at least two weeks in advance.