Sean Byrne was certain he was going to play lacrosse in high school. But that was before he figured out he was meant to be a runner.
“Over the summer (before beginning high school), I did a running camp, and I started to fall in love with running,” says Byrne. “I decided to do cross country that fall. I got hurt after my first race, but that made me want to pursue it even more. And then I never looked back.”
Dealing with a season-ending injury after his first cross country race as a freshman wasn’t how the Santa Margarita Catholic High School junior wanted to begin his high school running career. But he didn’t let the roadblock slow him down.
“It was a major setback that kind of confused me,” says Byrne. “I kind of just had to keep faith, taking it day by day, listening to my coaches, giving it everything I had at practice, even though I was injured.”
Byrne hasn’t skipped a beat, even after his rough start.
“I love the fact that every day…I can go out there and get stronger and get faster,” says Byrne. “Right now, there’s really no limit to…how far I can push myself. That’s what’s intrigued me to stay with the sport.”
In addition to running cross-country for the Eagles, the 17-year-old specializes in distance races each spring, running the 800 meter, 1600 meter and 3200 meter events with the school’s track team. Byrne’s favorite race by far is the 1600 meter.
“It’s the perfect mix of speed, endurance and strategy that’s really intrigued me,” says Byrne. “I have so much fun running it.”
Byrne’s approach to training and dealing with challenges has made an impact on his team and his coaches.
“Sean is one of those special student athletes that coaches and teachers love having on their team or in their classroom,” says Santa Margarita head cross country coach, Gil Garcia. “He’s a great example and role model for his teammates and is a major factor in the team’s success.”
The Laguna Niguel resident is a recent National Honor Society inductee, and serves his community through Lion’s Heart, a non-profit volunteer organization. He plans to pursue running in college while obtaining a business degree, recognizing all he’s learned from his experiences thus far.
“I’ve attributed most of my growing that I’ve done in high school to running,” says Byrne. “I don’t know how far running will take me…but I will always want running to be part of my life.”
Byrne draws inspiration from many, including his parents, grandparents, coaches and professional athletes, such as Dustin Pedroia and Robby Andrews. But he’s grateful most to God for the ability he’s been given.
“Just knowing that’s [God’s] always there, and he’s always going to protect us,” says Byrne. “As we grow in our sport, we grow in our faith.”