Makayla Paige: A Quiet Killer on the Track, She Comes from a Running Family

January 16, 2019
Tewksbury High track star Makayla Paige, 15, a sophomore, comes from some good running genes. SUN/Julia Malakie Sun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.

TEWKSBURY -- Last winter, a quiet freshman named Makayla Paige burst onto the scene for the Tewksbury High track and field team.

It didn’t take long for coach Peter Molloy to realize that this diminutive runner, who he recalls “barely saying two words,” was capable of posting big results. Race after race, her performances did the talking. But it was at the Division 3 indoor championships where Paige proved she has that rare combination of talent and intense determination.

“She ran the 600 and she was racing some really good kids,” remembered Molloy. “It’s a three-lap race and Makayla got out to an early lead. This really good runner named Emma Sullivan from Shepherd Hill tried to pass Makayla three or four times and Makayla held her off every time. That’s when I realized she is not willing to give an inch. She hadn’t shown that fight yet, but it came out that day and she won the race.”

Now a sophomore, Paige has solidified herself as one of the premier middle-to-long distance runners in the state.

“Last year, I was sort of running the times I ran the year before, I wasn’t really improving too much. And then all of a sudden that race turned things around,” said Paige in regard to that victory in the 600.

Paige holds the girls’ indoor school records in the 300 (third-fastest in the state this season), 600 and 800. Those are major accomplishments, especially when you consider how many excellent runners have come through the Tewksbury program.

She’s also stepped out of her quiet shell, to the point where Tewksbury coach Fran Cusick refers to her as a “really good leader.”

“I’m not the most talkative, but I am more talkative than last year,” said Paige, who is also a standout cross country runner in the fall and outdoor runner in the spring. “I more show it in body language -- I jump around, I skip around.”

Molloy says Paige’s character, like her running ability, is top-notch.

“She’s humble and has a tremendous amount of respect for the people in her races,” Molloy said. “She befriends anyone that she competes with and against.”

It’s in the genes

It’s almost like competing is in Paige’s blood. And, well, it pretty much is.

Paige’s mom, Jill (her maiden name is Croft), and her dad, Mike, are both UMass Lowell Hall of Fame athletes.

Jill graduated from UML (Class of 2002) as the most decorated female athlete of her time, earning All-American honors seven times in the indoor and outdoor long jump, indoor high jump and indoor 60-meter dash.

Mike Paige (Class of 2003) was part of two indoor 4x400 relay All-American teams in 2000 and 2002, and also earned All-American status twice in the 400 meter dash in 2001 and 2002. Mike played soccer at UMass Lowell as well, compiling 10 goals in each of his junior and senior seasons and graduating as the program’s all-time leading scorer with 29 goals and seven assists (currently third on the career list).

Yet Makayla’s highly-accomplished parents are impressed with what their daughter has already been able to do

“I always laugh because people always ask me ‘Makayla is doing so well, when will she surpass you?’ She’s already surpassed me,” said Jill, who is originally from Gardner. “We’re different runners. I was a sprinter, so she was beating me in 5Ks when she was eight. To compare us would be like apples and green beans. She’s more like my husband, who was a mid-distance runner and a soccer player.”

Makayla played soccer early on in her childhood. She started running with her parents for fun in local events when she was eight and was able to turn in a 24-minute 5K, which got people’s attention.

“From that point, everybody was kind of encouraging her to run,” said Jill. “And she would just say ‘I love running, I love running, let’s do more.’”

Makayla soon started training with the Greater Lowell Road Runners and never looked back.

Jill helps out on the Tewksbury coaching staff, working with the sprinters and jumpers.

“My mom really helped get me into running. She’d run 5Ks with me and she’s just so awesome,” said Makayla. “My dad has been running with me lately, as well. He just ran six miles with me the other day. We have a lot of fun with it, it’s not anything competitive.”

But when the time comes, that competitive fire shines bright. The next decorated track-and-field career in the Paige household is already well underway.

“Her work ethic is really good, she’s just really talented and she’s willing to do whatever she needs to do,” said Cusick.

Follow Matt Langone on Twitter @MattLangone

Update hourly