The three-season runner has clocked an impressive 9:54 for the 3,000-meter race, and an even more impressive 4:36 for the 1,500 meter. It’s one reason three prestigious schools—Harvard, Princeton, and Yale—came courting her this year.
In the history of Gann Academy, a handful of students have been recruited to play Division 1 sports, two from Gann-coached teams: Annika and Josh Danesh '09 who was recruited to play Division 1 soccer at Northeastern. "It’s an extraordinarily small statistical pool," says Sue Johnson, Gann’s athletic director. “Very few high school athletes can play at the D1 level.”
Annika has been a key member of Gann’s cross-country team
for four years, helping the school win three consecutive league championships from 2010–2012. She was one of the top scoring runners each time—the
top scoring runner her freshman year. “Running with the team is special,” says Annika, who was co-captain this year. “I’m an unattached runner in most of the races I enter, so I love the motivation and camaraderie of the team.”
Mid-season, Annika was sidelined with a "stress reaction" in her shin. It’s no fun being consigned to a weight room while the rest of the team is training outside on a beautiful fall day. “Annika was undaunted,” says Gann cross-country coach, Kevin Cattrell. "Even though she was injured, she blossomed as a leader."
When Gann's cross-country season ends, Annika keeps running, which is why she took time out to heal this fall. She's grateful that Gann has allowed her the flexibility to run outside of school and let it count for athletic credit. "The students and faculty at Gann have always been super supportive and interested in how I'm doing, which means so much to me," she says.
Harvard, Biotech, and Beyond
After visits to the three Ivies vying for her, and much deliberation, Annika chose Harvard. "I really liked the track team and I thought the coaching staff was great," she says. "I left my decision to the very last minute and they helped expedite the offer." She'll be joining her sister, Sivan '10, an anthropology major in her junior year.
Annika didn't get into Harvard on her running times alone. "She's an outstanding thinker," says her English teacher, Abby Shapiro. "She’s marvelous with big ideas and with subtle nuances. Her essay writing is absolutely exquisite—she would make a great English major!"
But Annika is thinking she'd like to pursue a career in biotechnology. "She's a fantastic scientist," says biology teacher and Gann dean of students, Laila Goodman. "She’s an incredibly astute observer and researcher who understands the intricacies of the systems in biology.” Science teacher, Sarah DuBeau-Farley, adds that "She knows what questions to ask and how to design an experiment to answer those questions."
From biology and biotech to humanities
, Annika credits Gann with helping her develop skills, like critical thinking, that will mitigate the stress of an Ivy League course load. "I’m grateful to Gann for offering challenging courses; I’ve learned a lot here that I know will help me at Harvard. Through my Jewish studies and history classes I’ve discovered that I like analyzing conflicting evidence that challenges the status quo. Gann has also given me the opportunity to come out of my shell by encouraging class participation—better to figure that out in high school than to wait until college."
As if training, competing and doing homework weren't enough, Annika is also the assistant editor of the school newspaper; the writing editor for the yearbook; a member of the student council; and a senior writing fellow—helping underclassmen in the writing center. She's played the violin since she was three, and is a member of the chamber music ensemble.
Many adults would have trouble balancing a life like Annika’s. So, how does she do it? "Balancing everything is definitely a challenge, but I try to stay organized and focused so that I can work efficiently and do everything in a manageable time frame. I do a lot of things, but I'm passionate about all of them, so I enjoy spending the time, even if it means I’m busy."
Bottom line: where there’s passion there’s time. But it helps if you're really fast.