Leila Aruri knew she had big shoes to fill this fall.
The junior was, after all, being asked to take over as the top runner for Andover cross country, inheriting the role from record-setting two-time All-Scholastic Maggie Mullins.
She could have been overwhelmed by the expectations, but instead Aruri has excelled for the Golden Warriors this season.
After an injury scare that left her on the sidelines for the last two dual meets, Aruri is ready to continue that success in the postseason, which kicks off with the Merrimack Valley Conference meet on Saturday.
“I can’t wait,” she said. “I wanted to be sure that I was ready for Saturday. I feel like I have really prepared myself to be successful in the big meets this season.”
Aruri began to emerge as a star last season. She placed eighth at MVCs and seventh at the EMass. Division 1 meet, forming an outstanding 1-2 punch with Mullins. And after playing basketball in the winter, she followed that up with an impressive outdoor track season that including a second in the two-mile at the Andover Boosters Meet.
But, this summer, she took her training to a whole new level.
“In the summer before my freshman and sophomore year I didn’t really train much,” she said. “I was just getting into running. I felt like I was getting tired at the end of seasons. So I worked hard at all the captains’ practices and did races to work on my speed. I feel like that could help me in the big meets.”
But, just over a week ago, during a dominant dual meet campaign, Aruri thought her season could be over.
“I started to have a lot of pain in my leg,” she said. “The doctors said I could have a stress fracture. The word ‘stress fracture’ really made me nervous. I had worked so hard to be ready for this season. I didn’t want it to be over right when the biggest meets were coming.”