However, being on the same relay team with your two siblings behind you eases that tension a little bit, according to Maria Chellah, older sister of Judy and Patricia.
“It’s nice and I like it,” Maria said. “I love being able to hand off to my sisters. It gives a thrill because we’re all different, yet all the same. It’s also a little challenging.”
Maria, Judy and Patricia Chellah are middle distance runners on the Daniel Boone cross country and track and field teams. Maria is a senior, Judy a sophomore and Patricia a freshman.
“Everything was a competition in our childhood,” Maria said. “The three of us together are some of the most competitive people we know.
“Even something as simple as hide-and-seek, we would say, ‘Do not make a sound at all.’ We would want to win at everything. Even house chores, we’d race to see who was the fastest.”
Maria recently ran the fastest time ever for a Daniel Boone female runner in an 800 meters event. Competing in the Tennessee state indoor meet at Vanderbilt in Nashville, she clocked a 2:18.31 and placed third in the event to earn all-state honors. She also boasts a personal best of a blazing 58.26 seconds in the 400 meters.
“When we went to Nashville, I just wanted to do better than I did at ETSU,” Maria said. “When I crossed the finish line and everyone started saying that I ran 2:18, I was ecstatic.”
Also at the state indoor meet, the Chellah sisters ran on both the 4,000-meter distance medley relay team that placed third and the 1,600-meter relay team that finished fourth.
“It was cool, but it was a big difference going from the distance medley to the 4x400,” Judy said. “We had to go from running the sort of slower distance races to running a full sprint almost.”
Maria was born in the African nation of Zambia, which lies east of Angola and north of Zimbabwe. She spent only the first year of her life there and she does not remember much about Africa. Still, she’s technically an international student, which has made the college recruiting process a little bit harder.
“I’ve already committed to Lincoln Memorial to run in the fall,” Maria said. “However, if my visa status isn’t what it should be by August or September, I will have to start school in the spring. In Africa, everything moves quicker and it only takes a month to get statuses changed. Here, it’s taking about six months since I’m already in the United States. Getting accepted is not the hard part; it’s the other details.”
The Chellahs, all excellent students, have an average cross country 5,000-meter time of 20:43. The sisters agree that Judy is the best at cross country while Maria is the best on the track. Patricia is a combination of both with a tremendous upside, according to her two older sisters.
“I like cross country more than track,” Judy said. “We all got into running doing field day in elementary school. The 50-yard dash was our thing.”
“Running cross country for the first time was challenging,” Patricia said. “I had never run 3 miles before. I tried to do cross country in middle school, but I didn’t like it. I’m getting used to it now, especially with my sisters being on the team.”
“Having all three girls on the track team is a blessing,” Daniel Boone coach Len Jeffers said. “They love to learn. They listen and work. It’s different because we’ve had two brothers, two sisters, brother and sister, but never three sisters. To have all three of them is fun.”