Skyview cross country athlete turns running into art


Phoebe Abbruzzese has fun, creating designs on her running maps

Skyview cross country runner Phoebe Abbruzzese was flying high during one particular offseason workout.

One could say she was soaring, maybe even rising to new heights. 

Her coach, though, was not impressed.

Phoebe Abbruzzese of Skyview didn’t just run while she was training for cross country. She created some works of art on a running app to share with her teammates. Photo by Paul Valencia
Phoebe Abbruzzese of Skyview didn’t just run while she was training for cross country. She created some works of art on a running app to share with her teammates. Photo by Paul Valencia

“Did you just wing it?” he messaged, after Abbruzzese logged in her workout on the app on her phone.

Well, actually, yes, yes she did.

And don’t worry. Her coach was just having some fun. 

After all, Abbruzzese ran her workout that day in Portland, and the route she took was for the birds.

Or at least one big bird.

Her coach said she just winged it when Phoebe Abbruzzese created the bird route. Image courtesy Bob Brands
Her coach said she just winged it when Phoebe Abbruzzese created the bird route. Image courtesy Bob Brands

This is how Abbruzzese made the longest offseason in history just a little bit more enjoyable. She and her dad created designs on maps, using a running application called Strava.

Instead of a 9-mile run up and down one or two streets, Abbruzzese created a bird. And a llama that went for about 2-and-a-half miles. She made a profile of a man’s face, covering 7.5 miles. And her favorite? A dinosaur that measured just more than 8 miles. 

Phoebe Abbruzzese said the dinosaur route, which covers more than 8 miles. Image courtesy Bob Brands
Phoebe Abbruzzese said the dinosaur route, which covers more than 8 miles. Image courtesy Bob Brands

“I just wanted to make things a little more fun. I started going out with my dad, just planning runs, and trying to make cool designs,” Abbruzzese said.

She is still a runner first, but now she also gets to say she is an artist. She might not be famous, but her work was appreciated. Abbruzzese said her motivation was simply to share her designs with her teammates, create a bit of a buzz on the app, and spread some joy.

Her coach, Bob Brands, asked his athletes to get the app last year when the pandemic hit and there were no guarantees that cross country season would start on time.

He also made a design on one of his runs, spelling out “Skyview XC loves mom” for Mother’s Day. 

He’d give out challenges to the team. It’s 480 miles round-trip to the state cross country meet, so, hey team, let’s run 480 miles this week.

Check.

The app allows for comments, too, so teammates could encourage each other.

Abbruzzese took advantage of the art tool on the app.

“If you look at a map, you just kind of see it,” she said of her creative process. “You see certain features. ‘Oh, that looks like a foot or something.’ Then you go from there.”

Her first design was easy, she said. It was the llama.

The llama was the first creation by Phoebe Abbruzzeses. Simple and short route. Image courtesy Bob Brands
The llama was the first creation by Phoebe Abbruzzeses. Simple and short route. Image courtesy Bob Brands

There was also that bird.

“My dad got super into that one,” Abbruzzese said. “He’s a biologist. When we were looking at the map, we saw a triangle shape, and I thought that looked just like a beak. We kind of went from there.”

Her favorite is the dinosaur. 

The designs were made first, then Phoebe and her dad, Carlo, would run the route.

“He’d navigate,” Phoebe said. “I still wanted to get a good workout. I didn’t want to stop and look at the map. It was nice to hang out with my dad.”

Cross country has been a family thing. Phoebe’s older sister, Ella, also ran for the Storm.

“I used to go to her meets, and I always wanted to be part of this team,” Phoebe said. “I was able to see, through my sister, just how good of a team it was.”

In the fall of 2019 as a sophomore, Phoebe Abbruzzese finished sixth in the district meet, then qualified for state at regionals, and ran a personal best time at state.

“She’s a better person than she is a runner, and she’s one of the best runners we’ve ever had,” Brands said. “Phoebe is a wonderful, wonderful person.”

Phoebe Abbruzzese had to make a lot of turns to make this image of a profile of a face, which went for more than 7 miles. Image courtesy Bob Brands
Phoebe Abbruzzese had to make a lot of turns to make this image of a profile of a face, which went for more than 7 miles. Image courtesy Bob Brands

Now, after the very long offseason, Skyview cross country is ready to run again. The first meet of the season is Wednesday.

The team started practicing together again last week.

“Training on my own has been super hard,” she said, noting that running is not just an individual sport. “You have your teammates to encourage you. It’s been nice just seeing everyone.”

Now, the Storm hope to make the most out of a delayed, abbreviated season.

“We can get together, and we can still run, and I’m very happy for that,” Abbruzzese said. “It will be a great season no matter what.”

That is all by design, as well. 

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