In track and field, greatness is measured on a stop watch or with a tape measure. But while the clock has ticked to record times with the Ann Arbor Pioneer girls’ 4×800-meter relay team, the greatness begins off the track and then carries over to the stop watch – not the other way around.
The four members of the relay team are Anne Forsyth, Sydney Dawes, Jacalyn Overdier and Alice Hill – in that order, because in a relay order is important. So is speed and timing and precision and dedication – but none of those qualities jump off the track when you first meet these four young ladies.
On a cold, overcast and rainy Monday afternoon, the Pioneer track team is getting ready to start what Coach Nancy Shafer Boudreau calls a “short workout” leading up to a tri-meet the following day.
It wasn’t exactly ideal conditions to be outside running around a track. But none of it seemed to bother those girls on the 4×800 relay team. And that’s the point. Nothing seems to bother them.
“I just love the vibe on this relay,” says Hill. “We are very relaxed and keep a light mood. We had a girl come up to us once and asked us if we won and she said we didn’t look like winners. I think it’s because we have so much fun.”
And that’s an understatement. On Monday, they didn’t care about the cold or the rain or another practice. They were all smiles, laughing and goofing around without a care in the world.
Many seniors at this point of their high school careers have one foot out the door and are counting down the days until they flip the page to the next chapter of their young lives. Three of the 4×800 relay runners are seniors and they aren’t going to be cheated out of one second of their final days at Pioneer High School.
They also aren’t going to be cheated out of accomplishing their goals – and that’s simply being the best they can be. And their best is pretty darn good.
The Pioneers ran away at last year’s regionals with 164.5 points, 68 points better than second-place Skyline. In the 4×800 relay, these same four girls finished in 9:03.86 seconds with Saline a distant second at 9:40.71 and almost a minute better than the third-place team.
At last year’s state finals, Pioneer’s fabulous foursome took first place in a school-record time of 8:56.52 – and even at this level, they ran away with the gold. Waterford Mott took second in 9:14.99. The D-1 state record in the 4×800 relay was set by Grosse Pointe South in 2012 with a time of 8:48.29.
The team then took their race to the top level and ran third last year at Nationals in Greensboro, N.C., with a time of 8:53.
This year, the 4×800-meter team’s best time is 9:04.85 clocked in a meet with Huron.
“This is not only the leading time in the state, but also in the nation,” said Shafer Boudreau, who has her own ideas on why these four girls have found such great success.
“All four girls have been running together since middle school,” she says. “Alice, Jacalyn, and Sydney are all seniors, while Anne is a junior. Thus, they know each other extremely well.”
But it comes back to attitude and approach.
“All have had success in individual events and all are very focused and dedicated to doing well,” she continued. “All are very supportive of each other. Although they all run similar events, they are not jealous of each other and all cheer for each other and all want the others to do well.
“In addition, all are great students. They know that academics come first and make sure that they are on top of their studies.”
This year’s Division 1 state track and field finals are June 3 at East Kentwood High School. The Regionals are May 19-20 at Saline High School.
And you can be certain that this group will be ready to go when the gun goes off.
“We are all pretty consistent and really good friends and we just work well together,” says Forsyth, the only junior of the four. “There is no drama or competition among the four of us. We just want to do the best we can.”
Dawes agrees that in this case, success is run on friendship.
“We are all friends and get along really well and I think that’s important,” she says. “We also push each other a lot.”
Overdier took the baton and ran with that point.
“We work really well together in practice and know how to push each other to make us better as a unit,” she says. “We have indoor track in the winter and cross country in the fall so we are always together and always working to be better.”
Hill is the only one of the four who plays another sport – and she plays that sport at a high level. She was All-State in field hockey and helped lead the Pioneers to three state titles. Hill will walk across the street next year and play field hockey for the University of Michigan.
While Hill is the anchor of this group, they all share equal responsibilities. They also share a passion for success and a fun, easy-going approach that seems to push them even faster across the finish line.