A bit of friendly family competition could mean more state medals for Jody + Alicia Evans and Q-town

Alicia and Jody Evans have long been competitive with each other - whether it is racing on a street in their neighborhood, or on the track. But this year, for the first time, it's on the same team. And the result could be two, and maybe three medals at the PIAA Track & Field State Championships.

For retiring Quakertown head coach Jack Sabol, it has been a great way to spend his final season, watching again as young athletes discover new events and learn just how fast they really are.

For this sibling pair of junior Alicia (right) and freshman Jody-Ann (left), it has been all part of what he saw coming a few years ago.

As every track coach knows, most kids join the team as sprinters. And it's the coach's responsibility to help them discover their true calling. Sometimes it is the short stuff. But sometimes they have to run more than a straightaway. And Alicia and Jody are perfect examples.

Alicia set school records in the 100 and 200 in middle school.

Last year, Jody broke those records.

So for her first two years in high school while her sister was breaking her records, Alicia was quite happy with the 100 and 200. The 400 was not in the equation. "Most kids think the 200 is distance," says Sabol. "So you have to take your time."

Her freshman year, Alicia played basketball and injured her ankle. So her outdoor was maybe not as successful as it might have been. She did make the District 1 meet in the 100 and 200, but only advanced to the state meet in the 200 where she advanced to the semis. Not a bad start for a frosh.

For her sophomore year, with some helpful advice from her father, she retired from basketball. Sprained ankles don't make great runners.

Coach Sabol could tell that Alicia was really a 400 meter runner. And Alisha knew, he knew.

"Since freshman year, coach has been telling me the 400 would be my event. But I didn't believe it, so I just stayed in the 100 and 200," Alicia admits.

Her sophomore indoor campaign was moderatly successful. She had a season best of 27.17 in the 200 at the DVGTCA Meet of Champs. But better things were coming once the oval lengthened.

Alicia dropped to 26.0h early in the season; dipped below 26 for the first time by late April, and ran a near-season best 25.25 in the semis of the 200 at the PIAA State meet before taking home a 6th place medal in the AAA final. (She had run her season PR of 25.02 in the semis at her district meet.) Alicia had also qualified in the 100, but did not advance out of the semis.

Still, she had a state medal, and she held both the 100 and 200 school records.

That is until this year.

After breaking both her older sister's 100 and 200 records in middle school, Jody came into her freshman year with some confidence, especially at the shorter distance.

"I always win the 100. She always wins the 200," Jody states matter-of-factly.

And matter-of-factly, she is absolutely right.

Jody also left the basketball court behind for the good of her track. "I was a good rebounder, though" she shares.

She was a better sprinter.

Right off the gun during indoor, she started posting top state times in the 60 meter dash. She had PRed with a 7.87 during the trials at the DVGTCA Meet of Champs, and used that qualifier to position herself for the PTFCA Indoor State Championships.

Unintimidated by the venue or the competition, Jody proceeded to move through three rounds of the 60 dash, setting a PR of 7.74 in the first round, before finishing with a 7.86 and a 7th place medal.

Meanwhile, Alicia was running a season-best of 25.44 in the 200, which was good enough for 11th place.

Sabol had the opportunity he had been waiting for.

"When Jody came up, I told Alicia she'd have to do the 200 and a couple of 400's in some dual meets," Sabol says.

Both girls are on the state-qualifying 4x100, and the 4th seeded 4x400 relays for the PIAA state champs, but at the mid-point of the season, Alicia was still coming around in her transition to a 400-meter runner.

In early March, she ran a 62-point 400. In April it was a 60. And her splits in the 4x400 were even more telling, because at the Penn Relays, she went 56-low and used a 55.9 anchor at the early May Trojan Classic to catch a strong Gwynedd Mercy anchor.

So everything was in place. Jody was the 100 specialist. Alicia was beginning to own the 400. And in the middle, both were very, very good in the 200.

So good, they went one-two in the event at the Suburban One League (SOL) Continental Championships the week before the district meet. Running in different heats on the first day of the two-day meet, Jody had run a PR of 25.78 to take the top seed going into Saturday. Alicia had won the first of the four heats of the trials in 26.05.

So coming into Saturday, they literally were the top seeds in both the 100 and 200.

And that is how they finished in both races.

In the 100, it was Jody in 12.23, her second-best time of the season to that point. Alicia ran 12.38, a season best, and 2nd only to her PR of 12.27 from 2009.

In the 200, it was a battle.

Alicia says she didn't get a great start, and that hurt her time. But no one had told Jody just to line up and finish second. "I was trying, but I really couldn't push myself hard enough to beat her. But I tried," Jody shares.

From Sabol's perspective, it was a battle. "As they came around the turn, they were even."

Jody would PR in a 25.06, while Alicia would dip under 25 for the first time, going 24.78.

"Alicia would not be running these time if it weren't for Jody," Sabol offers.

But it was Alicia's stunning 400 final that surprised a lot of people. In only her third race in the event in the open, she started in lane seven. "She attacked it," says her coach, "because she didn't know where everyone was."

The attack led to a PA#1 and huge PR of 55.46. And she may have gone faster, she says, because when she realized she had it won, she pulled up.

The sisters would end the week as the #1 and #3 seeds in the 200 for the upcoming District 1 Championships.

But a showdown in the event was not to be.

Each would go with their strength. They scratched the 200 for districts.

Sabol says he doesn't like his athletes to over-race because he'd rather see them be more successful at fewer events, than just moderately successful at more events.

Plus, there's the team aspect. Both girls are on the 4x100 and both on the 4x400, each on the prime leg – Jody carrying the stick the longest possible time on the 2nd leg of the 4x100, and Alicia, of course, anchoring the 4x400, where they are the #4 seed.

So each will go into the first day of the state meet fresh. And if all goes as planned – Jody is the #6 seed in the 100 after her third place 12.22 at districts; and Alicia is the #1 seed in the 400 after her comfortable 55.53 at districts – each will be fresh for their individual finals on Saturday.

Sabol is optimistic. And not just about this weekend's meet.

"Jody is a true sprinter. Just pure strength," he says.

And he sees Alicia's potential as virtually unlimited. He sees her with a shot at going under 55, and by the time she graduates in 2011, "she could be in the 53's."

Alicia sees her sister as continuing to push her in the 400 as well as the 200 next year. "She has run a 58, and hopefully next year will be in the 55's," Alicia says.

But while Coach Sabol will probably get to see the evolution of these two runners, he won't be their coach next year.

Alicia will miss him. In fact, she tried to make a deal with him that if she won a state title, he'd stay.

But she is realistic. "He's not going to do it. He says he taught me all these things, and he can't hold my hand all the way."  She pauses... "It's true."

With all the competition they need coming from within the family, Alicia and Jody should be just fine.