2022-223 Gazette Girls Indoor Track Athlete of the Year: Emma Sanford, South Hadley

By HANNAH BEVIS 

Staff Writer 

Published: 04-19-2023 4:16 PM

Emma Sanford has been a mainstay on the South Hadley track team for her entire high school career, rapidly climbing the ranks to becoming one of the best multi-event athletes in Western Mass. But while she’s been making every event she competes in look easy, it really wasn’t until this season that she felt like she was able to have a normal indoor track season.

“It's weird (being a senior). It's really strange. I feel like this was my first normal season since freshman year,” Sanford said. “I feel like I knew as much as everyone else did because it felt so new.”

The Tigers were able to get back indoors to practice at the facilities at Mount Holyoke, so Sanford was able to focus on learning techniques in practice rather than during meets like she did last year. As a result of that (and thanks to her incredible athletic ability), she was able to continue her success throughout the regular season and championship meets. 

Sanford won the 55-meter hurdles and the long jump at the MIAA Division 5 Championship, adding more titles to her already expansive collection. Last year, the then-junior picked up the indoor high jump championship and placed second in the 55 hurdles, as well as third overall in the pentathlon.

She competed in three events at the All-State meet in February, placing fourth in the 55 hurdles, 14th in the long jump and tying for 15th in the high jump. This year she also competed at the New Balance Indoor Nationals, her second consecutive time qualifying for the prestigious meet. She placed 10th overall in a field of 17 athletes with a score of 3,171 points.

She’s the undisputed queen of multi-events, and for that reason she was tabbed as the Daily Hampshire Gazette Girls Indoor Track Athlete of the Year for the second consecutive year. Sanford also picked up the honor in the 2021-22 outdoor season, making her a three-time winner.

“She definitely came in just naturally athletic and she has a lot of natural talent to her. But we've seen her really develop into a track athlete, and that change I think came a lot in her sophomore year. She came over to us one day and told us that she thinks she might be thinking of looking to track for college rather than soccer,” South Hadley head coach Kathleen Labrie said. “She was starting to see in herself, too, that this was a sport she was really good at.” 

That natural athletic ability is why Sanford gravitated toward the multi-events. When you’re competing in five or more events, you have to be an athlete who can do a little bit of everything. Sanford, who has committed to compete for the Lehigh University track team, spent her indoor season focusing specifically on the multis. Having access to an indoor track facility made a world of difference for her, especially since she’s often training in more than one event. 

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“This was probably the first year that I was able to actually practice long jump drills and actually (have) a consistent high jumping space and a shot put pit, because we've never had one in the past, so that definitely helped,” Sanford said. “And having a track to do speed workouts is a lot easier because you know the distance you're running already and you don't have to pace it out on like a turf field or anything.” 

Giving Sanford, an already incredibly athletic and technically strong competitor, more time and space to practice was a recipe for success. But Sanford is also an incredibly self-motivated person. She’s excited with the accolades and championships she wins, but is more focused on the time and marks she hits. She knows she has the potential to do great things, and she strives for those things – the medals and trophies are secondary. 

“I think she's incredibly competitive, but she's almost more competitive with herself, like seeing other girls beating her – she got to the state meet and she was really competitive. Even though she didn't come in first at the All-State meet, it was like, ‘Wow, that girl's form was really good,’” Labrie said. “So she's competitive with herself and gets really frustrated when she knows that she wasn't up at her highest level. But she really uses competition from others as a motivator rather than a stressor.” 

As a captain of a younger team, Sanford also took on more responsibility this year, leading the way as the Tigers looked to build depth. Heading into outdoor season, she’ll stay focused on the multi-events, constantly looking to improve at her various events to make her senior year a memorable – and interesting – one. 

“We can't force someone into doing all those events, especially when they don't want to, but she really liked it and I think she likes the variety,” Labrie said. “She gets a little bored of just one event, so she likes the variety of it all.” 

FIRST TEAM ALL-STARS

Kathleen Barry, eighth grader, Hampshire

Camilla Brewer, sophomore, Northampton

Tamar Byl-Brann, senior, Amherst

Keegan Butler, freshman, Hampshire

Caroline Crocker, senior, Frontier

Hannah Davis, sophomore, Frontier

Natalie Dunlap, eighth grader, Hampshire

Tess Geis-Benton, sophomore, Northampton

Leah Gump, junior, Frontier

Maggie Lashway, eighth grader, Hampshire

Sophia Leone, senior, Frontier

Eleanor Lewis, sophomore, Northampton

Norah Reade, senior, Northampton

Emma Sanford, senior, South Hadley

Summer Sobieski, senior, Frontier

Allie Sullivan, freshman, Northampton 

Anna Zamer, senior, Northampton

SECOND TEAM ALL-STARS

Ally Busone, sophomore, Northampton

Anna Dunlap, senior, Hampshire

Maddalena Figueroa-Starr, freshman, Northampton

Kira French, senior, Northampton

Ava Gaida, junior, Hampshire

Abigail Howard, senior, Frontier

Claire Kennedy, freshman, Amherst

Claire McFarland, sophomore, Frontier

Sasha Malo, sophomore, Frontier

Lilly Novak, sophomore, Frontier

Perla Ordaz, sophomore, Frontier

Audrey Perrone, junior, Hampshire

Nicole Plasse, junior, Frontier

Courtnegail Rose, senior, Amherst

April Schilling, senior, Amherst

Lily Zamer, senior, Northampton

HONORABLE MENTION 

Madelyn Antes, freshman, Frontier

Maia Christensen, seventh grader, Frontier

Ella Hendricks, sophomore, Northampton

Lila Hensley, senior, Northampton

Emilia Luetjen, freshman, Amherst

Micky McCarthy, junior, Frontier

Bevin Montgomery-Gehrt, senior, Amherst

Juliana Shepard, senior, Amherst

Charlotte Shimpach, freshman, Northampton 

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