Sisters add unique dynamic to track and field team

By Liz Vukelich, Daily Sports Writer
Published April 4, 2011

Sometimes before a meet, sophomore Erin Pendleton gets nervous.

The thrower for the Michigan women’s track and field team goes quiet and there’s only one other person on the team who can calm her nerves.

These two have trained together for years. They work together to become the best athletes possible. Between practices, meets and life together as roommates, they see a lot of each other.

They also happen to share genes.

Erin's sister, Emily, who's a senior thrower on the team, is not the only Wolverine who gets to experience Michigan’s track team with a sibling — the Pendletons are joined by mid-distance runners, junior Nicole and redshirt sophomore Chloe Prince, and pole-vaulters, redshirt senior Andrea and freshman Erica Marcos.

Erica remembers seeing her sister succeed at the collegiate level, which encouraged her to try it too.

“(Andrea) really liked it a lot,” Erica said. “I didn’t really think that I could make a varsity team, but knowing that she did kind of paved the way and gave me a lot of confidence to try out.”

Having an older sister who had already experienced the transition to college athletics mitigated the shock for the younger ones. Emily remembers the advice she gave Erin before her arrival on campus — that there are a lot of good athletes out there, but success is possible with hard work.

While members of the team refer to themselves as a “track family,” having a real sibling on the team only solidifies that feeling. Track and field has provided the perfect opportunity for these sisters to re-unite after several years of separation.

“When (Emily) left high school, we went our separate ways — we talked to each other every once in a while,” Erin said. “Since I came here, we live together and we’ve gotten a lot closer.”

Though each pair participates in the same event, there is not the high-pressure competition that exists among many siblings. Instead of trying to outdo the other, each utilizes her sister as an essential training tool. Practices provide the opportunity to critique and give suggestions for improvement. This encouragement is especially helpful for those who participate in technique-oriented field events.

“During practices, (Emily) says little things that try to help me get better,” Erin said. “Those are really helpful because at the beginning of the season I was a little rusty.

“It’s not about who’s the better thrower, it’s about who’s got the better technique. We just want to work together to get a great outcome.”

That doesn’t mean that a little friendly competition doesn’t exist, though.

“We compete to an extent where it helps each other in workouts, but not to any point where it’s in a negative way,” Chloe said.

The sisters cite spending time with each other as the greatest perk of being on the same team. Practices give the sisters a chance to catch up, especially on the two days each week when class conflicts force the Princes to work out separately from the team.

Having a sister on the team also proves to be an invaluable resource during the offseason. Finding someone who understands the demands associated with college athletics proves difficult when looking for the perfect training partner. With their siblings, the athletes have a continuous source of motivation at home, which makes staying in shape while on break an easier task.

Since making the decision to don the block ‘M,’ all enjoy how much closer they've become with their sisters. While most, like Erica, believe competing with a sibling has given more meaning to their time on the team, Emily insists it hasn’t had that big of an impact on her relationship with Erin.

“I don’t know if (our relationship) really has changed,” she said. “We’ve grown older, but I don’t think it’s changed because of track. We’ve become more mature. We’re not the same people that we were in high school.”

But not one of them denies that sharing this experience provides a dynamic that is different from how the rest of their teammates will spend their time as Wolverines.

“(Erin) is always there,” Emily said. “I get to watch her succeed and I get to see her when she does great things.”