If you’re Ellie Saunders and Jerrica Pachl, how do you top last year’s feat of standing atop the podium together as state champion and state runner-up?
The answer, the two Seton Catholic senior high jumpers say, is elementary.
“Do it again,” Pachl said.
Teammates whose friendship blossomed through track and field, Saunders and Pachl said it felt fitting — “a perfect scenario,” they said — to end their junior seasons last spring placing first and second at the Class 1A state meet.
By the time the competition reached 5 feet, 2 inches, Saunders and Pachl were the lone high jumpers remaining.
Pachl cleared 5-3 and Saunders jumped 5-5 to set a school record. She became Seton’s second track and field state champion, and first at the 1A level.
“I was really proud of us at that moment,” Saunders said.
“It showed that all of our hard work paid off,” added Pachl. “We’d been doing this all season, and we’ve been working for that.”
And working toward repeating the same feat in 2020. They’re teammates and friends, but admit sometimes are confused by others as sisters. They both stand just shy of 6 feet.
As friends, they push each other to perform at their best. As teammates, they want the best for each other.
“That’s the competitive side of each other,” Pachl said.
“I always want Jerrica to succeed,” added Saunders, “and I know it goes both ways.”
Saunders has found a home at Seton, and a new one next season high jumping for Azusa Pacific University. She wasn’t an athlete before coming to Seton from Washougal High her sophomore year. That’s when she first met Pachl, and turned out for track and field.
It’s been an experience unlike any other, Saunders said, “to compete with another person, but also have a close friend on the team to help you.”
For Pachl, it’s equally rewarding, but in a different way. A torn knee ligament during soccer season sophomore year meant she couldn’t high jump.
Instead, she focused on the 400- and 800-meter runs and helped mentor Saunders, who placed sixth at state in her first year high jumping.
Now, after standing atop the podium together as juniors, Saunders and Pachl don’t plan to slow down in their senior seasons.
“We’re just going to work harder,” Pachl said.