FAIRMONT – Minneapolis Edison High School and Fairmont High School are more than 150 miles apart, but that doesn’t stop the Edison Tommies from taking part in the annual Fairmont Sentinel Relays.
In fact, hardly anything outside of bad weather can stop Edison’s Lewis sisters, Minnesota’s most dynamic sprinting duo. Friday’s 61st edition of the Sentinel Relays was cut short by lightning with four races remaining. By that time, Jada and Jia Lewis had already made their presence known in the competition that includes 16 girls and boys team, most of them from southern Minnesota.
Between Jada (a junior) and Jia (a sophomore), they already own four individual state titles and one relays crown. Their performance in Fairmont was typical: Jia won the Class 2A 100 and 200 meters, while Jada won the 400 and finished third in the long jump. They also were members of the winning 4x200 relay team and were likely to be part of the first-place 4x100 relay team, but that was one of the events lost to the weather.
The Sentinel Relays were just another step in a season that leads to the state meet, June 10-11 at Hamline University in St. Paul. That has become the Lewis sisters' playground.
“We’ve been running since we were really young,” Jada said. “We officially started to run in fourth or fifth grade. Every coach we’ve ever had has taught us how to improve and keep going. We can always learn more.”
At last year’s Class 1A state championships, Jia and Jada finished 1-2 in the 100, Jada won the 200, they teamed with Linda Senephanh and Marianna Cress to win the 4x100 relay, and Jada was seventh in the long jump. All those medals pushed Edison to second place in the team race behind Belle Plaine.
At the 2014 state meet, Jia finished first and Jada was third in both the 100 and 200, and those points were enough to give Edison the state team championship.
Their goals this season are simple: improve their times and distances, set school records and win more medals at state. But the sisters also are all about team.
“We want to keep encouraging our 4x1 and 4x2 runners, so we can be better when it comes time for state,” Jia said.
The sisters’ impact on the track team at Edison cannot be underestimated. When Ernest Sutton became head coach of the girls team five years ago, the combined roster for the girls and boys teams consisted of six athletes. This year there are about 80 kids out for track.
“They’re excellent leaders, excellent kids,” Sutton said of Jada And Jia. “They’re like second coaches.”
The Lewis sisters’ influence extends down to the middle-school level, where they encourage participation and improvement to students who look up to them.
“Our middle schoolers get down on themselves sometimes,” Jada said. “They’ll say things like, ‘Oh, we’re not as good as you.’ And we’re like, ‘We were in the same situation you guys were in. You guys have so much potential. If you keep working, you guys will be just as good as us.’ And that’s without a doubt the honest truth. We say that to the freshmen and sophomores, too. We constantly tell that to everybody: ‘You can do it. Just keep working hard.’ ”
The sisters work hard at lots of things. They are members of the National Honor Society at Edison, they are active in the community and in school. Jada is a captain on the basketball team and Jia is a manager on the football team.
Sutton first came to Fairmont for the Sentinel Relays when he was an athlete at Minneapolis North.
“It was a great experience as a city program coming down to Fairmont and this wonderful track meet,” he said. “I wanted these kids to have the same experience.”
He first coached the Lewis sisters when they were involved in youth track and field programs. When he became a coach at Edison, he encouraged them to be part of the track team.
“We didn’t think we would ever make it to state,” Jia said.
But here they are, among the top high school athletes in Minnesota, as well as contributing to their school and their community.
“Those young ladies are great student-athletes,” Sutton said. “They work hard in the classroom and they work hard on the track. They’re not just track athletes. They’re well-rounded students. It’s a joy to have them and coach them. They’ve made an impact on the track but also on the whole community at Edison.”
BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 672
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2015-16: 10,611