Oak Park senior sprinter Anna Jefferson doesn’t feel the love.
“We’ll be running in a meet out of state, and people ask me where I’m from, and I’ll tell them I run with the Motor City Track Club, and they’ll say ‘Oh, we don’t like you,’ ” said Jefferson.
It’s the same when she’s running with her Oak Park team, the two-time defending Division 1 girls track and field champions.
“When we say we’re from Oak Park, teams in the state don’t like us,” said Jefferson.
There’s a reason for the jealousy. Dominance has its privileges. Oak Park has won its last two state titles by a combined 80.5 points.
If you want to beat Oak Park you better train year-round and you better have talent, which the Knights have in abundance.
“We did pretty well indoors, hopefully we’ll have better expectations for outdoors,” said Jefferson on a breezy spring afternoon this week. “I think we lost four or five from last year’s team. Hoping that we have a better outdoor season than we had last year. High expectations for everyone.”
Locally and nationally, you can find Jefferson, a senior headed to Virginia, or Ohio State-bound Brianna Holloway, near the top of the record books — along with several of the Knights’ relay teams.
So the jealousy is justified.
“Robert Lynch was my coach at Mumford and Chris Richards helps us out and he’s a Hall of Fame coach too,” said Brandon Jiles, Oak Park’s head coach. “They make things a lot easier for me. Chris works with the sprinters and Coach Lynch does everything. He’s the Godfather of the program.
“They’ve been a tremendous help to me, and we kind of learn from each other. Chris ran for Lynch at Pershing and he was a state champion and All-American. It was the same thing for me. We come from a pretty good track pedigree I’d like to think.
“This group of girls … to be representing Michigan nationally, it’s something that hasn’t been done in Michigan in a long time. We’ve helped raise the level of girls track in the state because everybody is chasing us. Everybody’s getting better and working to beat us.”
Don’t think the talent dwindles when Holloway and Jefferson graduate this year.
Sophomore Dorriann Coleman finished second in the state in the 800-meter run (to graduated teammate Ersula Farrow) and has her sights set on the title. Oh, she already was on a winning relay team as a freshman. Juniors Carlita Taylor and Tamea McKelvy are returning stalwarts.
“I had a busy summer,” said Coleman. “We did JO (Junior Olympics), won the four by 400. I ran the 800. Wished I could have run better, but I’ll keep working on it.”
Her older sister, Drew, is just a junior and will be a relay team member.
Then there’s Janae Barksdale, a freshman blazer who built her reputation in junior high.
“We’re kind of all the same,” said Holloway. “Everybody ran track in the summer. We all ran track before.”
There won’t be any letup for the Knights in their race for a third straight state title.
“You have stay dedicated and focused and make sure you know what you have to do,” said Holloway. “For me, I just stay focused. Mentally, you get kind of tired running year-round, but you wouldn’t start running track if you didn’t know what you were getting into.
“For me, I don’t think about it. I just run. I have fun running. Physically, it gets kind of tiring. Your legs get tired, but you just take every day and recover and finish. We don’t talk about three in a row. I just run.”
Contact Perry A. Farrell: 313-222-2555 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @farrellperry.
Oak Park’s quick hits
According to Jeff Hollobaugh, editor of Michtrack.org:
■The 4-by-200 relay team is ranked fourth in the country at 1:38.35.
■The 4-by-400 relay team has run 3:40.69, No. 3 in high school history.
■In 2014, Brianna Holloway ran a 59.89 in the 400 hurdles.
■In 2015, the 4-by-400 relay team ran a 3:36.72, the No. 4 time in U.S. history.
■In 2015, the sprint medley relay team ran a 3:56.35, the No. 21 time in U.S. history.
■Jefferson’s outdoor time of 53.50 in the 400 is No. 3 all-time in Michigan.
■Jefferson’s 24.03 in the 200-meter dash is No. 8 all-time in the state of Michigan.
■In 2014, the 4-by-100-meter relay team ran 47.35, second all-time in Michigan.
■That same year the 4-by-200 relay team ran 1:38.15, second all-time in Michigan.
■The school’s 4-by-400 relay team has eclipsed 3:50 a total of 12 times outdoors.