NEENAH - The last three years Alison, Jennifer and Jessica Parker have been three of the best distance runners in the area and they just happen to be sisters.
This postseason will be the last time they compete together as Alison is a senior. It's been quite a ride for this Neenah trio, and for Alison the end of her high school career means the end of competing with her sisters.
"Kind of bittersweet having it come to a close like this," said Alison, who will run cross country and track at Marquette, starting next fall. "I've had a great career, I love all my teammates. It's just sad knowing it's coming to an end, but I know I have great things in my future."
Twin sisters Jennifer and Jessica also realize the end is near and they know what Alison has meant to them.
"We're really lucky to have an older sister on the team," Jennifer said. "She's kind of showed us the way and been an excellent leader."
"We're going to miss her a lot because she always pushed us," Jessica said. "She always encourages us to do our best."
Michael Heidke has witnessed the sisters grow and compete with each other over the years and said as a coach the Parkers have been special.
"They're a great group of girls to work with," he said. "They work very hard, they're dedicated. They know how to have fun and they know how to incorporate their teammates with them in terms of different activities and workouts. Just been a real pleasure to have the last four years."
The sisters run against each other in the 800-, 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs. And just like off the track, they always seem to finish close to each other when they race.
"I can tell it's her by her footsteps or the way she's breathing," Alison said of Jennifer. "It's really exciting when it's her, not somebody else. It's awesome coming down the homestretch and looking to your side and seeing your sister finish with you."
This past week each of the sisters won an event at the Fox Valley Association meet and in the process Neenah ended Kimberly's six-year run as league champs. For the Parkers, there couldn't have been a better way to take down the Papermakers.
"Very cool having us each win an event," Alison said. "That's the best possible thing that could've happened. I'm so proud of Jessica and Jennifer, and the rest of our team. We can't win a meet with just three people. The whole team had to step up."
Before the FVA meet, though, the Parkers competed in even a bigger meet — the Penn Relays — the largest track and field competition in the United States that includes athletes from high school, college and track clubs.
The Parkers and Claire Knaus competed in the 3,200 relay and placed 12th at Franklin Field on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania. Running in front of thousands of fans was quite an experience.
"Just running there, there was a lot more energy," Jessica said. "Everyone there loves track and field like us. Going down the homestretch was so exciting with so much cheering."
The Parker sisters have been running all their lives together but this postseason will be the last at Neenah with Alison graduating. For them, it's been quite an experience.
"I just can't even express the experience having them as sisters and it's been the greatest couple years of my life and I'm just happy they've been able to share it with me," said Alison, trying to fight back tears.
"I love running with my sisters," Jennifer said. "They're just so encouraging and they push me every day. I'm just really lucky to have them."
"We have it really lucky that we are so similar in age and have such similar preferences," Jessica said. "I know a lot of other family members aren't like that. We're so close and our running, I think, makes us closer."
The state meet in two weeks will be the last time these three sisters run together for Neenah. They are the defending state champs in the 3,200 relay and, no doubt, winning another title together would be fitting.
"It'll probably be an emotional night, just knowing that was my last race in my high school career," Alison said. "I think I'll be happy, hopefully I'll be happy, and it'll just be a fun night celebrating what we've accomplished."
What the Parker sisters have accomplished, any family would be proud of.
Follow Doug Ritchay on Twitter @dougritchay
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