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Whistling through the Graveyard

The first thing you might notice about Jade Sanders ’24 is her impeccable posture. “Her back is straight, shoulders back — her arms fold in front of her or by her side. When she laughs, she laughs with her whole body. You can tell immediately that she is in control of every movement of her arms and legs, every push and pull of her muscles.” So it is no surprise that when Jade, an AFS track athlete, thinks about track practice, her first thoughts go to how the basics apply no matter where you are.

“Sprinting is all about the mechanics of movement,” explains Jade. “It’s about learning how to end a race with posture and form intact. That’s what makes an athlete amazing. We could practice on the track or in the graveyard — it’s not about where you practice or how fast you can go. It’s easy to get tired; it’s hard to feel like you’ve learned something.”

Jade SandersTrack athletes at AFS have grown familiar with the silence of the graveyard at Abington Monthly Meeting. They are especially appreciative of the canopy provided by the centuries old trees that protect them from the hot spring sun. There is no track at Abington Friends School, so students use the long flat paths between the headstones as a place to center themselves, take a deep breath and push themselves to the finish. It’s an almost spiritual practice, ritual and physicalism bound up in one. It’s no wonder the solemnity of the graveyard fits so perfectly.

Over the last three years, Jade has become a leader on the track team, with broken records to prove it. At the end of last year, Jade raced to a blistering personal and school record of 57.40 to place 1st overall in the Girls 400 Meters at the Pennsylvania Independent Schools Athletic Association State Championship Meet. But even though Jade primarily runs the 400-meter, an individual event, she finds that having the team around her is one of the most important parts of keeping her mind in check.

Jade competed in the State Indoor Tournament at Penn State as a junior. She was the only athlete from AFS to run, but that didn’t mean she was alone; three of her teammates joined her to cheer her on. “Malea ’28, Rihanna ’25, and Lena ’25 — they came three hours with me to watch me run,” she says. “And if they hadn’t come, I might not have been in the right headspace to win.”

Off the track, Jade does just as much: She loves her English and creative writing classes, is a co-clerk of Black Student Union, and is thinking about studying psychology in college. And when she talks about the track team, she always emphasizes the team. It doesn’t matter where they run, whether it’s form runs in the graveyard or hill runs behind the Farmhouse: What matters is that they’re all there, together.

“You’re only at your best when you come together,” explains Jade. “This year, I’m excited to be a senior on the team and really get to set that pace for everyone. Last year, I tried to bring a bunch of my friends out to try. I wanted to step into that leadership role, to show people that it’s not about being fast, it’s not about where you run — you just have to want to run. The rest takes care of itself.”

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