Track star commits to West Point

Leena Hussein, Senior Staff Writer

Senior Elizabeth Fetter (left) runs alongside teammate senior Hillary Studdert (right) at the third Santa Clara Valley Athletic League meet Oct. 18 at the Badlands. After placing high at the local and state level throughout high school, Fetter is committed to pursuing her athletic career at the United States Military Academy West Point for track and field. According to Fetter, placing in the state championships for cross country her freshmen year was a big motivator in pursuing the sport more seriously. “That [race] was the first time I’d done a travel trip with a high school team,” Fetter said. “I will never forget that that race, it was also was a big motivator in switching me towards the path of running because it went really well and it was racing at the high level. There was that feeling that runners get, the quintessential runner’s high.” (Photo: Caleb Wong)

“Who run the world? Girls. Who run this mutha? Girls.” The sound of Beyoncé’s ‘Run The World’ is sometimes heard being sung by the Palo Alto High Schools Girls’ track and field team as they warm up before a race. Among the runners is senior Elizabeth Fetter who usually chants this lyric to gain confidence before a meet.

By her freshman year, Fetter was already seen as one of the dominating forces in female athletics throughout the state. Now, she is preparing to continue her athletic career at the United States Military Academy West Point and will be recognized during Paly’s annual Signing Day, which honors athletic commits, at lunch Thursday in the Peery Gym.

Throughout her time at Paly, Fetter quickly climbed the local and state ranks. In her freshman year, Fetter assisted her team in winning the Central Coast Section track and field finals and individually placed 35th in the high school state championships. She did not lose stride, winning the CCS Division I girls’ race and placing fifth in state championships her junior year and 6th her senior year.

Fetter said West Point is the perfect place to continue her growth as an athlete as well as be a part of a hard-working community. According to Fetter, Paly history teacher John Bungarden first inspired her to consider the academy.

“Mr. Bungarden recommended that I look into [West Point], and he has served in the army,” Fetter said. “That instilled a little bit of self-pride in me. A lot of values that they shared, the cohesiveness, and the tight-knit community was appealing. I was blown away by the campus, and by the things that people say are so amazing about the community. This is an opportunity to serve something greater than myself, to serve the country, and explore this unique path that not many had the opportunity to go on.”

Fetter said the main appeal of running for West Point stretched beyond athletic opportunities.

“I hope I will be learning a lot about the military and athletics,” Fetter said. “I’m definitely excited about pursuing collegiate Division I running. But one of the really special things about West Point is that although I’m going there because I really liked the team, the school values more than just athletics. It focuses first and foremost on character. So I hope that I’ll be able to grow as a person and become a better leader and genuinely someone that is able to show by example.”

According to Fetter, she began high school as a swimmer and picked up running just in her freshman year. Fetter said she made the decision to pursue track and field seriously toward the end of her first season.

“I knew I wanted to do athletics in college, and it was a question of do I want to do swimming or running?” Fetter said. “It was more like, ‘Oh, see what you’re better at’ and do that one. It turned out I was pretty good at running and then there was also the fact that I started getting pretty burnt out from swimming because I’d been doing it for such a long time.”

Although swimming will continue to remain a constant sport in Fetter’s life, she said she is devoted to running at West Point.

“Right now I’m dedicating myself essentially only to running,” Fetter said. “I was also considering swimming on the side. But I know what it’s like to give half of myself to two sports or have one foot in each world. I know that West Point has a lot of other activities and events that you can do. So I don’t want to have to be juggling all of these things either.”

The struggle of being a high school athlete is no easy task, and Fetter said a big challenge for her was facing injuries. Fetter ran on a stress fracture her junior year which she said impacted her physical and emotional well-being.

“I was running on an injury that I was in denial about,” Fetter said. “I was trying to recuperate and it ended up being a long process, compounded by the fact that [junior year] is the main year for recruiting. So that [injury] was very challenging physically because I was injured but even more so emotionally because I couldn’t be with the team. I felt like I couldn’t show my true potential to coaches. I’m slowly learning to get over the fear of getting injured. It’s a hard process even now.”

Fetter said running has allowed her to develop skills not just as an athlete, but as a leader, and she hopes to continue developing as a person throughout her college career.

“It [running] has already taught me how to lead people, how to motivate people, and how to encourage them to truly do what they want to do instead of forcing people to do it,” Fetter said. “I’ve learned to manage my time, to be a more humble person, especially with those injuries. You realize running is fun, and it’s a good life activity, but it’s not the most important thing in the world. There are bigger things out there and I’m probably not going to be the best runner out there but I can have fun while I’m doing it.”