In the fall of 2013, Rachel Vick entered her freshman year without much fanfare. Having been a soccer player most of her life, she decided to run cross country at the middle school.
Her top performance in a race as an 8th grader was an 8th place finish at the South Jersey Open. However, she finished that 1.5 mile race 1 minute 25 seconds behind the race winner, running prodigy Briana Gess of Haddonfield.
No one ever expected that Vick would ascend to that same lofty status as Gess. While Gess went on to win the New Jersey Meet of Champions title in the mile and qualified for the National Championships during her freshman year, Vick quietly improved to become a conference champion in the 2-mile, but, boy, did things change after that.
Fast forwarding to Vick’s senior year, the state, regional, and national cross country and track communities all became well versed in Vick’s running exploits, after racking up a long list of high profile wins. Even with her sophomore year being cut short with a stress fracture and her junior year being comprised with anemia due to an iron deficiency, she would not be denied in her final act on the biggest stages during her senior year.
After a cross country season where Vick finished one spot behind Gess at the New Jersey state championships, running one of the fastest times ever recorded by a South Jersey runner at the state championships, she really would become a household name on the track.
During the winter track season, she won the New Jersey State Group 4 Championship in the mile. A few weeks later, she won the Eastern States Championship in New York City. She concluded her season at the National Championships where she missed All-American status by 1.6 seconds.
Along the way, she finished the winter season as the fastest miler in New Jersey- seven seconds faster than the formerly untouchable Briana Gess. However, this only served to motivate her for a spring track season for the ages.
She won the Gloucester County championship in the mile. She won the 800, mile, 2-mile, and 4×800 relays at the South Jersey Group 4 championships, becoming only the fourth girl in state history to win four events in the same meet. She won the mile and 2-mile titles at the New Jersey Group 4 State Championships. Her mile time was 4 minutes 49 seconds.
At the New Jersey Meet of Champions, she finally garnered the one signature win that defines every true New Jersey track legend- a Meet of Champions title. In one of the most thrilling races in recent state history, she came from behind to get her first title.
A few weeks later Vick concluded her unparalleled career at the New Balance Outdoor National Championships in Greensboro, North Carolina, where she finished fourth in the 2-mile run in 10 minutes 29 seconds. This earned her All-American status in her final high school meet, standing on the tall award podium with girls no one dreamed she would accompany four years earlier.
Having signed a full-ride scholarship to the University of Connecticut during the early signing period, she enters her first collegiate cross-country season with a legitimate shot of being their top runner as a freshman. Unlike her first go-around as a freshman, albeit at the high school level, the expectations are immense, and Vick knows that her possibilities are limitless.
“I’ve learned so much about myself during my time at Kingsway,” said Vick. “I’ve become confident in myself and know that I control my own destiny. I know I have challenges ahead of me, but I have so much experience overcoming odds and obstacles. I am ready and excited for the challenges ahead.”
Now that certainly does not sound like that quiet little girl from 2013. That sounds like the words of a state champion, an All-American, an all-time Kingsway great, and one of the best runners in New Jersey cross country and track history.
Things certainly have changed.
By Christian Lynch