Ten years ago, two little third graders made their debut for the Danville track team.
Now Diamond Pace and Kaitlin Snapp are ready to close out their decade on the Admirals track team at the Class A championships on Thursday in Louisville.
“It’s really crazy. We’ve already had like a high school career, a college career plus two more,” Pace said.
“It’s a lifestyle. It’s not a one time thing, it’s something we’ve grown up with,” Snapp said. “So the fact it’s going to end, it’s like going off to college and ending your life with your parents.”
Snapp will be defending her title in the 1,600-meter run Thursday, where she has the best time coming into the meet. She will also run the 800, and expects to run the 3,200 and 1,600 relay.
Pace, who won the 300 hurdles last year, will defend her title in that event. She is also competing in the triple jump, 800 relay and 1,600 relay.
The 1,600 relay will finish off what has been a tremendous career by both girls.
“I think we both want to win, but I think more than anything, we both want to get our PRs,” Pace said. “That’s a big deal for us.”
“Yeah, just competing against ourself and I think like she said, we are competitive as far as placing at state, but also just taking it in for our last state,” added Snapp. “I just want to take everything in.”
It’s been a decade full of titles and success for the two.
Snapp first placed at state in 2005 when she finished third in the 3,200 as a fifth grader. Since then, she has won the 1,600 three times and finished runner-up once, and has won the 3,200 twice. Overall, she has placed at the state meet 11 times.
Pace finished eighth in the 300 hurdles and sixth in the triple jump in 2006 for her first trips to the medal stand. She has since won the 300 hurdles twice and finished runner-up once. She has two triple jump titles and finished second one time and also has 11 state medals.
While not competitors, Snapp did say each other’s success has helped them get better.
“We do different events, so we don’t really get to train together that much. But when we do we definitely push each other,” she said.
Pace gives a lot of credit to Snapp for helping her stick it out.
“I would have quit a long time ago if she wasn’t around,” Pace said. “She’s definitely the main reason I’ve done it for so long.”
And neither is sure what to think about their careers ending.
“It hasn’t hit me really. I mean, I’ve thought about it, but I havent thought about it,” Pace said. “Probably after state’s over. Or maybe right before, I’ll be really, really nervous knowing this is my last chance. It won’t be until state or after.”
“I thought about it (recently) and I was like, ‘Wow, we have 10 days until state.’ Which is weird,” Snapp said.
Danville coach Sadie Gambrel would prefer not to think about her two girls not being there after Thursday.
“I feel like it’s been years, but then I feel like it’s been yesterday,” she said. “I can still remember my first bus ride with them and they chattered to and from and I thought we were going to have to kill them because they would not shut up. And to this day, they still talk about as much. But I like it because they have grown over the years, and they are still best friends.”
Gambrel has always said where you find one, you’ll find the other, and that’s been the case just about since they started school.
“We were best friends in kindergarten, and maybe not so much in first and second grade,” Snapp said. “Then in the third grade, we both ended up running together on the track team without planning it, and we just became best friends.”
That friendship, Snapp said, sort of eases the sting of a less than stellar performance if the other does well.
“If I do bad in race, but Diamond does well, I can still feel happy,” she said. “And if we both do well, that makes it even better. It’s like something to balance it out and give you perspective on the race.”
What makes them so close? That was a question that both of them burst out laughing as they almost finished each other’s thoughts:
Snapp: “We tell each other everything.
Pace: “That’s true. We dont’ get into fights.”
Snapp: “And we laugh at the same type of stuff. Probably inappropriately at times. Like sometimes, it’s not funny, but we know each other well.”
Pace: “Too well.”
Snapp: “And we both just start laughing. It’s embarrassing.”
Pace: “We both just think the same way.”
They definitely had some good moments that made them laugh, but most of those came at the expense of Pace.
“Anytime something embarrassing happens, it happens to Diamond and I’m there,” Snapp said.
“Some of it was caused by her,” Pace was quick to note. “I was in third grade and Kaitlin and I always warmed up together. But one day she was late to practice and I was going to wait for her but I kind of had to go to the bathroom. So the older girls ran the laps with me and then I was heading off to the bathroom and (Snapp) got there and was like, ‘Hey want to do laps with me.’ Sure, I have to go to the bathroom, but I can wait until later. So in the middle of running, I wet my pants on the track. It was so embarrassing.”
“It happened in a 200, so after it happened she just ran to the finish line,” Snapp said. “She was so quiet and I was sitting there and said, ‘Miss Sadie, Diamond wet her pants,’ and Miss Sadie was like, ‘Don’t say that in front of the boys.’”
Did she live it down?
“Finally, because everybody has gone,” Pace said, showing exactly how long they have been around.
She had more.
“One time I was at a meet and I was taking off my pants to go run. They had already called last start and we were almost late to the event and they were lining up and I was taking off my warmup sweats. I took my shorts off with it and she had to shield me while I got my shorts back on,” Pace said. “And I was getting my spikes caught on it, it was really embarrassing.”
They can laugh at each other, but they are also each other’s biggest cheerleaders.
“I hate it when I’m at a meet she’s not at. I run terrible. I don’t know if it’s mentally, I just feel it’s easier if she’s there because she’s gone through similar things,” said Snapp, who cheered on Pace in 2009 when she missed the season with a foot injury.
“She doesn’t have events with (starting) blocks, but she always hold my blocks,” Pace said. “And I like just having here right there.”
Both girls are good students, and they said as tough as balancing school and athletics can get, it’s the way they like it.
“The more I have on my schedule, the easier it is to stay focused and give it my all in everything I’m doing,” Snapp said. “I like volunteering when I have a chance and being able to help out with the school in other areas besides running.”
Pace also likes to act, and will study that at Western. She wasn’t so sure keeping busy was good for her at first, but has come to realize it makes her focus on everything else.
“I used to not think that. My mom used to say, ‘No you can’t quit track because you’ll get lazy,’” Pace said.
There may too many memories to count for the two, but Snapp said some of the best came when they were younger.
“Danville was a team that everyone knew. It was a small team with a lot of power. We worked hard in practice,” Snapp said.
“Everyone was just good at everything,” Pace, who noted they were on the team before recent college graduate Allie Payne was even in high school, said.
Snapp said it was both fun and sad to be the youngest members of the team.
“I remember when we were younger they were all saying were going to watch you grow up. but in reality we were watching them grow up, too,” Snapp said. “We see them going into college and we’re stuck in this (world) and we’re Just hanging around.”
While they may have been cute novelties to other teams when they were in elementary school, that stopped once they started beating their older competitors.
“We used to hate that because when we were in elementary school we would go into the bathroom and go different places and they’d be like, ‘What grade are you in’ and we’d be like third and they’d all say ‘Aah,’” Pace said. “We got the ‘Aah’ all the time.”
Well, that was until they started wining titles.
“We got in middle school and it stopped,” Pace said.
Thursday will be the last time the two will compete together, and they are off to different colleges in the fall. Pace is going to Western, Snapp will continue to run track and cross country at Elon.
They both have their own lives now, and different things they are interested in. Still, they always find a way to connect, and both say that won’t change just because they are hundreds of miles away.
“It’s going to be difficult because I can’t just run and tell her something,” Pace said.
“It’s going to take a lot of texts, phone calls, Skype and Facebook,” Snapp added.
Gambrel said it will be hard for her to say goodbye to two girls she saw grow up and become not just great athletes, but great students and people.
“I love them. I’m going to miss them royally because they came in with a group of my girls that had the discipline, structure, heart and desire and they’re the last of that group, and now I’m training a new group to let them see what it’s all about,” she said. “It’s not just on the track, it’s how you carry yourself, how you do things and this will carry over into life and that’s what I try to stress to them.”