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Saugus' Rachel Eaton: Assuming her role

Saugus three-sport athlete Rachel Eaton found her calling in track and field

Posted: April 29, 2013 10:58 p.m.
Updated: April 29, 2013 10:58 p.m.

Saugus senior Rachel Eaton won the Foothill League title in the high jump as a sophomore, and she's in contention to add another title this year.

 

Every team has to have its role players.

Those are the ones that start every game and contribute in their own way, but rarely get much publicity.

They aren’t the ones who sink the game-winning jump shot in basketball and they aren’t the ones who slam the match-winning kill in volleyball.

But when it comes to track and field, a role player like Saugus High senior Rachel Eaton has no choice but to stand out.

Though she’s been playing team sports most of her life and played varsity basketball and volleyball at Saugus, Eaton has found her most individual success as a varsity jumper.

“I think she could go CIF,” says Saugus jumps coach Andy Dahring. “I think she’s got that potential. She has that ability. In practice, she doesn’t shy away from running or doing whatever is necessary.”

Eaton’s specialty is the high jump, though she also competes in the long and triple jumps.

Her mark of 5 feet, 2 inches in the high jump at the Santa Clarita Valley Invitational on March 2 still stands as tied for best in the Foothill League this season.

Eaton has also posted marks that sit at top 10 in the league in both the long and triple jumps.

As a sophomore, she won a Foothill title in the high jump, which prompted her to go out of her way to improve in her other two events.

But that’s only when she has time to work on them when basketball and volleyball aren’t in session.

To Eaton though, neither one was worth sacrificing.

“I feel like I could do so much better if I would have taken my time to practice it (individually),” Eaton says of her potential in track and field. “I just get wrapped up in the sport I’m playing and want to focus on that.”

But it’s never been her style to pour all her focus into one sport.

She’s played both basketball and volleyball for roughly eight years apiece, and only started doing track and field full-time in high school.

An injury her freshman year kept her off the field for most of league competition, so it wasn’t until her sophomore season when she emerged as one of the league’s top jumpers.

Even so, it was never Eaton’s intention to specialize in any one athletic endeavor.

“I think she just has some fun out there,” says track and field teammate Monica Allen. “I think it’s just something to get her mind off things.”

Eaton herself described her motivation for sports by simply saying, “It’s fun to do and, I don’t know, I like just going out there, trying my best and having fun.”

But don’t mistake her nonchalant attitude for someone who doesn’t care.

That’s just her approach, according to Allen, a longtime friend of Eaton’s.

“I think she likes to win,” Allen says. “She likes to be a part of a team and work hard for other people.”

It certainly seems winning finds its way to Eaton.

She was a middle blocker/outside hitter for Saugus’ 2011 Foothill League championship team and she was a wing for Saugus’ girls basketball team, which won a league crown that same season.

And given her 5-foot-9 stature and superior jumping abilities gained through years of playing those two sports, her success in the high jump makes sense.

“She’s got great quickness,” says Saugus volleyball head coach Zach Ambrose. “She’s not the fastest. If you put her in a 100-meter dash, she probably doesn’t do that well, but her first step is really good and that helps out her explosiveness.”

In basketball, Eaton switched from wing to a forward/center position as a senior. Despite the position change, she quietly led the team with 138 blocks and averaged 6.8 points per game.

She also had to make a switch in volleyball this year after the team lost numerous key players to graduation. Eaton was asked to play just about everywhere she was needed this past season, but she finished with a respectable 123 kills and 49 blocks.

But her days as a role player may be over as Friday’s Foothill League track and field finals approach.

That will be her chance to play the role of a champion.

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