Parker sisters approaches the finish line of collegiate careers
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Jennifer, Allison and Jessica Parker all grew up together as sisters. This year, they’re doing something else together: running their final season for Marquette track and field.
All three sisters are accomplished. Allison, the oldest of the sisters, has earned All-BIG EAST honors every season at Marquette with the exception of her sophomore campaign when she was dealing with injuries. Jennifer is coming off an All-BIG EAST season as well, highlighted by earning gold medal in the 3,000 meters. Jessica, who is Jennifer’s identical twin, owns the school record in the indoor and outdoor 800-meter events.
The Parker sisters grew up running in Neenah, Wisconsin, a city about 100 miles north of Milwaukee. “Our parents actually met on the track team in college,” Jessica said. “So running has always been in our family.”
That applies to Chris, the older brother of all three girls and a former track athlete. “He paved the way for us a little bit,” Jennifer said of Chris. “We saw he had a lot of success in college, and we thought to ourselves, ‘We could all do that too.”
During each sister’s freshman year of high school, their father Jeff encouraged them to focus on one sport. The choice was between soccer and running, and they all made the same choice.
“For me I always just assumed I would run in college,” Jennifer said. “Not necessarily Division I, but I knew I wanted to run wherever I went.”
The Parkers didn’t always plan on attending the same school. Allison knew she wanted to stay close to home and felt Marquette was a good fit. Both sisters saw that and chose to follow.
“Coach Nelson reached out to us with an individualized note, unlike the generic note that most coaches send,” Jessica said. “So that piqued my interest and when I would visit Allison, I just see the positive culture of the team.”
Having a sibling as a teammate can be beneficial, the Parkers said. “We run a lot of the same events,” Jennifer said. “When you see your sister running next to you it gives you added motivation. If I’m not feeling my best during a race, I know that I can hang on to Jessica in workouts, so I know I can hang on in the race too.”
A major factor of track and field, as well as cross country, is the ability to train and improve in the offseason. Living with your teammates helps.
“When we go home for winter break we can’t run with the whole team,” Allison said. “However, part of our team is still together when we’re home, so we always have people to train with, and that’s really beneficial.”
Allison is already coming off a first-place finish in the 800-meter at the Jack Johnson Indoor Classic in Minnesota this season. The sisters are looking to end their careers in a Marquette uniform on a high note.
“For me, it’s just about everyday coming to practice and being with the team,” Jessica said. “I have been on a team for 10 years now, and next year is going to be so different with Allison, Jennifer and I all potentially in different cities. So it’s really just about enjoying every moment with the team this year.”