It all started for Elise Burdette with the Sprint-Meisterschaft, the German translation for sprint championship.
The Issaquah High senior and her family lived in Switzerland during her elementary school years and Burdette ran her first race as a second-grader and won the annual event that featured athletes from a host of schools.
She thought, “I guess I could do this,” the Eagle runner said after the German words noted above rolled off her tongue following the team’s victory in 4×200-meter relay to kick off a tri-meet with Mount Si and Bothell on March 29 at Bothell High.
Since there were no girls soccer or basketball programs available in Switzerland, running became her thing. Burdette’s favorite part about the sport is meeting people and feeling the support of her family, teammates and coaches.
“Getting the times keeps motivating you to get out there, just testing what I can do,” said Burdette, who was born in Iowa, headed to Switzerland and moved back to the states in sixth grade to begin running middle school track.
Burdette, whose mother qualified for state in the long jump in high school, thrives in the sprints and relays, winning 4A state gold medals in the 4×400 twice and the 4×200 once during her Issaquah High career.
She feels blessed to have been part of those first-place relays as a freshman and sophomore and wants to get back on top of the podium this year after finishing third in those two relays and the 400-meter run last year. The Eagles are starting off the season well, heading in the right direction to make an impact in the postseason, Burdette said.
“I really like the relays aspect of it, that’s huge for me because track and field normally is not a team sport in the way that soccer or basketball is,” she said. “Relays is where you really can kind of itch that scratch a little bit, where you get the team bonding and the idea of being part of something that’s bigger than just yourself.”
Case in point was the spring of 2015 when a perfect storm of young talented runners rumbled onto the track in freshmen Burdette and Sami Corman and sophomores Bella Foos and Nikki Stephens. That 400 relay rocked the state meet with a record first-place time of 3:48.95 (the record has since been broken). The Eagles captured the team title as well.
A year later, Burdette was part of teams that took first in both the 200 and 400 relays in 1:39.71 and 3:51.75, respectively. Burdette also qualified for state in the 200 and 400 sprints.
She fondly looks back on those days, but knows there’s more races on the horizon. Following this season, Burdette will be on her way to Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, to run and study engineering, specifically operations management.
A host of family friends attended Cornell and heavily recommended that she look into the school. She emailed with coach Richard Bowman and visited the campus twice — a connection was made with the team and school culture, and she’ll soon be on her way.
If Burdette needs inspiration along her journey, she can certainly delve back into her past and face what’s in front of her.
“I think freshman year, it seemed like a miracle that we got that state meet record at all, so that was definitely a highlight point of my career,” she said. “It pushes you to keep doing better and keep striving for higher goals. So I think in that sense, if I do ever get down or I feel like there’s no way I can keep doing this, I just remember, well, freshman year we were able to do it, so I can do it now.”