No matter how fast Jordan McPhee runs, she can’t quite escape the memory of a rainy Saturday almost a year ago.
That one race essentially defined the future of her storied running career at Mount Rainier High School.
At the Westside Classic district cross-country meet last October, McPhee – whose spotless sophomore season in 2011 included the Class 4A state title – was beaten soundly by Camas sophomore Alexa Efraimson at American Lake Golf Course.
“It’s always in the back of my mind,” she said. “I knew it would be difficult for me to be able to beat Alexa, but I always had a goal to be able to keep up with her.”
McPhee isn’t overly concerned with reclaiming her throne during her senior
season. She is ranked No. 9 in the state with a season-best time of 18 minutes, 34 seconds. – which is more than a minute slower than her best 5-kilometer mark of 17:24.7, set at the 4A state championships in Pasco in 2011.
“I want to focus on myself this year and make improvements,” she said. “As long as I give it my all, that’s all I can do.”
Despite her natural skills, she never intended to be a long-term runner. She took track season off last spring to focus on her lifelong dream of playing college basketball alongside her twin sister, Brittany.
That is how they wanted to be recruited: Two McPhees to one NCAA Division I program.
And then Stanford came calling – solely for Brittany McPhee, a projected wing. Brittany McPhee, the two-time Washington Girls Basketball Gatorade player of the year, gave the Cardinal an oral commitment last summer to play basketball.
The twins’ father, Bryce McPhee, said the recruiting process has been frustrating for the family.
“It’s a high because you want to be really happy for Brittany,” he said. “But with Jordan, you can’t get too excited because everything is still going on.”
That doesn’t mean that Jordan McPhee is giving up. She has resigned herself to “lots of long phone calls” with her twin, who is 3 inches taller and 19 minutes older.
Jordan McPhee remains true to her goal of playing basketball somewhere.
“I am keeping my options open, but basketball is still my first love,” said Jordan McPhee, who also plays for the Northwest Blazers select team. “I haven’t been really open to looking into running.”
For those who know Jordan McPhee, her preference is not particularly surprising. In basketball, she’s a reluctant star, keen to share the spotlight with her teammates. But out on the running trails, it’s all on her.
“I’ve been lucky to have done so many amazing things in cross-country, but I really like being able to have that team there,” she said. “It’s just so different.”
Still, she said that running has helped her as a basketball player.
“In the fourth quarter, you have to have that endurance,” she said.
At Mount Rainier, Jordan McPhee is known as the one who stands at the finish line, no matter how tired she is, to cheer on teammates.
“She’s got a great attitude about being so fast – and she never brags,” said senior Emmie Johnson, whom McPhee credits with encouraging her to take up cross-country as a sophomore.
Mount Rainier coach Brian Jacobson said that McPhee has attracted notice from around the country.
“I think if she was to make a decision that she wanted to run, she would probably have a number of offers,” Jacobson said.
Bryce McPhee said nobody in the family is pushing the younger twin for a decision.
“It’s not a subject we tiptoe around, but you’ve got to be in the right frame of mind when you talk about it,” he said. “We’ll wait and see.”