High School North runner Emma Faivre shows off the MVP award she won at the Mercer County Tournament this year.

In fourth grade, Emma Faivre beat her gym teacher in a sprint. “I just passed him at the end,” Faivre said. “There was a lot of controversy, but most of the kids said I won.”

Faivre leaves no controversy anymore on the track. The High School North senior was Most Valuable Player of the indoor track and field Mercer County Championships on Jan. 26 after repeating as 400-meter champion, finishing third in both the 55 meters and 200 meters, and anchoring the second place 4×400 relay.

She accounted for 30 points for the second-place Knight girls team. North also had Aditi Parekh win the 55-meter hurdles and Sydney Abitanto win the pole vault.

“Emma’s focus this year has been great,” said Matt Warren, the North sprints coach and girls cross country head coach. “She has a good kind of senioritis, like you’re running out of time and you want to make something happen.”

Eight years have passed between Faivre’s memorable elementary race in gym class and this year’s county performance, and in that time she has fostered her talents into becoming a versatile athlete and leader for North. She’s not only developed into an outstanding sprinter who will continue her career at Merrimack College, but she’s taken on the challenge of running cross country and closed as North’s top finisher last fall.

“She’s an unbelievable athlete,” said Brian Gould, the Knights’ indoor head coach in his 16th season. “She’s by far the best athlete I’ve seen come through here.”

Faivre was an ideal representative for North at the National Girls and Women in Sports Day at Seton Hall on Feb. 3.

Almost 200 New Jersey schools were represented on the day that celebrated how far girls and women have come in sports and how much their opportunities have grown. (Samantha Miller, who also runs cross country and compete in winter and spring track, was High School South’s.)

“It was interesting to see how things changed and how we get a lot more and how we’re blessed with what we have,” Faivre said.

School representatives heard from presenters who talked about their own high school experiences from past decades. Some were coaches who did not receive equal pay to male coaches. Some talked about having unequal or less convenient practice times. Some talked about the hand-me-down uniforms that they had to wear.

“It’s something that showed how special our program is,” Faivre said. “We’re given so much. I’m more appreciative of the program and equipment we have. It’s something I want other people to hear about so they can appreciate it more.”

Faivre has made the most of her opportunities and experienced steady growth each year at North. She is among the best in running events from the 55 meters to the 5,000 meters. She has tried high jump and long jump and some hurdling, and only time limits her from training more seriously for those sort of events. She said she finds true joy in running on the Knights team.

“I like the feeling of just running,” she said. “I can really feel it in sprinting. When you’re sprinting really fast, you create your own tunnel of wind. It feels like you’re going so fast. That’s a feeling I live for.”

Faivre wasn’t always so passionate about it. She remembers a rather average beginning in middle school, starting with cross country in sixth grade.

“I hated it,” Faivre said. “I didn’t start to have a big passion for it until high school. And then in high school, I only did track freshman year.”

Faivre didn’t think of herself as a standout in middle school track either, but she made an impact when she came to North as a freshman. She wasn’t quite scoring points individually at the championship meets, but her coaches saw promise in her performances, work ethic and drive.

“Coach Warren saw it earlier than I did,” Gould said. “We were wondering where her niche was. He kept telling me from the very beginning how special she was going to be. The one constant is she’s always been so competitive.”

Warren appealed to her competitive side. He asked Faivre to consider going out for cross country to start her sophomore year.

“She looked at me like I was crazy,” Warren said. “If there’s anything I’ve appreciated with Emma, it’s that she trusts her coaches. She came out for cross country. It was a little tough at the beginning of her sophomore year. By the end, she was in the top seven and competing at sectionals. The next year, she was competing really well at sectionals. And this year she was our top girl at the group championships.

“What we saw, and what she saw, was being able to train not just six months, being able to train all summer, all fall, she stepped on the track her sophomore year, and when all the other girls were getting into shape, she was already doing workouts. She saw a huge difference. She dropped from running 61 to 58 (seconds for the 400 meters) that winter.”

‘I take the most pride in the way I connect with my teammates. we can pretty much conquer anything we put our minds to.’

It was then that Faivre started to see a real future for herself in track. Cross country wasn’t her favorite, but she couldn’t deny how much the work had helped strengthen her.

“My sophomore year, I was kind of tolerating it,” Faivre said. “My main mindset was, ‘I have to get through the season, I don’t have to do it next year.’ But I put myself on the line. I wanted to be up there all of a sudden. I wanted to train with those girls and get better in that season for itself.”

In cross country, Faivre found not just benefits on the track, but another chance to compete. She exits with a personal record 20:21.78 for 5k during her career, good enough to put her among the top dozen cross country runners ever in North program history. Her coaches beamed at her introspection and athletic growth at the end of the fall.

“She said at the last cross country banquet, ‘Two out of my three seasons, I’m a sprinter,’” said Warren. “That showed me she’s not putting herself in a box. Her identity isn’t a sprinter who happened to do cross country. She identified as a cross country runner and a sprinter.”

He said that one of the reasons he wanted her to run cross country was that she was a good 400 runner as a freshman. “I wanted her to build her aerobic capacity,” he said. “The thought was that she’d get faster because she’d be stronger.”

It worked. Faivre has seen her times trend faster each year, and she’s come off the last cross country season running some of her fastest indoor splits.

Gould attributes her success to an important trait. “Consistency. She was a freshman and was competitive. We tell them when you’re consistent and your body catches up to your heart, that’s when amazing things will happen. She’ll run some 400 and 200 times that are eye-popping. She’s consistently pushing herself hard and being driven.”

Faivre’s success this year was only starting with the Mercer County meet. In the recent Morris County Coaches Invitational, Faivre took the baton on the anchor leg and ran a personal-best split of 24.92 seconds to help the Knights snap the meet record and win the 4×200 by four-hundredths of a second.

“I’ve never seen anyone kick in the 100 or kick in the 200, and somehow she does,” Warren said. “I almost see her racing style as this continuous buildup of momentum. It’s really exciting when she’s on the anchor of the relays.”

As good as she is in individual races, Faivre may be even more dynamic in relays. And she certainly relishes more her chances to combine on relays with usual members Aditi Parekh, Megha Gongalla, Kruti Shah, and on the 4×4 Sophie Cherayil in place of Gongalla.

“I take the most pride in the way I connect with my teammates,” Faivre said. “Since we have such a strong bond, we can pretty much conquer anything we put our minds to.”

The five girls won’t be forgotten any time soon. They have the 4×200 and 4×400 records indoor, as well as the 4×100, 4×200 and the sprint medley relay outdoors.

“I think it’s unbelievable,” Faivre said. “Our coaches are always talking about the amazing athletes that went to our school before us. If we look at the record board, we’ve destroyed most of them. We all run as though as though we don’t have the record yet.”

Whatever the race, Faivre, the school individual record holder in the 200 and 400, has come to be a reliable anchor with an amazing kick. She draws motivation from wanting to be at her best for the team, and it pays off in MVP performances like at counties.

“On some teams, great athletes want to specialize,” Gould said. “Emma wants to contribute as much as she can to the team. Her individual events comes second. That was a well-deserved (MVP) award. She did as much as she could for our team.”

The close knit Knights team is one thing that Faivre is hoping to also find in college. It was fitting that her North teammates turned out in force to join her for her National Letter of Intent signing with Merrimack on Feb. 6. Faivre is looking for the same balance of team and school at Merrimack and ready to join a program on the rise. Next year Merrimack will transition from Division 2 to Division 1 for track and field.

“It’s pretty exciting,” Faivre said. “I really wanted to run D1. It was in my head that I can be a D1 runner. I didn’t want to settle for anything else.”

Throughout her career at North, Faivre has taken on new challenges and worked to become an unparalleled athlete and Division I college commit.

“I see her as an athlete who’s really fast and I think her greatest strength is her strength,” Warren said. “The reason she beats people at the end of the 200 is other people are getting tired and she’s still getting strong. I think it’s the same in the 400.”

“Whether we’re doing pure speed stuff or she’s going on a 20-minute run or we’re in the weight room, she works really hard,” he added. “Because she’s strong, I think that’s where a lot of those exciting races come down to.”