In track and field, it’s nice to have two quality athletes in the same event to push each other. In the case of the Bordentown High girls’ team, it’s even nicer when those athletes are close friends.
When Bailey Pierson and Aja Reeves came out for track as freshmen, they didn’t know much about throwing the javelin or each other. Flash forward to this year, and the juniors are not only state qualifiers, but BFFs.
“Freshman year we did track so we were kind of forced to be close because we were on the team,” Reeves said with a laugh. “But now we’re really close, we hang out all the time, we work out together, we do some throwing drills together. We got really close. Sometimes we’ll record each other, we’ll watch our throws and point out things we know we can fix in a nice, constructive way. We always look out for each other. And away from track, we hang out, go out to eat a lot.”
Pierson agreed, saying, “We push each other a lot. We became best friends through track. Usually when we work out it’s for track. At track we’re best friends, outside of track we’re best friends and we’re constantly pushing each other.”
Which obviously makes Scotties throws coach Bill Lloyd happy.
“Whether they’re friends or not it’s always nice to have girls out there pushing each other,” Lloyd said. “One meet Aja takes first, the next week Bailey takes first. That’s something you don’t get too often, especially in a small school like this. And it’s just an added neat thing to have two friends have the same passion and drive as each other. That’s a cool thing.”
Both girls started throwing in ninth grade. Pierson came out because her brother had success throwing the javelin and discus at Bordentown. She took to it quickly.
“It actually came pretty easy,” she said. “The first year was pretty good. I was throwing in the 90s and I kind of got better from there. It was fun. I tried disc but I didn’t really like it. I ran the 100 and 200 my freshman year, too.”
Reeves was encouraged to come out by her basketball coach – who happened to be Lloyd.
“A lot of girls I pull from basketball and say ‘Hey why don’t you try this out?’” Lloyd said. “It’s starting from scratch with everybody. That’s the fun part of my job. You get to see them progress from ‘What is a javelin?’ to these levels where they’re throwing elite javelin marks.”
Both girls spent their freshman seasons learning the sport and the technique; and it was immediately apparent they were willing to do what it took.
“They work hard,” head coach Dave Misselhorn said. “They’re great kids. They’ll stay late to work on it. You can’t ask for much more than that.”
Pierson had a breakthrough season as a sophomore when she threw 79-4 to take fifth at the West Deptford Relays, and then added nearly 20 feet to her throw a month later when she winged one 98-7 to win the Burlington County Patriot Division Championship. This past winter she did indoor track, running the 55, 200 and 400, but returned to strictly javelin this spring.
Pierson defended her division championship crown with a personal best throw of 102-8 and advanced to the state meet for the first time by finishing sixth in the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group II meet with a throw of 97-6. She took 15th in states with a 97-7.
“It was pretty exciting getting to states,” she said. “I didn’t have enough faith in myself the year before, but I worked really hard this season so, getting there was a big accomplishment.”
Pierson felt that faith in herself was the biggest thing she needed to work on heading into the season.
“Just self-confidence, I didn’t believe in myself,” she said. “In the runway I just doubted myself and that’s what was holding me back. Mr. Lloyd was really helpful. A lot of coaches said I had a lot of potential so just believe in myself. Your form is most definitely the important thing, and you can’t think about anything else. You have to think about your form, your technique and just rip it.”
With one year left, Pierson is hoping to improve her finish in states and possibly reach the Meet of Champions.
“That’s the best of the best, I idolize those girls,” she said. “I can make it if I believe in myself.”
Reeves believed herself to be a discus thrower when she first started, saying “I was more interested in discus. I tried both my freshman year. I still love discus, but I would say my jav is better.”
Reeves showed just how good last year when she advanced to the states with a fourth-place, PR throw of 103-6 at the sectionals. She had a disappointing throw at the states, being a bit overwhelmed by the surroundings.
“It was so fun, but it was scary,” she said. “The girls around me were way older. Everyone was seniors and I was a sophomore. I was a little nervous but I admired the girls and it taught me a lot of things.”
Reeves came back with a vengeance this year. Despite suffering with some arm issues, she won the Burlington County championship with a season-best throw of 102-5. She tied that mark in the sectionals to take fourth place again, but struggled again at the Group II with an 87-2.
“I wasn’t too happy with states,” she said. “I hurt my arm really bad, so my throwing wasn’t that great. But I was happy to be there, because I worked real hard this season so I was just happy I made it. I could have done better if I hadn’t hurt my arm. The last week of the season at sectionals, the day after at practice I started feeling triceps pain, it was really weird. I tried to ice and ignore it, when states came it got super bad.”
One good thing about this year’s state meet is she had Pierson to share it with.
“That was a lot of fun,” Reeves said. “Last year it was just me and coach. So having my best friend there was really fun.”
Lloyd was thrilled to see them both there.
“They came in knowing the technical stuff this year, it was more like ‘What are the goals for this season?’” he said. “Aja made it to states, her goal was to get back. Bailey was like ‘I saw where Aja went, I want to do the same thing.” That was the goal, that’s where they wanted to be and they did things they weren’t expected to do along the way. Winning divisional and county championships were kind of like bonuses for them.”
The coach feels that Reeves strongest event is still the discus and thinks she will excel with that in the future. She wants to do track in college, while Pierson is on the fence about it since she has already received a big academic scholarship award. Pierson was a member of the National Honor Society, Student Council, Spanish Club, Teens on Fire and Students Against Violence Everywhere. Reeves also has other interests. She has played violin since age 9 and is also in Spanish Club and Teens on Fire.
Both show a maturity beyond their years, which is why Lloyd is happy he gets them for one more season.
“It’s really nice to have another year, because there is that leadership aspect too,” he said. “When you have freshmen coming in who have no clue what these things are, to be able to say ‘Bailey, Aja, can you take so and so and show them a couple things?’ That’s cool. You have miniature coaches on your hands and they both play that role.”
And they love doing it together, like good friends are supposed to.