SARANAC LAKE - It's easy to see why Saranac Lake girls track coach Peter Frenette wishes he had Nickie Trudeau on his team for one more season. But that's not the case, as Trudeau is graduating a year early. Tonight, she'll be making a speech to the graduating seniors as the salutatorian of the class of 2012.
Trudeau decided three years ago that she would begin an accelerated academic program at the high school in order to graduate a year early. And that's been plenty of time for the honor roll student-athlete to etch her name in the Red Storm's track history.
To be more accurate, Trudeau will have her name posted on the track and field team's record board next to the school's 400-meter oval. It's already there once after she set Saranac Lake's pentathlon record as an eighth-grader. And after the recently completed spring season, she'll be up on the board four times, which is the most in school history.
Nickie Trudeau and Saranac Lake girls head track and field coach Peter Frenette share a laugh during a home meet against Beekmantown in May.
(Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)
This spring, Trudeau established a new school mark three times in her strongest event - the 400 hurdles - with her top time a 1:05.8 effort in the final race of her high school career that was good enough for a surprising third-place finish at the state track championships. Trudeau also joined three teammates - Vanessa Salamy, Selina Baillargeon and Annie Frenette - to set a record in the 400 relay and she shares the school's 100-meter dash record as well.
"Third place at the state meet, that was just icing on the cake," Trudeau said. "I wasn't disappointed at all that I didn't win the race. My goal was to be in the top six because those are the medal positions. When I finished the race, I didn't know what place I was in, it was that close. I didn't find out until we heard the announcer. It was thrilling."
Not only has Trudeau become the first athlete at Saranac Lake to hold four school records, she also pulled off what could be an even more impressive feat. During her five years on the Red Storm track team, Trudeau competed in every event.
"I really love track because there are so many different events," Trudeau said. "As a team captain this year, I wanted to have a better understanding of what all the athletes go through, and the more events I did, the more appreciation I had for my teammates."
Trudeau completed her final two events this spring. In Saranac Lake's first meet of the season, she ran the 3,000, then finished running the table in a later meet when she competed in the triple jump after learning how it's done a day before. Trudeau said the 3,000 was her least favorite event.
"I really gained appreciation for those 3,000 runners," she said. "After I ran the 3,000, I don't think there was anybody cheering harder for them than I was. I'm glad I got that race out of the way in our first meet of the year. It's a tough one."
Trudeau credited coach Frenette for helping her realize her dreams on the track.
"I really liked the fact that coach Frenette has been there year after year," she said. "He always let me try different events, and when I liked one, he'd help set me up with a program to get better at it. It's the same with all the girls. He's always full of ideas when it comes to training. And the great thing about track as a sport is you get out of it everything you put into it."
Track wasn't the only sport Trudeau excelled at in high school. She was also one of the top players on the Red Storm volleyball team for the past three years, and recently found a new love for rugby. She even liked mixing it up on the football field and played one season on the junior varsity team before switching to volleyball.
But when it comes to a team sport, Trudeau said track and field provides a unique and nurturing environment for all the athletes who participate.
"I've played seven or eight team sports, and you really do get that family component with track," Trudeau said. "What's great about track is you don't have kids sitting on the bench. You can put as many athletes as you want in events, and you can be in four different events in every meet. When I was on the team in seventh grade, I was competing in the second heats. That's where I got my racing experience."
Trudeau said she will miss being a member of Saranac Lake's track program, and her only disappointment doesn't pertain to her high school career at all. Instead, she's looking at the missed opportunity that younger student-athletes who follow her will miss out on due to the elimination of the Red Storm's indoor winter track team.
"I have no doubt that indoor track helped me get to where I am today," she said. "Indoor track was a huge component of my success. If you look at all the top athletes at the state meet, they are all competing indoors during the winter. Not having indoor track will definitely make it harder for Saranac Lake's athletes in the future."
During her track career at Saranac Lake, Trudeau set and achieved her goals of new school records and competing in every event. And in the classroom, she was able to realize her dream of graduating a year early in order to move on to the next phase of her studies. And being second to the top student in her class, Trudeau has a world of options in front of her. This fall, she'll be a freshman at Hartwick College, with the ultimate goal of attending medical school on the horizon.
Trudeau won't be competing in track during her first year of college because Hartwick doesn't have a team, but if she wants to participate in the sport again, there is the possibility of a transfer to Cornell University. Trudeau said she has been put on a waiting list at that Ivy League School for her sophomore year, and is taking required courses at Hartwick to leave the option of a transfer to Cornell open.
"I just wanted to hurry up and graduate from high school to take advantage of all the opportunities that are waiting for me," Trudeau said. "I have it all planned out. I'm a pretty decisive person. When I want to do something, I do what it takes to make it happen."