Local sisters run their way to collegiate honors
PCHS grads have been running together since high school
March 3, 2017
When Alyssa Snyder was in eighth grade looking forward to the prospect of high school, she wanted to join the dance team at Park City High School. Her older sister, McKenzie Preece, on the other hand, wasn't impressed with the dance ambition. She wanted Snyder to follow her footsteps and find success in running.
"She kind of talked me into joining the [cross-country and track teams] with her," Alyssa said. "Then, I just remember competing with her and racing with her. I was motivated to stay in it because we just had so much fun together at practice."
Fast forward to 2017 and the duo of running sisters are making a name for themselves on the NCAA Division-1 level: Snyder at Montana State University and Preece, who changed her last name when she got married last year at Utah Valley University.
At the end of February, both competed in their respective conference championships — Montana State is a member of the Big Sky Conference and UVU is a member of the Western Athletic Conference — for the indoor track season. The two events were 250 miles apart in Idaho, but the sisters, who both graduated from PCHS, found themselves in a similar spot.
As distance runners, both Snyder and Preece participated in the 3000- and 5000-meter runs at their indoor Championships. It was the latter, though, where the sister connection took place, as both finished in third place at their respective meets; Snyder ran it in 17:10.27 and Preece in 17:33.15.
With their finishes on the podium, both were named to their All-Conference teams for the indoor season.
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Many assume there's a natural competitive rivalry between the sisters, especially with the younger of the two getting a better time in the same race in terms of distance. But that's not the case with these two. They say it never has been, and probably never will be.
"We've never really had that kind of relationship," Snyder said. "I feel like everybody kind of expects that, but she's really only ever been motivational for me."
Snyder never really had the passion to run until Preece convinced her to join the team. Snyder was a freshman when Preece was a senior, so the older sister wanted to get in as much time with the younger one before she graduated as she could.
"It's just cool to see her progress, coming from an older sister," Preece said. "When we were younger, when we ran together in high school, I was a senior and she was as freshman so she was just beginning."
Between the two of them, the PCHS record book is littered with the name "Snyder." During their time as Miners, both broke records in the 800-, 1600- and 3200-meter runs, as well as took part in the 4×800-meter record-setting relays.
Additionally, Preece led her cross-country teams at PCHS to four-straight state titles during her prep career, the last one with Snyder on the team as a freshman. Snyder would continue the legacy, helping the Miners win the three following years. On the track, the duo helped Park City secure three state titles between the two of them.
"I just remember competing with her and racing with her [in high school]," Snyder said. "I was motivated to stay in it because we just had so much fun together at practice.
Their efforts were good enough to catch the eye of Division-1 colleges and the two decided to go to different schools. With there being a three-year difference and UVU and Montana State being in different states, the thought of running together seemed improbable.
But that simply wasn't the case.
Preece is nearing the end of her collegiate career, while Snyder is somewhat just beginning as a sophomore. Despite the age difference, both have left their mark on their respective programs.
At UVU, Preece is the sixth-fastest Wolverine to run the 3000-meter run in indoor track, while being the fifth-fastest in the 5000-meter run. Snyder, meanwhile, is already sixth all-time as a sophomore at Montana State for the mile and 3000-meter run, and third all-time in the 5000-meter run, all indoor.
Much of the record-setting performances from the sisters came this season, and it's partly because of the offseason training program they went through together in Park City.
Over the summer, the two were back home to work and save some money. But they knew they had to keep up their training. Despite having different workouts on different days, Snyder and Preece worked out a system where they would train and run together as much as possible.
"When we would have a distance run or a longer day, we would try to run together," Preece said.
They would run on any number of the well-known trails in Park City, with their favorite being the Lost Prospector loop. The sisters said they pushed to help each other reach new goals and new personal records, just like they used to in high school.
"It's more of like motivating each other to do better," Snyder said.
The summer of training set them up for their upcoming seasons. Both had success, and with UVU and Montana State attending the Idaho State Mountain Games meet in February during the indoor track season, Snyder and Preece had a chance to prove it to the other in the flesh.
"I was looking forward to that [meet] all season," Snyder said. "That was the first time we've been in the same racing track since I was in high school. We were both pretty excited about that."
The two ran in the 5000-meter run against one another. Like any long-distance race on the track, the racers started in a bunch. While not a contact or violent sport, runners admittedly use their elbows and arms to maneuver themselves through a pack, but Preece was hesitant to do so, knowing that her sister was in the same race.
Eventually, Snyder made a move. Instead of staying put, she bolted to the front to take first place. The big sister couldn't help but follow.
"I said, 'Well, she's going, so I better get up there,'" Preece said.
At one point in the race, it was Snyder in first and Preece in second.
"It was just like racing in high school again," Snyder said.
That wasn't the way they finished — Snyder finished in second, while Preece finished in fifth — but just to have the experience was something neither will forget.
With her own championship race to worry about, Snyder knew Preece was taking part in her own conference meet that final weekend of February.
"If I know she's racing or she knows I'm racing, we'll just ask how it went and try to encourage each other," Snyder said.
Even so, the sisters had tasks at hand. They were focused and determined, and they didn't want to waste all those long summer days of training in Park City.
So Snyder and Preece ran their hearts out, which was good enough for third-place finishes in the 5000-meter run. Again, this led to All-Conference honors for both of them.
Preece said it's hard not to be elated after a moment like that, but then, her mind went to her sister.
She wondered, "How did she do? What was her time? Did she medal?" Naturally, she went to her phone to check.
"Actually, how I found out about Alyssa in the [5000-meter run], she had sent a tweet," Preece said. "It was funny."
Snyder posted two photos in the tweet: one of Snyder at the Big Sky Championships and the other of Preece at the WAC Championships. Both were standing in third and the caption was, "Omg Kenzie, we finally have something in common."
But they didn't need a race to tell them they have something in common. Running has been a shared connection between the sisters since they were in high school, and it's led to some unique opportunities.
The duo will advance to the outdoor track season in the coming weeks, as both try to add to their ever-changing resumes. The season will be the last go-around for Preece as a senior, so before it's all said and done, Snyder is grateful she had one last opportunity to run with her sister in a competition setting.
"It's a pretty cool experience," Snyder said of running with her sister. "McKenzie has been there every step of the way, basically since I started running. She's actually a lot of the reason why I decided to join the team at Park City. We've basically been running together since day one and it's helped me a lot. I think it's helped her, too."
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