The Robertson sisters pose with their medals after a 2021 night meet. This was the first high school varsity race they all ran together. Photo by Alena Krull

Having three athletes from the same family on a varsity team is rare; having them on the same team of seven is even rarer. Despite these odds, Kaiya (12), Hailie (9), and Emily (9) Robertson are all runners on the Franklin Women’s Varsity Cross Country team. As long as coach Jacob Michaels has been coaching, this has only happened one other time, with the Evans brothers, who were runners on the Franklin team in the 2000s. Not only has this sibling trio made a splash in the league, but they have helped carry the team to great results. 

All three sisters have been running for around four years. “I did track in eighth grade, and that went really well for me. Through that, I met Coach Michaels… and he connected me and convinced me to join cross country my freshman year,” says Kaiya. Hailie and Emily got into cross country when they saw Kaiya join the team her freshman year, and ran cross country somewhat consistently throughout middle school. However, this is the first time they have ever run together on the same team. “I think it’s really great [to have Hailie and Emily on the team]. I think it’s fun for my final year, they’re really awesome… and it’s good to have them on the team or else I would not really see them,” says Kaiya.

In terms of the team dynamic, having almost half the team be from one family may raise some concerns. However, in this case it seems as if the opposite has occurred. “It hasn’t really affected the team dynamic since we have always been really close. I think it has made the team more competitive, because [Hailie and Emily] are fast, so [we can now compete at a higher level]” says Kaiya. Having a strong leader, like Kaiya, can help with the success of the team as well. “Kaiya is one of the greatest athletes, all sports, all time for Franklin. She’s an amazing example of achievement for the whole school. She is always there for her team and is never individualistic,” says Michaels. “She is the most mellow and approachable leader ever. She doesn’t take herself too seriously but never, ever, misses a training run or workout.” All three sisters have helped create an amazing and promising running environment for the whole team. “Hailie is a great teammate. As one of only two freshmen on the varsity team this year, she has stepped up to meet the stress of running in big races with high stakes… She’s a hard worker and puts her head down and races. While she’s always ready to make a joke at your expense, the joke will always make you laugh just as hard as everyone else,” says Avani Stevens-Rose, the second captain of the team. “Emily also is a great teammate. She has shown her ability to race without fear race after race. At practice she’s always talking to someone or cracking a joke. Her stories about her day will definitely lighten the mood at a stressful meet,” finished Stevens-Rose.

In regards to the sisters’ relationships with each other, it seems as though cross country has only made them stronger. “We have always had a really good relationship so I wouldn’t say that it has made it better, but now we have more in common. We are three years apart so just being sisters we don’t have that much in common,” says Kaiya. 

“Whenever we go to meets, Kaiya is always packing everything extra that I forgot. And if I was an only child, I would have had to go to practice and introduce myself to everyone, but having Kaiya there is much less stressful,” says Emily. Also, having Kaiya on the team is like having a built-in role model for Hailie and Emily. “[One of my role models is Kaiya]. Kaiya is really good at running so it is really fun to watch her win races,” says Emily. 

“I look up to Kaiya, because her times are really good, and I would really like to be that good,” says Hailie. 

As a senior (who has been on varsity since her freshman year), Kaiya has found her place on the team as the number one runner out of seven that are scored during any cross country race, as well as being one of the team co-captains, along with Avani Stevens-Rose. Throughout her running career at Franklin, Kaiya has worked her way to the top, and now holds multiple school records: the fastest 5000 meter time; 16:58.6, and the fastest 3000 meter time; 10:18.4. These times will help lead Kaiya on to great success in cross country and track once she graduates high school as well. “I want to run in college, so I am kind of going through that process right now, like recruiting and stuff like that,” says Kaiya.

As freshmen, Hailie and Emily are already making an impact on the team by taking the number four and five spots. Also, they have both already run a sub 20-minute 5k race (Hailie: 19:03.3, Emily: 19:10.7), which is no small feat. However, they are both hoping to improve their times throughout the rest of their careers. Both mentioned wanting to get their 5k times under 19 minutes. In addition to helping the team athletically, Hailie and Emily have also made differences in other ways. “What I am seeing is that Hailie and Emily are also all about being there for their team in workouts and races, and also have shown they inherently love assisting other runners with things such as our strength and balance routine! It’s been lovely to see,” says Michaels. Both Hailie and Emily are interested in running in college, but have no definite plans, as they are only freshmen. 

All three spend a tremendous amount of time running. “You end up [running] up to 55 miles a week,” says Kaiya.

As the season progresses, all three Robertsons are hoping that the team will succeed in the district, regional, and even state meets this season. “The PIL (Portland Interscholastic League)  is the strongest league in the state for Cross Country, and has been for a few years. All PIL runners know they have to bring it at the district meet, which is the sole qualifier for the state championship. Top three teams go [to the state meet]. Period. Every year Franklin has to knock off one of Grant, Lincoln, or Wells… to go to state, and we have. These teams are always two to three times larger than us. And we usually have 4 teams ranked in the top 10 in the PIL. One of them stays home every year,” says Michaels. While it will be a challenge, it is one the sisters are willing to take on together. Make sure to keep an eye out for the Robertsons as they finish out the season and go beyond. 

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