At the beginning of the 4×400 relay, you can find the entire Roger Williams track & field team on the infield cheering on their teammates with the last of the energy they have after competing.
“It’s nice to hear people cheering me on and being able to cheer them on,” says Roger Williams high jumper and javelin thrower Savannah Fox Tree-McGrath.
Ever since she was in 6th grade in Bedford, Massachusetts, Savannah has been a part of a track & field team.
Her career spurred from a physical education class on high jumping. Savannah loved it from the start and joined the team with her first jump of 4-foot-4. By the end of middle school, Savannah had jumped 4-foot-8 and as a high school graduate her personal best was 5-foot-4, which she has yet to match at the collegiate level.
At a practice in ninth grade, Savannah saw the boys’ throwing team practicing the art of javelin.
“I just saw people doing it and thought, ‘If they can do it, I can too,’” said Savannah.
Indeed, she could. Her first day, she threw 88 feet and later on even threw in the 90s.
Nineteen-year-old Savannah Fox Tree-McGrath from Billerica, Massachusetts is a sophomore at Roger Williams University studying architecture. When she’s not at practice, you can find her singing in the university chorus or helping out at the admissions office.
Aside from playing baseball for five years, there is a secret to the success, however. Savannah is from the Arawak tribe of the Caribbean. They were one of the first tribes to greet Christopher Columbus. Even though most of the tribe has been killed from the massacre, some—like Savannah—still live on.
Savannah thought about her Native background and has shared it as the reason for her school record-breaking abilities.
Savannah describes her culture as being “like a religion.” She does not celebrate Christmas or Easter. Instead, she attends pow wows and dances the fancy shawl every month. She compares her monthly singing and drumming sessions with her family to how a Christian would go to church.
Savannah’s pride in her Native background is shown through her “loving bear” — which is her Native name — and tribe medicine wheel tattoos. Savannah says that she even feels as though she will be reincarnated as the bear of her tribe. Savannah was given the name “loving bear” for her loving personality as a child.
Before Savannah, the high jump record at Roger Williams University was 4-foot-11 and the javelin was roughly 126 feet. She broke the high jump record at her first freshman meet and javelin at the third at Connecticut College throwing 129.6.
Since then, Savannah has again broken the javelin record throwing 130.6 at her first sophomore meet at Bridgewater State University. She was also the only girl at Roger Williams to get All New England in two events.
“It felt awesome because it was something I knew I could accomplish,” says Savannah.
Savannah shared that her love of field events comes from her passion for technique. Learning it and practicing it is something she has always enjoyed.
Aside from technique, Savannah says that she conditions twice a week with her team. She tries not to practice many full approaches in the javelin runway but the team will devote one day to giving their throws 100 percent. Savannah makes sure that she is taking care of her body, performing injury prevention workouts and eating right.
On a meet day, you will find Savannah very quiet and on her own. On the bus she relaxes and listens to music to put her in the right mindset.
“I don’t take full approaches in warm-ups because that could be my best throw of the day and I don’t want to waste it or waste my energy,” Savannah says.
Savannah stays motivated in the runway by competing only against herself. She strives to break her personal bests every meet and continue to be a better thrower.
Her goals for the season are to jump 5-foot-4 at a collegiate level and make it to nationals for javelin with a throw of over 131 feet.
As of now, Savannah is ranked 5th in New England and 11th in the N.C.A.A. for javelin and 12th in New England for high jump.
One of Savannah’s favorite parts of the track & field team is the atmosphere.
“I love being a part of a team,” she says.
Even though track & field is considered an individual sport, the team still shares a series of goals. In fact, each season the women get together to discuss their goals and vow to stay committed to them.
“I know how hard everyone works,” says Savannah. “I would love to see as many people as possible hanging around for the N.C.A.A. Championship so we can represent Roger Williams the right way.”