August 15, 2014 11:27PM
By DOUG CHAMPION
Sun Staff Writer
WESTERLY — The three Burr sisters of Westerly each have earned the label of superstar. And there likely are many more accolades to come.
Jackie, 18 has been a star distance runner for Westerly Middle and Westerly High and begins her college career on a full scholarship at URI this fall. At Westerly High, she was named All-New England three times and All-State nine times, won two varsity state titles, and owns one state record and three school records.
Michaela, 15, chose tennis as her sport and had a phenomenal freshman season at Westerly last fall. She was 17-1 playing No. 1 singles, reached the quarterfinals of the state tournament, and was the only Division II player named to the All-State first team.
Randi, 14, made her distance running mark at Westerly Middle, where she won eight individual and three relay state titles and helped the school to two state championships. She starts her running career at Westerly High this fall.
All three in their earlier years had done well in youth softball, basketball, tennis and running. And all three have been straight-A students, making the honor roll each quarter.
All in the Family
“Sports are important, but we focus on academics first,” their father, Kevin Burr, said. “Without strong academics, there would be no sports. They get that.”
Kevin earned one varsity letter in cross country at Old Saybrook and has been racing as an adult in regional duathlons (a run-bike-run combination).
His wife Mandy was an All-State singles player all four years at Cumberland High and helped the team win four straight state titles. She also won a state doubles title with her sister in her senior year.
“We exposed our girls to a lot of sports,” Mandy said. “They did lots of things, but always with our intention that the (ultimate) choice would be theirs.
“The differences in each have a lot to do with their birth order. Jackie is the trailblazer and has always been conscientious — with a quiet confidence. Michaela is the perfect middle child — her demeanor stays exactly the same and she never gives up. Randi is the perfect youngest child — she does everything it takes to win and wills herself to do it. All have passion.”
Jackie: The Trailblazer
Jackie Burr ran cross country and outdoor track all three years at Westerly Middle, while playing basketball in the winter season.
“I tried a lot of sports,” Jackie said. “They just weren’t for me. I started running in the fifth grade. I wanted to do a sport each season in middle school and picked cross country for the fall. I won my first race. My parents and I asked, ‘Where did that come from?’ I later won the state title in the 3,000 in eighth grade.
“I like the long distances. The longer the race, the stronger I feel. I’m very good at pacing myself. The longer runs give me time to myself. I can think about life. I run every day.”
In cross country, she made All-State her first three years and All-New England as a junior. Injuries shut down cross country and indoor track her senior year.
“She had all these goals her senior year,” Westerly High girls’ cross country coach Mary Janiszewski said. “She tried to run, still hurt and felt crushed. She developed a toughness and always kept a positive attitude. She took it in stride — no pun intended. She really is a fighter. That says a lot about her character.”
She was All-State twice in indoor track (3,000 meters) and All-New England once (2-mile). She was most prolific outdoors, as the freshman state champion in the 3,000 and the overall state champ for the same event her junior and senior years. Her outdoor honors included one All-New England (3,200) and four All-States (two each in the 3,000 and 4x800 relay), a state record (5,000) and three school records (2-mile, 3,000 and 3,200).
“What stands out about Jackie is her hard work,” Westerly High girls’ track coach Dave Federico said. “She puts in a ton of time. Of all the kids I’ve ever coached, she has put in the most work. She has fought through her injuries and has worked her way out and up. She also was a great teammate.”
Michaela: The Different Drummer
Her mother said, “Michaela didn’t love running, but she did love tennis.”
She clearly marched to a different drummer.
“I started playing tennis when I was seven or eight,” Michaela Burr said. “I liked it the most and stuck with it. I like it because every match is different. Everyone has a different game. You’re not playing against the clock.
“I used to play tennis with my mother, but that kind of stopped when I was in middle school. I played a lot at Rotary Park and at Pond View where I’m a member. Now there are USTA tournaments almost every weekend.”
She started her high school career last fall in spectacular fashion, played indoor tennis at Pond View the winter season and then was a lacrosse defender last spring.
She earned the No. 1 singles slot, a rarity for a freshman. She was undefeated in 12 regular-season matches, winning them all in straight sets and dropping only six games along the way.
“Michaela walked on the court as a freshman and stepped right in,” Westerly High girls’ tennis coach Marvin Gordon said. “She seemed to be able to focus on every single point (not just a game or set). “She was very cool and very mature. And she was well-motivated.
“She is a hard worker and very disciplined and has never missed a day of play or practice. But tennis is not Michaela’s whole life. She tries to be the best in everything she does. That’s why she’s so successful.”
She lost her only match of the season in the quarterfinals of the state singles tournament, 7-5 and 6-4. She was named to the All-State first team — only the second Westerly High girl ever named to the first team, since Liz Harrington was in her final two years.
Randi: The Goal Maker
“Goals you set are goals you get,” Westerly Middle School girls’ outdoor track coach Travis Cox said. “Randi set a goal and then went after it. She said when she started middle school that she wanted to win 10 state titles (combining cross country and track). She wound up winning 11. It’s extraordinary and really rare to set a goal that high and then achieve it.”
She won nine of those state titles in outdoor track — six in individual events (at 800 meters, 1,500 and 3,000) and three in relays (4x800).
Her other two individual state titles were in cross country. Coach Linda Ward said Randi had won every cross country dual-meet race during her three years at Westerly Middle.
“I felt that Randi following Jackie (in running) was a positive,” Ward said. “Randi is Randi, not Jackie. Their running style is different. Jackie just did it. Randi knows who she’s running against and somehow knows how to win.”
She went to school on her sisters before zeroing in on running. She said she was frustrated with tennis, but liked what she saw about running.
“When I was in second grade,” said said, “I saw what Jackie did running (in sixth grade). I could see myself doing that. I said to myself, ‘I can do that.’
“I’m not following in Jackie’s footsteps and I’m not doing it in that way. I don’t make decisions based on what she did. I feel it has been and will be different. Like I’m not a big fan of the 3,000 — I like the mix of running from the 400 up to the 3,000.”
She steps up to the high school stage, with much to build on from middle school.
“Randi is a dream athlete,” Cox said. “She’s a natural-born leader and always gives 110 percent. She has a passion for running. She’s good at it and she loves it. There’s no limit to what she can achieve.”