Sawyer Ferguson demands perfection. And not just from herself.
"She helps me stay organized," smiled Billings Skyview track coach Larry Newell. "If I don’t have everything planned out and ready to go for practice, Sawyer will make sure I get that way.
"She is a perfectionist ... there’s no other way to describe her. The way she practices, the way she studies ... she’s a perfectionist. She is such a detail kid, and that rubs off on everyone around her."
Ferguson’s drive for perfection was rewarded last spring, when she went unbeaten in the 300-meter hurdles and won the event at the State AA meet.
Now a senior, Ferguson is certainly not resting on her junior laurels. She is once again unbeaten in the 300 hurdles this spring, and finished second in her season debut in the 100 hurdles in Skyview’s meet Tuesday night.
True to her perfectionist nature, Ferguson is quick to point out that her junior season wasn’t quite perfect.
"I didn’t get the school record," she said with a grin. "I would have had it at state, but I hit the last hurdle. That’s definitely a goal for this year. I want to defend my state title and get the school record, and I want to place at state in the 100s."
The school record in the 300 hurdles (44.67) is held by 2008 Skyview grad Salone Loney, a friend and mentor of Ferguson’s. Despite hitting the last hurdle, Ferguson clocked a 45.68 at the state meet — her first time under 46 seconds.
While she is determined to reach her individual goals, Ferguson is also savoring her role as a team leader for the Falcons. At last Saturday’s home meet, Ferguson did not compete as she was resting a tight hamstring, but she still made her presence known.
"I was trying to do whatever I could ... it was too cold to just sit and do nothing," said Ferguson. "I was trying to keep everyone involved and let people know where we had people competing on the track or in field events so they could go cheer them on. I was setting up hurdles and picking up garbage ... just trying to stay busy, basically."
"That was great to see," said Newell. "The meet was basically done and we still had a couple of kids going in the high jump, so Sawyer rallied the troops and got our kids over there to cheer on the high jumpers."
Also not surprised to see Ferguson being a leader on a day that she wasn’t competing was Shannon Newell, Larry’s wife and the Skyview hurdles coach.
"That’s the kind of girl she is," said Shannon Newell. "She leads us in our stretches every day at practice and leads the girls in our team cheer.
"She loves being a leader and she sets a great example. Sawyer is very focused and she works extremely hard. She had bunion surgery after her freshman year that gave her trouble her whole sophomore year, and she also had asthma issues during her freshman and sophomore years. For her to overcome that and have a season like she did last year really tells you what kind of girl Sawyer is."
Ferguson also enjoys the mentoring part of being a senior. Just as Loney has helped her become a better hurdler with advice and encouragement, Ferguson is passing the torch on to Skyview freshman Haley Gellner.
Ferguson clocked a 46.5 to win the 300 hurdles on Tuesday night, while Gellner finished third in 49.0.
"Haley is going to be very good," said Ferguson, who’s also a standout on the soccer field and would like to try both sports in college. "She already is ... she’s been a hurdler for quite a few years in junior high and AAU track.
"It’s fun to have someone look up to me ... it’s a good feeling. We’re together every night in practice, and Haley comes to me for advice and she listens to what I have to say. Right now I’m going after Salone’s school record, and if I get it, I’m sure in the next few years Haley will be coming after that record."