Saunders to continue track & field and basketball at Middlebury


Provided by Alanna Saunders

Senior Alanna Saunders commits to Middlebury College as a part of the class of 2027.

Sophia Keang, Editor-in-Chief

Senior Alanna Saunders has achieved academic, athletic, and artistic feats most students could not even imagine. From being an award-winning artist to a dedicated and passionate multi-sport athlete, Saunders’ hard work and talent have culminated in her commitment to Middlebury College as part of the class of 2027 where she will be studying studio arts.

In the words of her Track and Field shotput coach Bill Bowen: “I’ve got two words to say: athletic freak.”

Saunders is one of the most involved students in the Westford Academy community. Her schedule features participation in all sides of the athletic, academic, and social spectrum: captain of the girls’ basketball and track and field team, member of the girls’ volleyball team, Student Council representative, peer counselor, student member of Westford’s DEI Committee, a member of the Dean’s Council, member of the MIAA Student Advisory Committee, and of course, artist.

Having been a well-rounded student, the athlete never intended to continue her athletics at the collegiate level. However, in her junior year of high school, the head coach of Middlebury College’s Track and Field team reached out, and Saunders reconsidered the opportunity.

“Middlebury itself is academically rigorous and had the liberal arts aspect of the school I was looking for,” Saunders said. “I hadn’t really thought about continuing sports at the professional level in college, but the school offered both academic and athletic opportunities. They also have a really good art program which I find myself taking advantage of.”

With Middlebury’s athletics being a part of Division III, Saunders’ athletic commitment is not just limited to track and field. The division allows for student athletes to compete in more than one sport as long as they are in good standing with their studies. Thus, Saunders’ current plan is to play on both Middlebury’s track and field and basketball teams.

Her love for basketball began in the fifth grade when she joined the Westford Youth Basketball Association, and the rest was history. A part of both recreational, travel, and middle school and high school basketball teams, Saunders has been a devoted athlete to the sport.

“I really started to love basketball once I became a part of a team that met regularly,” Saunders said. “During travel season, my team met almost every day for the entire winter season… We became a family, working with each other for two to three hours a day, six to seven days a week, for nine months of the year.”

Saunders has played forward since joining WAGB and has been a crucial role to the team’s success since her freshman year. To her WAGB Head Coach Russell Coward, the athlete has proven to be an athlete able to play at the collegiate level, and after earning the title as a DCL-All Star, her talents have only further confirmed her athletic abilities.

“Alanna has been a league all star, and college-level player for us [WAGB] for three seasons,” Coward said. “She has one of the quickest first steps to the basket we have had on the team in a while. She is also a phenomenal rebounder and shot blocker.”

Additionally, unlike most college athletes, Saunders’ was never a part of a club track and field team outside of high school. Saunders had started her track and field career during middle school but found it to be a more social event rather than an athletic event.

However, as her high school schedule became more busy and once COVID-19 hit, Saunders decided to take a break from track and field for her sophomore year. Ultimately, she returned for the spring track and field season in her junior year of high school.

“Since I’ve never been fond of running, I decided to focus more on throwing shotput and discus and realized that I absolutely love throwing,” Saunders said. “Since it’s an independent sport, you’re able to completely focus on your own performance in a way that other activities don’t let you. Every shift in technique provides visible results, and it’s really satisfying to see your own strength presented in a measurable way.”

Moreover, Saunders suffered a torn right labrum due to multiple shoulder dislocations while playing basketball during her junior year. Despite this setback, she continued to pursue the spring track and field season where she began her shotput journey. With her dominant arm injured, Saunders used her left arm for shotput and turned out to have overthrown the entire team.

“I can’t even eat food with my left hand, never mind throw something,” Bowen said. “She’s an athlete and has those abilities, but is a lot more than that. She has social skills and looks at sports as something that’s fun, which is a crucial mindset for college athletes.”

This spring, Saunders will be competing in the 200 meter race and shotput. Her plan is to continue partaking in the shotput event at Middlebury as well.

“I’m really excited for what’s to come in my future,” Saunders said. “I’ll be able to study what I want, play the sports I want, and just start a new chapter in my life.”