While sprinting has become a big part of Michelle Louie’s life – the Menlo School graduate plans to run for Middlebury College next season – it doesn’t define her.
The Los Altos resident is also an avid hiker who takes pride in her schoolwork and is devoted to raising service dogs.
Yet Louie may be best known for what she accomplished as part of Menlo’s girls track and field team a year ago. As a junior, she helped the Knights win their first Central Coast Section team championship in the sport.
“We won with only five girls, which was pretty awesome,” Louie said. “Our goal the entire season was to make the podium or win CCS, and we worked really hard. We were one of the smallest schools to ever win it.”
Not only that, but Menlo won the crown convincingly. The Knights’ 53 points was 15 more than co-runners-up Valley Christian and Silver Creek.
Louie finished seventh in the 400-meter dash and was part of Menlo’s second-place 4x400 relay team, which broke its own school record and also set a new West Bay Athletic League standard. Kyra Pretre, Charlotte Tomkinson, Louie and Lauren Hamilton combined for a time of 3 minutes, 56.74 seconds.
Their effort qualified the relay team for the state meet. Although the Knights didn’t get beyond the preliminaries (two of the original members didn’t run because they were saving themselves for individual events), Louie said just being there “was pretty cool.”
Any chance of returning to state this year ended when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
“School closed the day before our first meet,” Louie said. “It was disappointing not to have a season. I thought we would have done well this year, based on practice. We were hoping to reclaim the CCS title and do well in individual and team events.”
Leaving her mark
Menlo sprints coach Tricia Lord called Louie “the rare sprinter who excelled in all three sprint events (the 100, 200 and 400), adding that she “left her mark on Menlo’s track program as one of the fastest sprinters” in school and league history.
As team captain, Louie “had a quiet and steady demeanor, which kept the team loose but focused,” Lord said. Louie also led by example. The coach praised the sacrifices Louie made for Menlo in the postseason last year.
“Her favorite event is the 100,” Lord said, “but since she had a better scoring chance in the 400, she showed her true team-first mentality by running the 400 at WBAL and CCS finals, instead of the 100.”
Louie won’t race again until she’s at Middlebury, a small, private school in Vermont. The Panthers compete in the winter and spring as part of the New England Small College Athletic Conference.
“It has a really strong track program,” Louie said of Middlebury, an NCAA Division III institution, “and the NESAC is one of the most competitive leagues. I’m excited to compete.”
Middlebury was among 20 colleges the standout student considered. After whittling her list to eight schools, Louie said she visited three and found “a great fit” in Middlebury, ranked among the best liberal arts colleges in the nation.
Before she leaves for Vermont next month, Louie has much to do. She recently hiked to the summit of Mount Whitney (elevation 14,505 feet) with friends and family, and she’s eager for another outdoor challenge.
“It was a hard hike,” she said of conquering Mount Whitney, the tallest mountain in the contiguous U.S., “but it was definitely worth it.”
Louie added that she won’t top that 20-mile trek this summer, but the Bay Area’s Mount Umunhum and Black Mountain are on her to-do list.
Then there’s the matter of taking care of the family’s latest service dog in training. Louie said her parents and two siblings started raising puppies for the nonprofit Canine Companions for Independence six years ago and are now on their fourth one. They socialize the dogs and teach them basic commands before returning them to the organization at age 1 1/2 for professional training.
“It’s tough to know they are going (back to Canine Companions) after you’ve become attached to them,” Louie said. “But it’s a win-win because they can change a person’s life. It’s awesome to be part of that.”