Lindsey Zigler ’17 (left) and her track mentor, Arielle Byl ’15 pose as teammates, “sisters”, and friends.

The Bethel women’s track and field team has accumulated many notable achievements. However, winning four NCCAA national championships, 96 NCCAA individual national championships, six league championships and 86 individual national championships isn’t the only way this team stands out. Few programs can compete with the Bethel women’s track and field team’s techniques in bonding.

Last year, while attending NAIA indoor nationals, a group of soon-to-be seniors admired the intimacy of their team and brainstormed ways to improve. Inspired by her recent experience as a transfer student, middistance athlete Danielle Tepper (’14) offered an idea that would solidify the camaraderie of the women’s team, and offer a mentoring program for incoming freshmen.

“One point that we kept coming back to was the intimidation and shyness factor we felt as freshmen, or first year ‘tracksters’ at Bethel. How much help would knowing just one upperclassman provide?” Tepper asked.

Inspired by this idea, senior leaders Christina Adams (’14), Kate Carr (’14), Maggie Dade (’14), Caitlyn Ramirez (’14) and Lauren Dudley (’14), along with Tepper, launched the Big Sis-Lil Sis program, creating a sort of “spiritual sisterhood.” According to Head Coach Tony Natali, the family atmosphere of track and field is both a tradition and a priority.

“It’s fun as an upperclassmen to encourage and mentor — God commands us to take all we have been through and use our experiences to love and help other people,” says Tepper.

Through Big Sis-Lil Sis, each incoming freshman was randomly paired with an upperclassman. “Not only did this allow all of the new teammates to become acquainted with the upperclassmen, it also allowed for each pair to develop a friendship and mentor-like relationship,” says Tepper.

Freshman Lindsey Zigler admitted her hesitation when first receiving the Big Sis-Lil Sis mystery invitation. “I was super intimidated at the first meeting. But when I realized what it was all about I was excited!” said Zigler. “It’s better to know that you’ll have at least one familiar face at the first practice.”

Since then, Big Sis-Lil Sis has reduced the intimidation factor that often comes with such a stark transition. It’s given Zigler the confidence and opportunity to reach out to her big sis with questions regarding workouts, life as a colligate athlete and as a Bethel College student.

“I hope it continues — it helped me a lot,” says Zigler. “I can see myself being a big sis when I become an upperclassman.”

Posing in front of the helm after the “big reveal,” the girls hope that this memory will be the first of many as the Big Sis- Lil Sis tradition begins.

The Big Sis-Lil Sis program presents an opportunity to offer experience as an athlete and grow together as teammates, friends and “sisters.” After all the championships have been won and the awards have been established, these are the relationships that the athletes will remember.