Madelynne Cadeau felt the target on the back of South Forsyth's relay team.
It was two years ago, Cadeau's sophmore season and her first year with the War Eagles, and South Forsyth was the top-seeded 4x800 meter relay team at the Bojangles Classic, an annual meet in South Carolina that features some of the most competitive track and field teams in the Southeast.
"We were kind of nervous because we were seeded first and everyone's going to try to beat you," Cadeau remembered. "We ended up just going for it, and we did really well and ended up winning."
Cadeau and the War Eagles ran away with the victory, shaving nearly 6 seconds off their seed time and finishing 4 seconds ahead of the second-place team.
For Cadeau, her sophomore season was a watershed moment.
Her family had just moved to Forsyth County from Tennessee, and she quickly realized how seriously her new teammates took their training.
"The team that I came from wasn't super competitive. It was more we were doing it all for the social (aspect)," Cadeau said. "That was super fun, for sure, but when I came to South I was like, 'Oh, this is really competitive. All these girls are running fast and really care about their running a lot.' So, I guess that was the biggest change. I'm really grateful for it, because it kind of got me into the gear I'm in now.
"I feel like I would have found my way to the level I'm at now, and I think I would have found my way to a college scholarship, but I just think moving changes you. You learn a lot of things from moving. I just think it kind of helped the process a little."
Cadeau, the 2020 Forsyth County News Athlete of the Year in track and field, will enroll this fall at Furman, where she will compete in cross country and track for the Paladins.
South Forsyth has a strong connection to Furman, as former War Eagle Savannah Carnahan enjoyed an impressive career with the Paladins from 2016-20, twice earning NCAA All-American honors and setting the school's 10,000 meter record (33:35.11).
Cadeau shined early during her senior track season, picking up wins at the Hornet 8 Way (400, 4:59.94) Longhorn Stampede (800, 2:19.30) and The Atlanta Relays (3200, 10:46.40).
Her time in the 3200 was about 1 second off her mark from last year's Class 7A state meet, when she finished second individually.
"I was definitely really disappointed," Cadeau said. "I started out with a bang. I was doing so good — I was right on my PRs in the first races of the season. So, I was definitely really disappointed."
She even earned an invitation to the New Balance Indoor Nationals in New York City, which was scheduled for March 13-15. But when that event was canceled, Cadeau knew it likely meant the end of her senior season, too.
"I just try to find a different perspective on it," Cadeau said. "I'm fortunate enough to have at least four more years of running in college to continue my running career — if not, maybe more. So, that's sort of what kept me more positive in the situation, thinking about how I still have college to have good achievements."
While her competition will increase significantly this fall at Furman, Cadeau's formula remains simple.
"Really just enjoy what you're doing," Cadeau said. "Don't get caught up in all the stats and everything like that. Just enjoy training and the process, and the results are going to come."