Jen Bunker was at practice 16 years ago as an assistant track and field coach at Bexley High School when her water broke.

She was rushed to the hospital and delivered an 8-pound, 13-ounce daughter on April 11, 2002. Two days later, she had Caroline in tow, papoose-style, while coaching at the Eastmoor Invitational.

Now the coach at Columbus School for Girls, Jen's Unicorns competed against her daughters -- senior Maggie and sophomore Caroline run for Bexley -- in the Division II regional meet May 24 and 26 at Lexington. The top four finishers in each event qualified for state Friday, June 1, and Saturday, June 2, at Ohio State.

Caroline advanced to regional in the 800 meters and with the 400, 800, 1,600 and 3,200 relays while Maggie also ran on the 400 and 800 relays.

"They have grown up around the track and they have been able to spend their time with some quality people," Jen said. "My oldest, Maggie, was born Feb. 1 (2000), so we didn't take her out as fast, but she was only a couple weeks old when we had her at an indoor meet at Capital. It was cold, and you're always more cautious with your first child. You learn what you can do when you have a second."

Jen Bunker was Jen Ridgley when she was setting records for the Lions. A 1991 Bexley graduate, she still holds girls program records in the 200 (24.9 seconds) and 400 (55.57).

Maggie broke her mother's record of 12.2 in the 100 with a 12.1 as a sophomore.

"It was tough coming in because (my mom is) in the (Bexley athletics) hall of fame and she's pretty much a Bexley legend," said Maggie, who attended Columbus Academy as a freshman. "She's Jenny Ridgley on the record board so it was nice to put a Bunker on there.

"She has a legacy in coaching and running. My dad (Jon) is super well-known as a (sixth-grade) teacher (at Maryland Elementary in Bexley), so I was always known as 'Jenny's daughter' or 'Jon's daughter' or even 'Caroline's sister.' I always felt like, kind of pressure in school or in sports. Once I set my own record at Bexley, it was easier to create my own name."

The sisters are ultra-competitive, whether it's who runs the fastest, who gets dressed the fastest for school or who eats meals quicker.

"I think that competition comes from wanting to do something for myself," Caroline said. "People call me Mr. Bunker's daughter, or Jenny Ridgley's daughter or even Maggie Bunker's sister, but that's not me. I'm Caroline.

"It's another layer (of competition) between me and Maggie. I know in the track world, she's the faster one and just her being the older sister brings out competition. It comes from us wanting to be individuals and making a name for ourselves."

Another thing the sisters have in common with their mother is a coach. Jeff Schneider, who was Jen's coach at Bexley, now is an assistant with the Lions and works with sprints and relays.

"So many of the coaches at Bexley have known my mother and my father for so long that they really understand family dynamics," Caroline said. "Because my mom and I are so similar, they know how to push my buttons for me to get better or what to say when I'm on that ledge and need help getting back into my head.

"(Schneider) will say, 'Well, your mom did it this way.' Well, my mom can run a 55.5 in the 400, so that must be the right way. They know us so well."

Maggie said she learned a lot just from being around high school athletes during her formative years.

"We had so many girls who helped us out so much," she said. "They called us 'the baby Bunks,' but we're not that any more.

"(Athletes like 2011 Bexley graduate) Charlotte Myers (and 2016 CSG graduates) Isabella Pesavento (and) Eleanor Smith ... so many of them were like older sisters to us. Charlotte Myers even helped me out with my college search. It was awesome to experience what they have. I can learn from their experiences and having those older people to look up to and help me out."

Caroline ran in events ranging from the 100 to the 800 but was more of a distance runner before tearing her left ACL in April 2017. Jen said her youngest daughter gained speed after recovering.

"Caroline ran a 6:30 mile in the second grade and a 2:32 (800) in middle school, so (distance) has been a natural thing," Jen said. "I think her speed came after she tore her ACL and I think all off that work in the training room and physical therapy really helped her speed develop in a way she probably hadn't had it before. She's a lot stronger and she knows how her body can carry that speed in a way she hadn't before."

Maggie graduated from Bexley on May 27 with a 3.8 GPA and will attend Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, to compete in track and soccer and study political science.

"I learned from my mom how to compete and push myself in ways no one else is going to," Maggie said. "I had to ask myself the hard questions and push myself harder than others do. I had to hit higher speeds than the target speeds to push myself to get better and be better."

Jen said it finally has started to sink in that her eldest daughter will be leaving for college soon. "There's this concept that's really important in our family, and that's leaving a legacy," she said. "The time that you spend in the community or in a program, you need to leave a lasting, positive mark. We are supportive and positive as a family, but we also have high expectations.

"They have big shoes to fill, but they are filling their own shoes. They are creating their own identity and their own legacy. For me that's the greatest thing is watching them find their own way and do their thing, but also know that they have a great network and safety net to catch them as they push themselves and take risks."

Bexley girls 3,200 relay reaches state

The Bexley girls 3,200 relay of Molly Fagin, Caroline Bunker, Karleigh Place and Maria Steinke finished third (9:45.03) at regional May 24 to advance to state.

In the boys regional, the 3,200 relay of Grant Halliday, Grant Heilman, Zander Hirsch and Spencer Stevenson was eighth in 8:09.8, its best time of the season.

Alexander Garside was 15th in the long jump (18 feet, 10 inches).

shennen@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekHennen