Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Road to State: Jessica Xu

DSC_0539This morning Jessica Xu will toe the line at the California State Championship in her last cross country race as a Warrior. There is no better race to end your high school career than the pinnacle of high school cross country.

Xu will be running in her second State Championship, but this time things are different, “Last time I was just happy to run,” Jessica said looking back at that first state run. “This time I'm not settling for less. This year my goal is to run faster than I ever have before.”

Jessica is a Warrior. For seven years she has been a key runner for Valley Christian, first for her Junior High team when she was called to run up with the eighth grade team despite being a sixth grader, then in high school as a four year varsity Letterman. She has earned first team all-WCAL honors the past two seasons, finished in the top 14 in CCS since her sophomore year and has earned recognition on the all-San Jose Mercury News team as the one of the best cross country runners inthe South Bay. Browsing the team’s all-time list you she her named littered throughout both cross country and track & field. She owns a 5:20 personal best for the mile and is one of the top ranked cross country runners in school history. Last season she was the co-runner of the year for the Lady Warriors.

Known for her outgoing lively personality who is the first to instigate a dance party in the van on the way home from a race, one can’t help but notice this fun-loving girl is running with a bit of a chip on her shoulder. Not that she has anything to prove, she has been a consistent force for the Warriors all season long. She led the way for the team in multiple races including the WCAL Championship where she finished an impressive fourth in one of the most elite leagues in the section. She was solid again at the CCS Championship, her performance was at the core of scoring for the Warriors that propelled them to the top 10 ranking and the fourth fastest team time in school history.

She has stepped into the leadership role this season and has made it clear she is here to stick up for her girls. Even when talking about advice on how to be successful at the state meet she has an edge to her, “Defiance is an incredible motivator. Defy your limits,” she said when offering advice to those running in their first State Meet.

Jessica’s previous run at the State Meet came her sophomore year. She was coming off a breakthrough performance at the section championship when just a few days later she began suffering from runner’s knee and she had no choice but to run for the experience. This time things are different; she has something to run for.

“Even though we all came from different places this season, we've come together and qualified for the state championship. It is something the whole team can be proud of. I am proud of my girls,” Jessica said. “They have really given me a passion for something. External things don't motivate me. Running for these girls gives me a passion I've never had for anything else.”

“I feel like we've bonded the most from overcoming things together like dealing with injuries and knowing the pressure some of us deal with academically and at home. Our girls are family; we are always there for each other.”

Jessica has never lost who she is and the team loves her for it.  She is still the girl to blame teammate Karen Mac for just about anything and is quick to pose for a "call me, maybe" photo with a banana phone in the middle of the race.  But now she is so much more, she is the cornerstone to this year's team.  In-as-much as the team means to her, she means to the team tenfold.

DSC_0753"Every year there are a few seniors who for one reason or another become the heartbeat of the team," Coach Small said.  "Jessica is that for us this year."

Maybe it is that Jessica hasn't missed a practice, or how protective she is of her teammates.  Or maybe that even on the worst of days you can still get her to smile.  Perhaps it is the selfless love she shows for everyone on her team day in and day out.

“These girls are the funniest people ever, I can let my guard down, relax, and be crazy. Cause that's just who we are.”

Jessica has qualified to compete in the CIF Cross Country State Championship and will bring the fury November 30 to Woodward Park in Fresno.

To check out The Road to State with Jessica from 2011: CLICK HERE 

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