Jessica Jacobson gets varsity shot

For Ames High Girls’ cross country runner Jessica Jacobson, varsity was an unrealistic goal. The senior, who is also a member of the varsity track team, was eighth in JV during the first time trials of the season before catapulting through the roster to land in the varsity lineup. “I was surprised I got on varsity,” Jacobson said. “There were seven people ahead of me in the time trial for JV, so I didn’t think I would ever get that high in the rankings.” Although Jacobson has participated in track since middle school, she did not expect her sprinting skills to benefit her in long distance races. After she started running long distance for fun over the summer, Jacobson was eager to participate in cross country. “I had run track before, but I didn’t actually start running long distance until this summer,” Jacobson said. “In May, Martha (Ryan) told me she was going for a long run with someone else, and I invited myself to come along. I really liked it afterwards.” Jacobson said she was nervous for her first meet on September 1 on the Iowa State course, which is notorious for its difficult terrain, after weeks of fairly relaxed practices. Once she heard the starting gun, the rest of the race came easily. “The competitiveness of the first meet allowed me to run faster,” Jacobson said. “I looked for someone running ahead of me who was on my team and tried to keep up with her. I finished first in JV.” At the second meet, held in Cedar Rapids on September 8, Coach Kirk Schmaltz invited Jacobson to run with the varsity team. “Like I couldn’t even,” Jacobson said. “At first, I was just filling in for (freshman) Payton (Boylston), who was gone for the second meet. And then I ended up running faster than some people on varsity, so I felt like I actually belonged on the varsity lineup after that race.” Jacobson added, “Afterwards I was really satisfied with my performance. I felt like I was on top of a mountain of cats.” Jacobson has been steadily improving her time with each race. At the Indianola meet on September 22, she set a personal record of 16 minutes 7 seconds. “My goal for the rest of the season is to continue improving my time,” Jacobson said. “So far I’ve been able to do that at every race.” Being on varsity has not diminished Jacobson’s dedication to her teammates. Although the level of competition is more intense, Jacobson and the other varsity runners support one another through each meet. “When we’re racing, we’re not trying to beat one another,” Jacobson said. “We encourage everyone to run fast and finish strong.”