BROOKS – Once upon a time Jessie Brownell was a track and field runner, well mostly a jumper, who dabbled in cross country.
When she first came to Salem Academy two years ago, some girls talked her into training for cross country with them.
What Brownell discovered is that she likes to run distances, and also that she’s pretty good at it.
The senior came back from a slow start to place third in Wednesday’s Stayton XC Invitational at Willamette Mission State Park.
“Normally I come out a lot faster so that way I can be ahead of the pack, but I came out kind of slow and I feel like that kind of cost me a little bit,” Brownell said.
“I feel like I could have caught that girl ahead of me if I would have come out a little faster and stayed ahead of her the whole race.”
Brownell was home schooled through her freshman year of high school, but she competed in track and field at Silverton as a freshman.
She wanted something new so she enrolled at Salem Academy.
“I wanted to make some new friends and stuff,” she said. “I wanted to be able to go to a Christian school where I could share views with other people and grow stronger in Christ that way. It was something that was important to me.”
When she enrolled at Salem Academy for her sophomore year, some of the other girls talked her into taking part of some training runs with them in the summer.
She found out that she was that she was pretty fast.
Brownell placed fourth at the Class 3A/2A/1A Special District 3 cross country meet that year and won the district championship as a junior.
“It was fun and I stuck with it,” Brownell said. “And I really liked my coach, Kelly Bates and coach (Teri) Wright.”
She’s been to the state cross country meet twice while at Salem Academy, including placing 15th as a junior. And she’s been to the state track and field meet twice, including placing sixth and seventh in the triple jump the past two years.
But she’s still trying to break the elusive 20 minute barrier in the 5,000 meter distance.
Brownell has been almost a minute faster in the same courses in every race this year than she was last year so that goal seems achievable, especially since her personal record is 20:36.
“I don’t think I’m quite where I want to be yet,” she said. “I’m still a good minute away from my PR from last year, but I think that with my training I’m going to go down and I’ll be where I want at the end of the season, but not yet.”
bpoehler@StatesmanJournal.com, (503) 399-6701 or Twitter.com/bpoehler