If Aristotle is right, and we are what we repeatedly do, then Jessica Shaw, Allegan first-year, is a runner.
“I’ve always loved running, ever since I was a little girl,” Shaw said. “My mom said she used to just laugh because she’d ask me if I was tired and I would be like no, and I would just be all excited about running.”
As Shaw grew older, her enthusiasm for running only increased. She ran her first road race at the age of eight and she joined the cross-country team in the sixth grade. At age 13, Shaw was the first female to cross the finish line at the Hearty Hustle, a Vicksburg 5k that she still recalls as one of her favorite running memories, in part because of her family’s involvement in it.
“I just felt like I was on top of the world,” Shaw said. “My picture was in the newspaper, and my grandparents are from Vicksburg so they did the race too – my whole family did, and my grandpa, grandma and I all won our age groups.”
Learning from a setback
Throughout high school, Shaw’s intensity amplified, and she would often run before and after school, followed by a lift in the weight room. As a result of her extreme training regimen, Shaw injured her hip muscle during the winter of her junior year.
“I just overdid it,” Shaw said. “I was running a circuit for indoor track, and I beat our school record for the circuit, but I crossed the finish and just collapsed. I couldn’t put any pressure on my hip.”
As a result of this injury, Shaw was on crutches and, for the first time in years, was unable to run.
“[It] was really rough for me because it was my junior year going into track, and I got to run track, but I didn’t end anywhere near where I could have if I didn’t get hurt,” Shaw said.
Shaw believes everything happens for a reason, and despite the physical setback her hip injury caused, she says she learned from it.
“I became too obsessive, and all I was doing was thinking about running and running and running,” Shaw said. “I had to step back, which is one of the reasons going Division 3 was a good choice for me.”
Always a runner, but academics come first
Initially, Albion wasn’t even on Shaw’s radar for college. She was planning on signing with Michigan State, but after meeting cross-country coach Hayden Smith, Shaw began to change her mind.
“The thing that caught me about Albion was Coach Hayden and the atmosphere and how academics came first. I love running, and I’m always going to be a runner, but I’m going to college for my academics,” Shaw said.
Shaw, who hopes to continue onto medical school, has only been at Albion for roughly six weeks, but says she is already starting to feel at home, especially when she’s with the cross-country team.
“The first week [at Albion] I didn’t want to do anything because I just wanted to be by myself – I was really homesick,” Shaw said. “And the team was just so nice and they finally got me out of my shell, and I started talking more and laughing more and feeling more at home. They make you feel so welcome, and that’s the atmosphere I get from this school, too.”
Smith also noticed how easily Shaw became a part of the team.
“At a meet this season as the men’s and women’s team gathered near the bus, Jessica took the time to ask other runners how they had done and listen to the explanation of their races,” Smith said. “I was impressed that someone new to the team who had raced for the win, but come up short, was taking the time to listen to others and not dwell on her race.”
Smith, who describes Shaw as both intense and talented, believes it’s not only Shaw’s skill that makes her a great runner.
“Obviously, Jessica brings a great deal of talent to the team,” Smith said. “Of equal importance is her intensity to excel and willingness to connect with teammates and make the team better.”
Both Shaw and Smith hope the team will place in the top three or four in the MIAA and Great Lakes Regional. Shaw says she is prepared to work hard, along with the rest of the team, to earn that finish.
“Our team looks really strong this year,” Shaw said. “We’ve got a good group of girls, and I’m just excited. I’ve never been so excited to see how things are going to turn out. I’m ready.”
Photo by Alex Carey