The runner’s high from being first to cross the finish line is almost impossible to beat, says Northern’s Gabby Jones.
And this year, she’s experienced it a lot.
Gabby, 17, won gold medals at every level of cross-country competition this season, culminating in a first place win at the Canadian Cross Country Championships in Ottawa Nov. 26.
She finished the U18 girls’ four-kilometre event with a time of 14:50, beating out the national defending champ by two seconds.
“There’s no feeling like it,” she said. “I’ve always been a very competitive person, and that feeling is so satisfying, so rewarding.
“Running is like no other sport.”
Those final metres before winning gold in Ottawa were electric, said Evan Stevens, Gabby’s distance coach at Sarnia Athletics Southwest (ASW) where she trains three times a week.
“She was in fifth position most of the race and turned on the jets in the last 500 to 600 metres,” he said.
“She was on a tear. I sprinted the last metres with her and could see the determination in her face.
“It was a great moment,” he said.
During cross country season, Gabby trains virtually every day, clocking about 60 kilometres a week and showing exceptional focus given the number of other commitments she takes on.
“Gabby’s always been extremely driven and very disciplined,” says her mom, Melanie Murray. “And she’s always had a broad range of interests.”
This year, she is president of the local Rotary Club’s Interact team, which is helping wrap gifts and stock shelves at the Inn of the Good Shepherd. She is co-prime minister of student council at Northern with her friend Morgan Hughes.
She’s a member of the Key Club at school, and she’s recently been accepted at the University of Pennsylvania to study philosophy, politics and economics next year, as well as compete with the school’s cross country team against other Ivy League universities.
“I always wanted to go to an American school where there’s such a lot of focus on sport as well as education,” said Gabby.
Her high school cross country and track coach, Lisa Jackson, says Gabby’s athletic prowess is a gift but she also has a wealth of other exceptional skills.
“She has the speed, the endurance and the mental toughness,” said Jackson. “When she hurts, she keeps going.”
As much as cross country is an individual sport, it’s also a team sport, Jackson added.
“Gabby cheers on the other athletes working their hardest. She shows up every day with a smile on her face and ready to work.”
Stevens predicts that Gabby will continue to excel at the university level.
“She is a high-performing, high-achieving multisport athlete,” he said. “She’s the most competitive person I’ve ever met and also the most kind person.
“The sky’s the limit for her. If she wants it, she can do it.”
Who do you consider an exceptional person in Sarnia-Lambton? Nominate someone you know and explain why you think they should be The Journal’s Exceptional Person of the Week. Email [email protected].