Sept/Oct. 2014 issue of New England
(Photo: Wearing a
bib number of a different sort, Jessica poses with prize cow Mare and younger
CorningÛªs Jessica Lawson represents the latest in a line of
New York greats. Now entering her sophomore year, she ended a tremendous
freshman campaign, which included a win at the New York Federation meet in
cross-country and a 17:08 5000-meter run at indoor nationals, with a 5:06 mile
at outdoor nationals.
Like her predecessors, including Mary Cain whom she admires
greatly, she possesses maturity and poise beyond her 15 years. With the
pressures that come with such high achievement, Lawson has balanced her passion
for running with her pride in halter training of cows at her familyÛªs farm and subsequent
showing of the animals at local fairs. Halter training, as she describes
it, involves working with a calf shortly after birth and using a soft rope to
lead the calf around. The work, which also includes grooming and other
caretaking, can be laborious but also satisfying. Last year, she won
ÛÏMaster ShowmanÛ for her cow, Mara. Her pride in her work with animals is
as evident as her love of running.
ÛÏRunning never really leaves my life,Û she
said. ÛÏBut it is nice to have other things to focus on.Û When she is
on the farm, she is often joined by her grandfather, also a runner, and the two
talk about running. Her parents and four younger siblings also spend a
great deal of time working on the farm. Those moments seem to capture all
of LawsonÛªs lovesÛÓrunning, work on the farm, and her family.
Her father, Ray, is also her cross-country coach. He
was a fine runner at the University of Rochester in the early 1990Ûªs and
contributed to their 1991 National Championship in cross-country. He
continues to do well in local road races but concedes that he is having
increasing trouble keeping up with Jessica.
When reflecting upon his own path in running, he admitted
that he wished things had gone a little differently. In addition to
injuries, he stated that he didnÛªt enjoy measurable growth from high school to
college. He believes he was perhaps guilty of not enjoying where he was at
He feels, however, that he can help his daughter by helping
her, and her teammates, to ÛÏbe in the moment.Û He believes that his
athletes can better enjoy where they are by not placing a great emphasis on
racing. With a focus on smarter training, including a reasonable cap on
mileage, and more selective racing, he hopes to preserve his athletes for peak
performances at the end of the season.
His philosophy has clearly influenced Jessica but he
deflects much of the credit and acknowledges his daughterÛªs innate talent and
ability to prepare.
ÛÏI try not to over coach. She understands
herself. She sets goals.Û He added, ÛÏSheÛªs a very good
tactician. She knows [for example] that you have to have a purpose for
taking the lead.Û
running circles, is modest. Unquestionably, though, she is keenly aware of
what it takes to maintain her edge.
14, 2013 in San Diego, CA ÛÒ warming up before the Foot Locker National Cross
Country Championships. by Andrew McLanahan/photorun.net)
In describing her pre-race routine, she eschews music or
other common scholastic rituals but instead intensely focuses on the task at
hand. ÛÏIÛªm not sure of what exactly will happen during a race, but I lay out
a plan and prepare for different scenarios,Û she explains. Because she
prepares for different scenarios, she is able to react throughout the
race. She summed it up by stating, ÛÏHow the race goes is up to me.Û
She is also a student of the sport. She enjoys reading
running magazines and following professional runners. She was thrilled to
meet some of distance runningÛªs greats at Footlocker Nationals, including Molly
Huddle, who is originally from Elmira, just down the road from Corning.
Jessica Lawson, who began 2013 somewhat anonymously, is now
leading every scholastic preview for New York. With continued focus and
balance, there will be no end to the blue ribbons.