Born to run

December 16, 2022

Jessie competing at nationals in San Diego.

Born to run

Pirate News is a presentation of Hart Public Schools in partnership with Oceana County Press.  

By Allison Scarbrough, Editor

HART — It sure seems that state champion and All American athlete Jessie Jazwinski was born to run.

Jessie’s online Spanish teacher, Erica Nichols, who lives in San Diego, came to nationals to cheer her on.

The Hart High School sophomore captured the Michigan High School Athletic Association Division 3 individual championship during the state cross country finals Nov. 5 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan.

Then, the 15-year-old won the Girls Elite Team race of the Michigan Meet of Champions the following weekend, Nov. 12, at Shepherd High School. Jessie turned in a personal-best time of 16:47.3 to win the all-division race by nearly 13 seconds.

Jessie at 11 months old, running in her first “race.”

The running phenom became an All American athlete Dec. 10 in San Diego, placing 11th at the Cross Country National Championships.

“The drive to just keep getting better” is what motivates her, she said. “I watch all these girls in the country keep improving their times, and I want to be up there running with them.”

“When she ended up running 16:47, that was insane — she set a sophomore state record and she was ranked second in the whole country for sophomores,” said Jessie’s mom, Katie. “All of the little things she started doing at the beginning of the season are starting to reap their benefits.”

Katie teaches health at Hart Middle School and strength and conditioning at Hart High School, and Jessie is in her strength and conditioning class. “She puts in so much time lifting and doing all of her core and Theraband exercises and her agility and speed exercises. She’s strong and efficient, and her nutrition is phenomenal.”

Jessie said she has a lot of variety in her diet. “On Wednesday or Thursday before a Saturday race, I will eat more protein. Then, the day before I kind of just carb load. We have pasta for dinner, and I always have a dessert.” Having a dessert the night before a race has become her signature ritual. “Right now, my favorite dessert is a Tiramisu. My teammates make fun of me and say, ‘Jessie, why are you having dessert? That’s going to weigh you down.’” After weeks of sticking to a healthy diet, the athlete cherishes the reward. 

Jessie said her mom’s class has helped her avoid any serious injuries due to her physical strength. “She runs so efficiently, and it looks so effortless when she’s out there,” said Katie. The runner has been described as having a machine-like pace. Most of the time she smiles as she runs, said her mom.

“Running gives you so much freedom,” said Jessie. “You get to enjoy your surroundings and nature. It’s an individual sport, but at the end of the day, you’re on a team and you all work together and come together. You’re running individually, but you’re all working toward the same goal.”

Jessie with siblings Sammi and Johnny after nationals.

Katie and husband Bob competed as runners at the college level, so Jessie inherited the running gene from both parents. Katie raced for the University of Michigan, and Bob, who is a special education teacher at Hart Middle School, raced for the Western Michigan University Broncos.

“Running is in her blood,” said Katie.

“By the time she was born, we were putting on running camps on the other side of the state for Nike. Ever since she was 3 months old, she’s been coming to these camps and tagging along with us when we were coaching. She was like their mascot. When she was 3 days old, she was on the track. She’s always wanted to run a race since she was like 11 months old.”

All four of the Jazwinski children have a passion for running. “They grew up in the culture of loving exercise and loving running.” Jessie’s siblings Bobby, 13, Sammi, 10, and Johnny, almost 9, are all avid runners. Bobby will be a freshman next year and Jessie’s teammate. The two younger siblings plan to compete in high school, too.

The family owns Jazz Blueberry Farm in Benona Township in the Stony Lake area, and the Jazwinski children run through the fields. They also eat plenty of the blueberries grown on the farm, a top-rated superfood.

The Fox and Burmeister families own nearby farms. “They let us run through their orchards, so we stay off the busy roads,” said Katie.

“Right around our blueberry patch is exactly 400 meters, so it’s the measurement of a track,” said Jessie. “We don’t have to go to a track — we just run around our patch — and we eat blueberries while we run.”

“Now, my husband and I have to ride our bikes, because we can’t keep up with them,” said Katie.

Jessie, who also runs track for the Pirates, has streamlined her athletic pursuits. “I used to play basketball and

Jessie with her parents and siblings Bobby and Sammi.

soccer,” but as running became “more intense,” she scaled back from the other sports.

“Last track season my freshman year, I kind of tried everything just because I want to get my speed up so I can have a good kick at the end of my distance races. So, I tried everything from the 100-meter dash, the 300 hurdles, all the way up to the 2-mile. Trying all the different events is just really fun, because in cross country, you’re always doing long distance, so I might as well try something different in track.”

Jessie hopes to one day compete for the United States on a worldwide stage, possibly the Olympics. Obviously, colleges across the country will be vying for her commitment, Jessie is thinking Stanford might be her choice. Attending Notre Dame is another possible route she could take. “Those two are probably my two big ones right now, and I will always have Michigan in my radar because that’s where my mom went and Ann Arbor is just a really beautiful city.”

Not only do her genetics come into play, but the perfectionist has “intestinal fortitude” to dig down deep and be extremely competitive, said her mom. “Even after that race when she placed 11th and did absolutely amazing for her first time, a couple hours later, she was reflecting on what she could have done better.”

Over the holidays, Jessie and her siblings are taking a little break from running to give their muscles and minds a rest. “Right now, I’m excited about making Christmas cookies. After a little break, we’ll start training for indoor (track) season.”

The running family moved to Oceana County from Dexter near Ann Arbor after losing their home to an F-3 tornado in 2012. “We had to hide in our closet, because we didn’t have a basement,” recalled Katie. 

Disaster eventually turned to a dream come true when the Jazwinskis found their dream home and 50-acre blueberry farm. “A goal of ours was to raise our kids on a farm.” The kids work on the farm in the summer. 

Long-time cross country coaches Terry and Linda Tatro have led their teams to outstanding success over the years. The girls team won five consecutive state championships, and the boys squad earned its first state title this past season. “At the finish line, they’re always there to give you hugs,” said Jessie. “They‘re kind of like everybody’s grandparent.”

Jessie, a 4.0 GPA student, wisely expressed her goals for the future. “I just want to keep improving and keep loving running, because if you’re not loving what you’re doing, there is no point in doing it.”

Runners take off at the starting line at nationals.

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Photos courtesy of Katie Jazwinski


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