Saline High School senior Jessi Larson will trade in the blue and gold for maize and blue.
Two weeks ago the track and cross country athlete signed a letter of intent to continue competing at the University of Michigan, where she’ll study kinesiology.
Larson, the daughter of Todd and Cynthia, finished her cross country career by taking fourth place at the state meet. A couple weeks later, she committed to Michigan – the grand finishing touch on a long, arduous journey.
In her sophomore year, Larson emerged as one of Michigan’s best female cross country runners. She won the regional and took it to another level at the state meet, finishing second overall. But then injuries struck. She suffered several broken bones in her foot.
“After her sophomore year her future was not set in stone. We weren't sure if she'd be able to run at a high level. Her junior year was about seeing if she would be able to compete again,” coach Eileen Creutz said.
Larson returned and ran well enough to earn all-state honors. But she was well back of the elite pack she ran with.
Some athletes might have thrown in the towel. But Larson was determined to fight her way back to the top.
“When you taste how good you can be and then right after you get that taste, it's taken away, it pushes you to keep going,” Creutz said.
Fellow coach Matt Hagood said Larson stayed in good physical condition by working out in a swimming pool.
“The swimming has been big for her. It kept her in great shape so when her foot allowed her to run, she could go,” Hagood said. “She's just a tough kid all around.”
“She’s the most resilient person you’ll ever meet. I don’t know if anyone else would have kept on going with all the setbacks she faced,” Creutz said. “It wasn’t just the one big injury. There were so many other setbacks that nobody knew about – stress fractures, tendonitis, severe pain that nobody could explain. Yet she was out there on the track by herself, doing lap after lap, grinding it out.”
Larson said she’s glad to have the opportunity to run at Michigan.
She says the program has a good injury prevention – something that obviously means a lot to an athlete who has been through as much as she has. She was also swayed by Michigan’s new indoor and outdoor track facilities. And she likes the coach.
Larson’s own history with injuries inspired her career choice in academia.
“I've been in physiotherapy a lot. I love everything they do to help athletes and other people get back to their lives and sports,” Larson said.
Larson isn’t quite done with Saline High School yet. She’s excited to see what she’ll achieve on the track this spring. And while she’s excited for what awaits at Michigan, she knows she’ll be leaving behind something special at Saline.
“There have been a lot of memories. But every day, being surrounded by 100 other girls, all supporting each other, it's a great experience and I'm going to miss it a lot,” Larson said.