HEBRON, Ohio — With the weather being favorable for runners, but the field being challenging regardless, Eastern junior Jessica Cook competed on Saturday in her third state cross country race.
It was indeed her third state appearance in as many years of high school for the standout distance runner, as Cook completed the 5K course at National Trail Raceway in 20 minutes and 34 seconds.
Cook, once again competing in the Division III girls race, placed 98th overall out of 179 runners — as she qualified for the state race as an individual for the second consecutive season.
After the opening mile, Cook was in 61st, having gone out in five minutes and 59 seconds — but she dropped 24 spots in the second mile, completing two miles in 12:49.
She then fell back 13 more spots over the course of the final mile, and crossed the finish line in 98th in 20:34.
“Today felt better than last year, because I started out way too fast so I started out slower this year,” said Cook.
Two years ago, Cook qualified along with the entire Eastern girls team — as it placed ninth as a squad with Cook capturing 21st place in 19:35.
Last season, she finished 43rd in 20 seconds slower (19:55).
She maintained her initial appearance has been her best of the three trips.
“I still think the first one was my best one because I really didn’t know what I was doing and I went out better,” said Cook. “And I still had my whole team that first year, so I had people to pace off of that I always run with every day.”
Cook’s personal best cross country time is actually 19 minutes and five seconds.
On Saturday, it was sunny with temperatures topping out in the low 60s — a stark contrast from Cook’s freshman run.
That day, it was 34 degrees, but the wind was especially brutal upon the runners.
Conditions were also improved last season.
As for the course setup, the first and third miles are mainly contested near the full grandstands, whereas the second mile is not.
“The second mile you have a lot of turns and you’re in a field where there’s no one there cheering you on. So it’s boring. But the first mile and third mile, there’s people everywhere around,” said Cook.
Speaking of spectators, Cook thanked her family and support group — which hopes to see her run one final time at the state meet next year.
“It’s exciting because you see everybody from your home supporting you. I think that’s cool,” she said. “Hopefully I do better.”
Paul Boggs can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2106