Jessica Gall - Five Years of Leading the Pack
Sept. 24, 2006
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - Fifth-year senior Jessica Gall claimed the Indiana Intercollegiates title, and it could be a preview of things to come.
"Individually, I really want to be All-American again and just see what I can do," Gall said. "I haven't really had a cross country season where I've been healthy all the way through. So my goal is to stay healthy so I can really push my limit and not really have anything hold me back. I think I have the experience and the intuitiveness from the past four years to be in the upper ranks of every track and cross country race I'm in. My goal is to be competitive in every race and stay at the front of the pack."
After watching Kelly Siefker close her collegiate career as an All-American in the 3,000m steeplechase, Gall realized her remaining moments at Indiana should be captured. The team's annual preseason training camp was the start of the already two-time All-American's very own video documentary of her last season of cross country.
"It's really unofficial," Gall said of the video. "We always have this video camera that we take to track meets and I just thought, 'Why don't we take it to a cross country meet?' I took it up to camp at Indiana Dunes and just tried to get the silly little things that everyone does."
Capturing those silly moments turned into a realization of her final days at Indiana.
"With Kelly leaving last year and seeing what she went through, it made me want to appreciate that I am lucky enough to have an extra year here," Gall said. "And it just started to hit me that this was it, this is my last year. My dad drove out to Terre Haute for the Intercollegiates meet, and he told me afterwards that he started crying while I was warming up because it's my last cross country season. The whole idea with the video camera was to just capture the little moments, and I try to tape whenever coach talks. It's just such a unique opportunity to be on a college sports team, and I just want to remember it."
Gall entered this season as a redshirt senior after taking her sophomore season of cross country as a redshirt year. That extra year will hope to pay dividends for both Gall and Indiana, and with Big Ten Championships in Bloomington on Oct. 29, the Hoosiers have a chance to make history on their own course.
"Hosting Big Ten Championships is a really big deal," Gall said. "The team as a whole feels like this meet is really an opportunity for us to place ourselves back at the top of the Big Ten and get back to nationals. This is a program that belongs at the national meet every year, and we have the talent and work ethic to get there. Getting to nationals and placing as high as possible at Big Tens are definitely team goals."
Head coach Judy Wilson always knew that Gall's driven personality and welcome for new challenges would only benefit Indiana and the cross country program.
"When I recruited Jess, I knew she would be an All-American," Wilson said. "She was so intently listening to what I was saying and she paid so much attention to things. It was almost scary."
"We were at Illinois for Big Ten Championships," Wilson said. "Jess was there as a high school senior and I brought her over to the scoreboard and showed her that we were ninth and I said, 'This is not going to happen next year.' She came in her freshman year, and we were ranked 14th in the country. I feel like having her here has really just taken our program from having not run at nationals in 12 years to going three times in the last four years and last year, Jess and Lindsay (Hattendorf) made it individually."
Gall's success on the course and the track has led her to opportunities most student-athletes would never experience. The current president of Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and member of IU's Faculty Athletics Committee, Gall has been able to gain a different kind of perspective on collegiate athletics and life in general.
"I think it helps relieve a little bit of the stress and pressure," Gall said. "Sports can be pretty intense, and it's nice to have other outlets and I think that the characteristics that make you a good athlete carry over and give you the ability to focus and to work hard. I think something that athletics has taught me that really helps in life in general is that sometimes you have to do stuff that you don't want to do or you don't feel like doing. You still have to run hard, even if you don't feel good. I think that helps with everything else and school. I may not really want to read this 30-page paper, but I'm going to do it, and I'll be better off because of it."
The reality of life after college for Gall is quickly approaching. However, Wilson believes the 22-year-old is ahead of the game.
"The way Jess processes things is what makes her different than other people," Wilson said. "I've always kind of said this about her - when she's in her 30s, she's really going to love what she's doing because people are going to take her more seriously. I think she is way ahead of her time right now."
With a bachelor's in political science, Gall decided to get a master's in an area that presented another challenge to the driven student-athlete. A self-proclaimed news junkie, she decided on using the school of journalism to further her education during her remaining year and half of eligibility and help her reach her eventual goal of attending law school.
"I don't like starting things and not finishing them, so the journalism school was attractive to me in that it was manageable for a year and a half," Gall said. "Also, in political science, I did an honors thesis on how the news portrayed Bush vs. Kerry, so that got me really thinking a lot about the news. I kind of realized that I spend a lot time with the news, so I thought it would be interesting to study. What I really want to do is go to law school, so I knew journalism would be a lot of reading and writing and research, and those are some basic skills that will hopefully prepare me for law school. The journalism school has a really good reputation, and it was something completely different then anything that I had studied before. It was a new challenge that attracted me."
Gall, a three-time All-Big Ten honoree for cross country, has not only developed into what some at IU would consider to be a model student-athlete, she has also used her experiences to enhance the lives of others, including Wilson.
"If Jess has learned half from me of what I have learned from her, then I feel like we've done well for her in her five years," Wilson said.
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