Life, one step at a time


Photo credit: Maury Montalvo

Athletes are often glamorized as larger than life, individuals that can perform at the height of human ability and even pushing beyond what audiences expect. With all the awards, stats and amazing performances, it is often forgotten that athletes are humans just like everyone else. They’re people with interests and lives outside of their sport.

With cross-country season just starting up, Sep. 29 at the Capital Cross Challenge in Sacramento, there’s no better time to analyze three stand-out runners; Desirae Jones, Elyssa Shall and Kayden Carpenter. These three athletes are all part of Chico State women’s cross-country team which placed fifth out of 26 teams in Sacramento.

Junior Desirae Jones finished 30th overall in the Capitol Cross Challenge. Jones ended with a time of 22:02.8, a minute faster than last year at the same event. Photo credit: Maury Montalvo

According to Jones, her day like most of the cross-country team, starts at 6:15 or 6:30 in the morning to get to a 7 a.m. practice. Jones usually starts her days with an early run before heading straight to class.

Mondays and Wednesdays have an additional practice at 2:15 p.m. which consists of an eight-mile run and time in the weight room. After that, it’s night classes and homework with a lot of long nights is the norm.

“You can always be busy and do what you love, but there are times where I’ve found myself too busy. So, I’ve taken a step back and tried to figure out how to manage my time the most,” Jones said. “I think that’s applicable to any student-athlete because we can’t be getting less than six hours of sleep and expect to perform.”

Jones is also the treasurer of the Baja Society of Automotive Engineers club on campus. They design and build their own off-road go karts; which fits well with her major of sustainable manufacturing.

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Senior Elyssa Schall is a double major in exercise physiology and physical education. She also is a three-time CCAA All-Academic award winner. Photo credit: Maury Montalvo

Shall has been injured each of her previous four years and even going into her fifth year with an injury that kept her out of the Capital Cross Challenge.

Yet, through all the hardships she laces her shoes up every fall without a single hint of quit or regret in her. She plans on running unattached next year in Chico.

“Going into being a college athlete you have all these dreams and you think everything is going to go perfectly. I’ve probably been injured 75 percent of my time here,” Shall said. “In the long run it has taught me a lot about going through life. Working with what you have is so important. It’s definitely made me fall more in love with cross-country because I know what it’s like to have it taken away from me.”

Shall’s plan is to become a physical education teacher and instill her students with habits to help them be physically active throughout their lives. She feels that there’s no better way to set an example to kids than her own experiences as a collegiate runner. She hopes to share her love for running and staying active to show kids how to maintain healthier lifestyles.

Junior Kayden Carpenter finished first among Chico State cross-country women at the Capitol Cross Challenge. Carpenter finished 22nd overall with a time of 21:53.9. Photo credit: Maury Montalvo

Carpenter is a liberal studies major, who looks to teach high school math. She’s always had a chip on her shoulder as she grew up in East County, San Diego, a more rustic, rough part of the area.

She was encouraged to fight for what she wants by her high school coaches. This spirit carried her to Chico State. Although she was recruited to the cross-country team by coach Gary Towne, she had no prior experience in the sport.

“I’m not from the big, nice, part of San Diego. I’m from the more rural part. It’s shaped me into the person I am today,” Carpenter said. “It’s made me more humble because I didn’t think running in college was a possibility for me. Coach Gary was the first person to believe in me. I thought if this person that doesn’t really know me believes in me, maybe I can believe in myself?”

After getting offers from schools like University of California Los Angeles, she decided to stick with the person that first believed in her. She rejected offers from other schools to come to Chico State. Carpenter looks to continue running after her five years, maybe join the San Diego track club and start running marathons and eventually ultra-marathons.

Kayden Carpenter’s right ankle tattoo honors her childhood dog. Her left ankle tattoo is in honor of Britt, a former teammate, and her sister Brynn who both died last January. A Memorial 10k will be held at 9 a.m. on Jan. 10, 2019 in their honor. For more info visit Photo credit: Maury Montalvo

These women are just three that make up the 57 athletes on the cross-country team, each with their own hobbies and interests. They all come together to make one big family that supports and makes sure nobody gets left behind.

Catch them Saturday, Oct. 13 at the Bronco Invitational in Santa Clara. It will be the second of just three races this season before the CCAA championships start on Nov. 3.

Ricardo Tovar can be reached at [email protected] or @rtovarg13 on Twitter.