Bayfield High School senior Jessica Cusick could have been expected to follow big brother John to run at Colorado Mesa University.
After visiting Western Colorado State University, however, she was sold on the Gunnison track program.
"I didn't know if I really wanted to go there when they first called me, because I know it's really cold there," she recalled. "But when I went up there and I saw how beautiful the campus is, and their facilities, I was kind of like, 'Well they're the best place for me to go.' And even though it's cold I can still run inside; if it's snowing we can work out.that's what I was really excited about."
She signed a National Letter of Intent with the school last week.
"We have watched her progress in her time at Bayfield, and.last spring at the state championships really showed us a lot," Western Head Coach Chris Bradford confirmed via e-mail last Thursday night. "We also had her up for a visit recently and thought she was a great fit for our program; her best days are ahead of her. We are very excited about that."
Cusick has one last spring in which to trim her Wolverine-record time in the 800-meter run, and maybe the 400, as well.
"They asked me what my strongest event was, and I told 'em it was probably the 800 because I can't really get my speed up as well in the 400," she said, with an ironic touch. "They said that I might move up to the 1,500 or the mile, so they think that I could probably be pretty good in that too."
Cusick, the daughter of Michelle and Matt Cusick, has had a busy fall getting ready for the 2015 track season.
"I was starting to run 35, 40 miles a week instead of 25 a week. So I ran at least five miles a day for a while, and then I only went to, like, four cross-country meets," Cusick said of her not-so-offseason.
"I was just trying to keep my base miles up for track; that's really going to help-I think, my dad thinks, and my Western coaches believe that.it's really going to help keep me stronger for the 800."
Especially for the approaching spring, when she'll look to ascend Class 3A's penultimate podium.
"I plan on making it to state in the 800," she said. "My goal for the 800, actually, is to be the state champion.run, like, a two-fifteen, somewhere in that area. I ran a [third-place, but Bayfield-record] two-twenty-one [2:21.43] last year.so I'm hoping.when I go to state-or bigger-to run two-fifteen."
"I hardly have any days off," she continued. "Even if it's snowing, even if it's really hot outside, or whatever it is I still have to come out here and run. Because that's what's going to get me to be the best.workouts being so hard and more intense than usual-I think that's what's really helping me."
And, as of this past week, already has.
"We're just super excited and proud," said Matt Cusick. "She worked really hard from her knee injury up to this point, her brother's helped motivate her, and it's kind of.we're all getting to our goal."
"And as a family, we can watch and it's easy-they're going to be in the same place! Hopefully all the way to nationals! It's just a culmination of a goal and you have to give Jess and John the credit; they wanted to keep doing this-it's not my goal! And it's an honor.I don't know how to put it in words."
BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU: Among Cusick's suitors, at least at first, was Grand Junction-based Colorado Mesa University, which counts her older brother John among its cross-country runners. But Jessica Cusick noted her brother was supportive of her decision to ink with a nearby rival.
"I was thinking about going to CMU with him, run with him the next two years because he was red-shirted, he's going to get his master's there.we were kind of planning on running together," she said. "Then Western called me-and CMU actually hadn't called me, really, yet-and I went up for an official visit, and I realized this is a really good program. They have really good facilities-an indoor track that is, literally, the best indoor track I have ever seen-a huge weight room and.just everything! He asked me if that's what I really wanted and I told him, 'Yeah I think so.' I think it will be good for me."