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Girls Cross Country: Downers Grove North's Melissa Jachim and Benet's Joy Jackson miss out on shot at All-State, still making most of season

Downers Grove North's Melissa Jachim
Downers Grove North's Melissa Jachim

Downers Grove North senior Melissa Jachim ran a school-record time for 3.0 miles at the 2019 Class 3A girls cross country state meet.

In 2A, Benet senior Joy Jackson also posted a lifetime best and was the third finisher for the Redwings’ first team state championship in the sport.

Both outstanding performances still felt bittersweet. They each finished 26th in their race, one place from the last individual all-state medal.

Although both are enjoying solid 2020 seasons, because of the COVID-19 pandemic there will be no IHSA-sanctioned state meet this November.

“(After 2019 state) everyone was comforting me and saying I had another chance because I was only a junior, but it just goes to show that you don’t always have another chance so you’ve got to make sure you do it when you actually get the chance,” said Jachim, whose 17:18.92 was 1.13 seconds from 25th.

“I was happy with my time. (The record) was pretty cool but it would have been better if I could have sealed the package to get that No. 25.”

At their respective conference meets last Saturday, Jachim finished fourth in the West Suburban Silver for the third-place Trojans after taking fifth in 2019. Jackson was sixth in the East Suburban Catholic as the No. 5 finisher for the victorious Redwings after finishing fourth or third her previous three seasons.

“Naturally, the cancellation of the state championship, and my being a senior, is simply heartbreaking. I am haunted by what I could have been,” said Jackson, whose first sub-18 came at 2019 state (17:59.40), just 1.17 seconds from 25th.

“Although I didn’t get my individual all-state status last year, I did help the team win first place. The team always takes priority so I’m happy that it wasn’t the other way around.”

The Redwings return all seven runners from their lineup that won 2A by 67 points. Benet and Latin, widely regarded as the best two teams in 2A, should meet at the season-ending Latin Sectional Oct. 31.

“The team, of course, is extremely disappointed that we won’t be able to defend our state title (officially),” Jackson said. “On a day-to-day basis we’ve just been working on lifting each other up, supporting one another and remembering that we’re all in this together.”

The Trojans this year returned six from their 2019 state lineup, but Jachim and Annie Bieda are the only seniors. With the graduation of four-year varsity runner Eva Bednard, now at Loyola, Jachim continues emerging as an all-around leader.

“I hope so. I am a captain here,” said Jachim, laughing. “I feel like that. I try to set good examples in everything.”

“She’s always been the example but she now is a lot more verbal,” added Downers North coach Tim McDonald. “She’s a quiet kid by nature, but she’s one of those kids that is outstanding at the one-on-one. I’ve noticed the past few weeks she’s really done a good job of rallying the girls up. She talks to them before the race, what to expect.”

Jachim hopes those qualities also will help her get accepted to West Point. Although the Army assistant coach who initially recruited her is gone, a new staff and Jachim have remained enthusiastic.

“Before that (contact), I had never really thought about (Army). When I looked into it, it sounded like a really good idea, a lot of good opportunities, so I decided to go ahead and apply,” Jachim said.

“Of course the athletics and the academics, they’re all going to be an environment that I’ll thrive in. I’m definitely going to become the best version of myself if I go there.” 

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