Arizona's Finest: An Interview with Jessica Tonn

A star since her freshman year, Jessica Tonn (Jr., Xavier Prep, AZ) heads into her junior year with high expectations. After qualifying for Foot Locker Nationals her first two seasons and finishing fifth in the NON two-mile in 2008, Tonn is ready for this cross country season to get underway. Tonn sat down with MileSplit and talked in depth about her goals this season, how she got into running, and much more.

An Interview with Arizona's Jessica Tonn

All photos by Margot Kelly ( (MS): Hey Jessica! How's the early part of your season going thus far? Any racing yet?

Jessica Tonn (JT): So far, my season is going really well! I’ve been training hard since June and feel really confident in where I am in my training right now. I had my first race today, the Scottsdale Distance Classic. It went really well and I improved by about 32 seconds! My team took the meet title too so that was really exciting, and a great way to start off the year. My next race will be George Young which is next weekend.

MS: How did your summer training go? What did you change between last year and this year?

JT: My summer training is always tough, with the 4:30 am wake up calls, hard track workouts, and long runs! I really tried to get a good strength base before the season really begins. Between this year and last year, my volume has increased by a lot and I have also incorporated more weights and core work as well.

MS: You're team is looking pretty good this year. What are the team expectations heading into the season?

JT: I think our main goal is winning state in November. We definitely want to defend our title at state, and George Young next weekend, even without one of our big hitters, Kristina Vanderhout. We really want to pull together as a team and show everyone that we are still a strong competitor and can get through losing a great teammate. But we are looking strong at the moment and I think we can get even better when November comes along!

MS: What's it like to train with such a talented bunch? You and teammate Sarah Penney must do quite a few workouts together.

JT: Sarah and I have been training buddies since my freshman year! Track is a different story because she is more of a middle distance runner and trains with that group so I miss her in training during track season. But we are such good friends outside of running so every day it’s like I get to practice with one of my best friends. The rest of the team is just awesome, our third runner Daylee Burr has improved so much and she’s up there with Sarah and I on those hard workouts! The NSSF released some of the athletes competing at the GreatAmerican XC Festival this year and your name was on it but not your team's. What made you decide to take the trip out to Alabama without your squad?

JT: I just wanted to get another race in against some of those top girls before Foot Locker, and I heard that it is one of the best meets besides Foot Locker and Nike Team Nationals so I definitely wanted to give it a try. I wish my team could tag along with me, but I think that it would be too many races within a month for some of our rookies, and we really want to focus on state for that last month of training! Right now I think the teams’ training is more important than another race!

MS: You've qualified for Foot Locker Nationals each of the past two seasons. Is that a major goal this fall once again?

JT: I would say that it is one of my many goals for this cross country season! Ever since freshman year, I have thought that it would be so neat to say that I made it to Foot Locker Nationals all four years of my high school career!

Just knowing that I am running alongside and sharing the Foot Locker experience with the top 80 athletes in the United States makes it feel like an even greater accomplishment. Plus, the memories and friends I have created over the past couple years always makes me want to make it back. I always remember the dance after the race, how we all just forget about the race earlier that day and forget about being runners (I know that sounds hard!!) and just have a blast with each other.

MS: You had quite a spring, and especially impressive results at Nike Outdoor Nationals. Looking back, how do you feel about your track season?

JT: Nike Outdoor Nationals was probably one of my best racing experiences last year. I was really happy with myself when I heard my time after the 2 mile. The mile was disappointing for me because I have been tripped the past two years I have gone back, but next year I am planning on having that problem fixed and doing better! Overall, I think my track season went really well, winning three state titles was such an honor and I will never forget how those raced played out!

MS: What have you done to keep improving over the past three years? Have you increased your mileage each year, done more core work, etc?

JT: Over the past three years, I have increased my mileage a great amount, but my coach makes sure that my core work and weights are just as important to keep my body strong and healthy. I also think that recovery weeks are a major part of my improvement, because I know my body needs a break after three hard weeks of training.

MS: How did you first get in to running?

JT: I had played soccer ever since I was little all the way up to 7th grade. In sixth grade, there was an after school program at my elementary school, and I decided to try it out. I thought I was some what good at running when I was beating all of my guy friends in the 2 PE laps we had to do.

Eventually I quit soccer, and became a full time runner by 7th grade! I was on three club teams for both track and cross country before high school: the Bobcats (Track), Arizona Elite (Track), and Arizona Blaze (cross country). I really do miss soccer, but I know my life would not be complete without running, so I know I made the right choice in the end.

MS: Who have been some of your biggest role models in the sport?

JT: After qualifying for Foot Locker Nationals these past two years, I have had the opportunity to meet and talk to some of my role models in person; Ryan Hall and Suzie Favor Hamilton. I would have to say Suzie is my biggest role model, hearing her talk about all her accomplishments and all of the different countries her running career has taken her was so much fun to listen to. the most important thing about her is that she was such a great person, after the race she had to have given all 80 athletes the biggest bear hug imaginable! She told us about the hard times she had running, and that everyone has that one moment when they could just give up, but she says those moments make you that much stronger. But ever since I was in seventh grade one of my role models was, and still is, Kari Hardt.

Unfortunately, she graduated when I came in as a freshman, but I remember going to Chandler Rotary and her State meets to watch her run, and I remember thinking “I want run just like Kari when I’m older.” She is one of my really good friends now and I love to have the opportunity to run with her every now and then!

MS: What do you like to do in your free time when you aren't training, racing or studying?

JT: It seems like I am always doing one of those three for the most part! But when I’m not stressing over homework, hard workouts, or races, you can usually find me at the mall or movies with my friends! They mean the world to me and sometimes it’s hard when I can’t stay out later with them when I have a workout early the next morning, but they understand some of the sacrifices I have to make! I also love going to our school football games and dances, I think it’s really important to be able to balance running with the different aspects of your life, and lucky for me I have my family, friends, and coaches to support me along the way!

Quick Six

MS: What shoes do you train in?

JT: I run in a neutral Brooks shoe, because I have had orthotics for a while now!

MS: Favorite band?

JT: I don’t really have one favorite band. But when I’m trying to get pumped up for a race I like to listen to Jay-Z, Young Jeezy, and Lil’ Wayne. Today I listen to “Dreamer,” (from the Olympics) by Chris brown a couple times, and that really got me pumped.

MS: What car do you drive?

JT: I drive a Hyundai, Santa Fe. It’s an SUV.

MS: Any superstitions?

JT: My main superstition is my pre-race meal… I like to eat a good three hours before the race. Before high school, in club I could not race without my cross necklace my mom gave me, but unfortunately that had to change when I got to high school because of the rules!

MS: Pre-race food?

JT: My usual dinner the night I eat before a race would consist of a lot of carbs. I usually stick to a couple servings of pasta because I know that sits well in my stomach and does a good job of fueling me up for the next day! When I eat before a race, it’s usually two in a half to three hours before, and usually is a bagel with some fruit.

MS: Favorite racing experience?

JT: I would have to say that my favorite racing experience was this year at State. I went in not really knowing how it would play out. I really wanted to get those three state titles, but I knew I would have to get through my very talented teammate Sarah to do so. In Arizona, three state titles is a pretty big deal, and I’m glad I got to be apart of that. My other favorite experiences would have to be Footlocker and the Nike Outdoor Nationals 2 mile.