Jacaruso Finishes Cross Country Career with Big Year
Grace Jacaruso has loved the idea of running ever since she was a youngster. Grace’s parents signed her up for running camps as a child, and she’s been on the move ever since.
Grace joined the girls’ cross country team in her sophomore year at Valley Regional High School. This year, Grace served as a senior captain for the Warriors and finished her career by earning both All-Shoreline Conference and All-State First Team honors.
Grace is also a member of Valley’s gymnastics and girls’ outdoor track teams. She says that her father Bill has been a huge help to her throughout her running career.
“My dad ran in high school and was very good at it, so he was very supportive when I decided to join the team,” says Grace. “He came to all of my meets with his high school friend he ran with, and they were both very excited about how I did this season. It felt good to make them proud.”
Grace ran her way to All-Conference First Team accolades by taking eighth place with a time of 22:39 at the Shoreline Conference Championship this fall. Grace went on to run a time of 21:51 at the Class SS State Championship, earning her a place on the All-State First Team. After that, Grace competed at the State Open, where she posted her personal-best time of 21:07.
Grace credits her teammates her pushing her to run her hardest all season long. Grace appreciates the fact that there is such excellent chemistry among the Warriors.
“I didn’t join the team until I was a sophomore, and I was kind of nervous because I only knew a few people, but I’ve had such a great experience with everyone, especially this year,” Grace says. “We were able to get together outside of practice and have pasta dinners and get food after practice, which definitely bonded us. We all just have a lot of fun together, which I think makes the sport worth it. I’ve made lots of great friends in my past three years with the team that I’m still friends with, even as the season’s ended.”
It means a lot to Grace that she got to compete alongside her best friend and fellow senior captain Ava Cunningham. Like Grace, Cunningham was an All-Shoreline Conference and All-State First Team honoree this fall. Grace feels that everything came together for her on the pathways during the 2021 campaign.
“It’s been really great being a captain with my friend Ava, because we push each other a lot, and she really helps me run my best,” says Grace. “I think this season was my favorite not only because I ran my best, but also because I developed a new appreciation for the sport. I’ve been one of the top runners since I started, but I feel like I pushed myself a lot this year to be the best I could be, and I started to view running as actually fun, rather than just doing it because I was naturally pretty good.”
In turn, Grace helped Cunningham gain a deeper appreciation for cross country as the two of them ran together. Cunningham describes her relationship with Grace as one where both athletes motivate one another to reach their full potential.
“Running cross country with Grace was different from running with anyone else on the team,” Ava says. “She motivated me, and we pushed each other to be our best every day, allowing us to become better teammates and leaders on the team. Grace definitely made the sport more enjoyable for me.”
With her cross country career complete, Grace is getting ready to begin her senior season as a member of the Valley Regional gymnastics team. Last winter, Grace garnered All-State recognition for the Warriors as a junior. When the spring season comes, Grace will compete in the 1,600 and 4x800 relay for the Valley girls’ outdoor track squad.
While she doesn’t plan to continue competing in college, Grace believes that running will always be a big part of her life.
“I’m not planning on running in college, but I might join some type of club running. If not, though, I’ll definitely keep running on my own,” says Grace. “I’m excited for a good season with the Valley gymnastics team and the Valley track team in the spring. I ran the 4x800 relay and the mile last year and qualified to run at the state meet in both of them, so I hope with more training, I can do the same this year.”