Somehow, Sumner High junior Emma Sjolund has found another gear this season.
Sporting the top overall time in the 5,000-meter in West Central District 3, 18 minutes, 35.7 seconds, set Oct. 1 at the Nike 10th Annual Twilight XC Invitational in Tacoma, Sjolund has been taking the area by storm the first month of the season.
“To have that outcome, I was really pleased with it,” Sjolund said of her personal-record time. “The race was going really well for me, and I’m super happy with my time.”
She ended up finishing in seventh place at the Twilight Invite, jumping up 15 spots after finishing in 22nd place the previous year as a sophomore. Her performance in one race moved Sjolund from the second-best time in districts to the top spot. So what has changed with the Spartans’ standout runner?
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It’s the tirelessness of Sjolund’s efforts to work around the clock to improve, never taking a day off if she can help it.
What keeps her improving every year to the point where she can now begin to envision a league and district title down the line? The obvious answer: She’s goal oriented.
“Emma is goal-oriented and her drive is (incredible),” Sumner coach Tim Dressler said. “The biggest part of her is that she sets goals she can achieve, and it suits her personality well to be goal oriented because she follows through on her goals.”
“Going to 4A, I know there’s a lot of different schools and competitions, so I’m just looking to do well,” Sjolund added.
Going to 4A, I know there’s a lot of different schools and competitions, so I’m just looking to do well.
Sjolund hasn’t just done well — she’s taken the 4A SPSL by the reins and hasn’t let go after one month into her junior campaign. From the moment she lined up for cross country as a freshman two years ago, she was a runner who had a lot of talent and potential but was far too timid during races.
Sjolund learned some hard lessons that season as she was boxed out, outpaced and beaten by the competition. And if it wasn’t her opponents doing the job, she did to herself as she often jumped out early only to fade toward the end of each race.
By the time the state meet rolled around, Sjolund couldn’t keep up.
“I think this season, having an open mind to learning how to pace myself because I feel the last two years, I always wanted to be towards the front,” she said. “I wanted to set my pace.”
That’s not the issue anymore as Sjolund knows who she is as a runner, and the results are starting to turn heads around the area, too.
In a sport like cross country, knowing the competition can be the difference of winning and losing, and what the league has seen is that Sjolund has done a lot of winning.
I know that she (Emma Sjolund) like to jump out to a quick pace early. When we’re in the same race, I try to match her pace during the race, but it’s really hard to keep up with her the whole time. She doesn’t slow down.
Emerald Ridge junior Emma Bates
So people have taken notice.
“I know that (Emma Sjolund) likes to jump out to a quick pace early,” Emerald Ridge High junior Emma Bates said. “When we’re in the same race, I try to match her pace during the race, but it’s really hard to keep up with her the whole time. She doesn’t slow down.”
And Sjolund not is planning on slowing down anytime soon. Not until she has accomplished every goal she set for herself this year, that is, and definitely not until she captures the district title at the Westside Classic later this month. Sjolund finished second (20:08.4) behind Lakes’ Tatianna Smith last season.
“The thing about Emma is that she knows what she needs to do to improve,” Dressler said.
The thing about Emma is that she knows what she needs to do to improve.
Sumner coach Tim Dressler
Sjolund is driven to get better, to improve on her already impressive time. She’s not just driven to be a great runner at Sumner — she wants to become the best.
She may get to that point someday, and it could even start this year if she can claim the district crown at the Westside Classic, and possibly take it one step further from there. Only time will tell if Sjolund can make it happen.
“We’ll see,” she said.