Competing for a National Championship

Mississippi State senior Jennifer McPherson will be competing in the cross country national championships beginning Monday, November 20th, in Terre Haute, Indiana.

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McPherson, who has previously competed for a national championship in both outdoor and indoor track, will be competing in her third different national title run this coming Monday, only the second woman in Mississippi State track and field history to compete for a championship in all three classifications. The other woman is MSU All-American Tiffany McWilliams.

"I didn't (know) about it until someone told me that they read an article about it," said Jennifer. "You don't think about it as a big deal as a lot of other people make it because if you do that can tend to freak you out. When I'm done with (my career), then I'll think about it. Right now, I'm just trying to make sure I'm prepared."

As for being prepared, Jennifer feels more confident this time for several reasons.

"The first time you go (to the championships) you are scared out of your mind. Of course, you are going to be nervous because everybody is watching you," explained Jennifer. "A lot of it is your attitude. If you have seen it before, even if you have failed, it's easier to wrap your mind around it the second time because you are better prepared. You still get nervous, but you know what you need to do and how to focus. Instead of worrying so much about the other person, you focus on the race you should run in order to do your best."

You could probably say that Jennifer has been preparing for this race since she was a little girl growing up in Nampa, Idaho.

"I used to like to run when I was a kid. When I was a kid, if I was outside I would run around all day," said Jennifer. "I didn't get into it competitively until someone said there was a cross country team for junior high. I joined the team and enjoyed it. I've always been a competitive person and being able to race against other people my age was awesome. And winning made it even more fun."

After having a successful high school career that saw her win her team's MVP award all four years, Mississippi State's track coaches took notice of her.

"I got a call from (MSU track) Coach Steve Dudley," said Jennifer. "At first I didn't realize how they first found out about me. But I think my head coach is a good friend of one of the high school coaches at Boise, Idaho. He told me that he called up his good friend in Boise, Idaho. I guess he gave him my name."

Once she met Coach Dudley and visited the school she knew that she was headed to Starkville, Mississippi.

"(Steve) was part of the reason I came down here. When I came on my visit, it was great," she said. "The whole team was great. It was different, but I loved it."

But now her career is coming to an end. Reflecting back, it's difficult for her to realize her five years have passed by so fast.

"It has gone by a lot faster than I expected," said Jennifer. "Sometimes it's easy as a freshman to come in and say I've got four, maybe five years. It's easy to fall into that trap and think you have a lot of time. But time passes before you get a chance to do all you want to do. I think I have done a good job of making happen the things I wanted to happen, but I'm going to work this year to get everything done."

As for what she will miss the most when her career draws to a close, one thing stands out.

"There are a lot of things I will miss, but I guess I will miss having a team around me the most," said Jennifer. "Junior high, high school and college is about it when you have a true team around you. You have people that you are working with all the time on a regular basis. After college, you have to go out in the real world. Even if you become a professional athlete you are more on your own than you were in college. You have to be more responsible for yourself. You don't have as much of a support group as you did when you had a team with you."

As for her future, Jennifer's will always include running.

"I love it and I will always love and I will do it forever," said Jennifer. "If I can run the rest of my life I will, but you can only compete for so long."

And that final opportunity for her to compete will begin Monday morning at 11 a.m. CST at the NCAA Cross Country National Championships.

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by website, the source for Mississippi State sports on sports network. You can contact him by emailing

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