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By Mike Beas

The record time for Avon girls cross country has spent nearly a decade enticing Orioles runners of all skill levels to give it their best shot.

Jessica Hegedus has, is and will continue to do so.

Earlier this month, the Avon senior won the Wildcat Invitational hosted by Indiana Wesleyan University, her time a personal-best 17:46.0. Not under the same roof as Taylor Nicholson’s program standard time of 17:38.1 set in 2015, but definitely in the neighborhood.

Now in her fourth season as a varsity starter, Hegedus’ list of cross country accomplishments includes two sectional titles, a pair of first-place finishes at the Hoosier Crossroads Conference Meet and last year’s win at regional.

Hegedus, who carries a 3.5 grade-point average, excels in track, too. She placed 15th in the 1,600-meter at the State Meet in June.

“Jessica is a very good leader. The other girls look up to her, and basically shadow what she does,” said Orioles girls cross country coach Lee Hoopingarner. “I’ve been coaching for 19 years, and Jessica is one of the hardest workers I’ve ever coached. She’s made a huge progression since her freshman year.”

Hegedus did a Q&A with ICON:

Q: Why do you feel you eventually gravitated toward becoming a distance runner?

A: In fifth-grade, we had this one-mile race. My dad wanted me to try it, and I finished third, so that kind of started it. I just enjoy being with the girls on the team, and competing. In sixth-grade, I also started running track. I go back and forth on which one I like more, but right now I love cross country and the summer training we do.

Q: Did you have any sports idols growing up, and, if so, who were they?

A: Personally, I just really looked up to my brother, Ricky (now a wrestler at Marian University). He was a wrestler in high school, and just always got it done. He would go from one practice to another. When I got to high school, I just really liked the idea of traveling and competing.

Q: What are your goals for the remainder of this cross country season?

A: My main goal is to be in the top five at the state meet, and I really want to get the school record. It’s going to take a lot of hard work, but I like to have a positive mindset.

Q: Do you know yet what your plans are after graduating from Avon High School?

A: I’m just now starting my (recruiting) journey. I have eight official visits, and have taken three. I’m thinking of majoring in nutrition. It will benefit me as an athlete, and just in general. I really want to commit at the end of this cross country season.

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