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Cross Country

WP's Diamond shining brightly

Jessica Diamond, a Whippany Park freshman, has clocked impressive times this fall. Photos By Sandy Seegers Jessica Diamond, a Whippany Park freshman, has clocked impressive times this fall.
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PARSIPPANY _ As a sixth grader, Whippany Park's Jessica Diamond joined the cross country team for one reason: Exercise.

Diamond didn't enjoy it at first and said she "didn't expect anything from it."

Four years later, Diamond, a freshman, appears to be a budding star and is drawing the attention of Morris County coaches and others with her stellar times. In her very first high school meet, she turned in a time of 19:31.70 on the course at Central Park and followed it up with a 19:34.70 five days later.

"I was terrible when I started," Diamond said. "I walked half the time. I was not in shape at all. Running was tiring to me."

How did she remedy the fatigue that typically set in at the three-quarter mile or mile mark? With determination and a different mindset.

"I just set a goal to not walk," said Diamond. "It was so hard but I was able to do it. I wanted to prove it to myself."

Wildcats coach Steve Manni usually meets the soon-to-be freshmen before they reach high school. Whippany Park hosts the junior high track championships, giving him the opportunity to check out the incoming talent. The pandemic, however, changed that and the meet was canceled.

"I knew the cross country teams at Memorial were pretty good," Manni said. "There were good runners coming in but I didn't know who or what."

Diamond was among them. Manni was pleased with what he saw in the summer workouts.

"Jessica is a modest girl," Manni said. "She seems to have a great work ethic. She listens and applies what you tell her. I was shocked by the first week. I figured Jessica would be good but she had only run a 5K a few times. The times were not near the time she had in the first week.

"We were at school but it's different in a race. Jessica's a gamer. She comes out and goes. She's been competitive with most of our boys, too."

Prior to the first batch meets, Diamond ran the course at Central Park. She had been on it before but it was not the same route. A few days before, on the school course, she had a 21:20 so she, too, was surprised by her initial race.

The third small schools batch race on Tuesday, Oct. 13 proved challenging to Diamond because of the course conditions. It had rained for a day and a half, stopping only a few hours before the race, and there were many muddy spots. She was cold and stiff but was still finished first in the small schools race.

Diamond, who stands five feet, engages in mixed martial arts, including kick boxing, and enjoys HIIT cardio, which increases her endurance. Her penchant for math will be an asset as she strives to lower her times. In the winter and spring, she'll likely compete in track and run one and two-mile events.

On Wednesday, Oct. 28, Diamond will take part in the Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference Championships. Sectional meets are set for Saturday, Nov. 14. Unfortunately, there will be no Morris County Cross Country Championships, where Diamond can see how she fares against the runners from larger schools like Mendham and Randolph.

"Jessica goes out fast but doesn't know how to pace herself yet," Manni said. "It'll be really great when she gets with experienced runners. She'll learn a lot from them."

***PHOTO GALLERY BELOW OF SMALL SCHOOLS BATCH RACE HELD AT CENTRAL PARK ON Oct. 13, 2020***

Last modified onFriday, 23 October 2020 04:17
Sandy Seegers

Sandy will post her bio soon

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