Running toward her future

Jenna Gipperich, a senior, runs track for Mercer University.

Jenna Eason

Jenna Gipperich, a senior, runs track for Mercer University.

Sophie Peel, Staff Writer

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This past Christmas, Jenna Gipperich’s boyfriend of five years bent down on one knee atop a Hawaiian mountain and asked her to marry him.

It was only fitting that Gipperich — a cross country and track runner  — hauled herself, sweaty and tired, to the top of a mountain to get engaged.

“He actually got me to start running. I ran for fun before but never loved it. But he urged me to try out for my high school team,” Gipperich said.

Gipperich knows what she wants to do after graduation this spring, but she still has a bit of running to do before she moves on to the real world.

Her goal for the 5k this year is to break 18 minutes.

“It’s like my life goal,” Gipperich said, adding with a laugh, “It’s only been my goal for a few years, but still.”

Though track earned her a place at Mercer, Gipperich never lets her success on the track change her self-worth.

“I don’t think any bad race is a terrible thing. It just lets me know that I need to pick myself up and move on,” she said. “Don’t define yourself by your achievements, or lack thereof. You’re always going to fail.”

The Louisville, Kentucky native has always prioritized her studies over anything else, and she admits that she decided her academics would take priority before she even stepped foot on Mercer’s campus.

Her long hours studying to be a nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant — she is still deciding between the two — have undoubtedly paid off. Come this spring following graduation, Gipperich will begin working at a trauma hospital in Louisville.

Gipperich said that her focus in school has helped her with track.

“You have to literally turn off your mind when you run,” she said. “During every race, there’s a time when you’re literally in so much pain. It’s the most pain you could ever experience. Your legs are dying. Your lungs can’t get a full breath, and your muscles are full of lactic acid.”

Gipperich credits her self talk to her coach, who has taught the team the power of positive thinking. Most Mercer track runners can be heard muttering “you can do this” and “fight” during their respective races.

The practices are torturous, Gipperich said, but the feeling after a race is pure joy.

However meaningful track is to Gipperich, her focus is always forward looking.

“This is not your calling in life. This is just a sport,” Gipperich said.

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