Athlete of the Issue: Jennifer Vannier

February 1, 2011 — by Emily Williams

Most runners dread hot days, but for senior Jennifer Vannier, they are the perfect conditions for a running. When it’s cold, Vannier’s asthma acts up, making it difficult for her to run. Yet, she keeps running anyway.

Before high school, Vannier was never a runner or even an athlete for that matter, but she was always interested.

“I went into high school not really knowing anything,” she said. “I wanted to do all the sports, I wanted to be the person that was really athletic. I was really naive.”

During her freshman year, Vannier joined the field hockey team, but she struggled to keep up with the rigorous training and conditioning of the sport.

“I was so far behind everybody and I couldn’t tell why,” she said. “It felt like I was really bad and I wasn’t trying hard enough or something.”

In fact, Vannier would get light headed just walking around with her friends and passed out frequently. Finally, Vannier was diagnosed with extreme exercise-induced asthma two weeks before the start of her junior year.

“It was really frustrating because I didn’t know what was happening and when I found out it was almost even more frustrating because I knew that I have a handicap that probably will never go away,” she said.

Vannier was cut from the field hockey team during her junior year as she struggled to find an asthma medicine that worked for her. She was devastated, but she vowed that she would work twice as hard to make the team her senior year.

She wanted to focus on building her endurance. Her good friend, and cross country runner, senior Hannah Harter suggested that Vannier join the cross country team.

“I thought I could never do cross country,’” said Vannier. “[Harter] told me that effort is the most important thing so I came and I ran.”

Joining mid-way through the season was tough, but the team and coach Danny Moon welcomed her.

“I probably wouldn’t have been able to keep running if everyone on the team hated me and coach hadn’t been so nice,” she said.

While she was running cross country, Vannier continued to struggle to find an asthma medication that worked for her. One made her so sick that it took away her appetite and caused her to vomit every day before practice, but she continued to run and attend practices without complaint.

“I have to take double of what you are supposed to take in order to run and I really object to taking steroids because they are against my morals,” she said. “I tried to get off of them one time and I had a total emotional break down because of what that does to your emotions.”

As the cross country season progressed, Vannier fell in love with the sport. She said that cross country has changed her life. Especially influential was Moon, who encouraged her to “become self-motivated, push herself and most importantly have fun.”

“It makes you more emotionally stable. It’s been my stress outlet,” she said. “I’ve met a lot of different types of people, but they are like my family now so that really means a lot.”

Vannier is not a natural athlete, nor is she the best on the team, but her spirit makes her stand out.

“[My asthma] also compels me to try harder, because I have to try twice as hard and twice as long just to be as good.”

She said no matter what happens she always wants to do her best, even though she sometimes feels that she should be faster for the amount of work and dedication she puts into the sport.

“As long as I am improving and trying that’s all that really matters,” Vannier said. “It’s sort of proving that I can do it even though I’m not the best runner on the team. Just keep trying, putting one foot in front of the other.”

Although Vannier initially joined cross country to get in shape for field hockey, she fell in love with running. She said she has not picked up a field hockey stick since she was cut from the team.

”It was a blessing in disguise,” she said. “It was such a terrible day and then I went and joined cross country and it has been my life since then.”

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