Dirt paths and rolling hills. Jane Eyre and David Copperfield. Withering sun and skin-drenching rain. Libraries and Victorian literature.
Lonely in the lead, Jessica Pixler keeps on winning.
The life of Seattle Pacific University student-athlete and top-ranked cross country runner Jessica Pixler is filled with physical challenge, intellectual rigor, and demanding time management. And that is just how this junior English major from Sammamish, Washington, likes for life to come at her – fast, varied, and competitive.
At times, that spells pain. In early 2008, she suffered a fractured femur and “a couple fractures” in her lower back that sidelined her for three months. She missed the first two races of the season. The injury only reinforced how much she loves running, and has ever since she was 5 and running laps around the dining room table.
Pixler is the first to tell you that none of it is about her. Running is about team and community. It’s about fitness, faith, and commitment. And most of all, it’s about God.
“I now understand that God’s mercy allows me to compete,” she says, “and I desire to glorify him by running."
That wasn’t always so. Her first season at SPU, “I ran for myself and for my own glory.” But under the coaching and caring of world champion runner Doris Brown Heritage, Pixler learned to trust in God for all of her life, including running.
“Jessica isn’t just a good athlete,” says Heritage, a 1964 graduate of Seattle Pacific. “She’s a fine human being – good-natured, good-humored, and a really outstanding person in so many ways.”
Pixler has won her second NCAA Division II championship in cross country. She has also been named Division II Athlete of the Year by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association. But that’s not all this 20-year-old is passionate about. She wrestles with how to do her personal best to serve God beyond classroom and cross country. “I’ve dabbled briefly in different areas of service such as preparing meals at a women’s shelter and helping out at the Special Olympics,” she says. “But to be honest, I haven’t always acted out of the purest of motives, whether it’s been out of a sense of guilt or some need for self-gratification. As a devout Roman Catholic, my faith is important to me. I’m trying to find that place where my great love and the world’s great need come together.”
And so she continues to seek her best, be it in a race against others hungry to win, or in a place of service where she can strive to change the world for the better. For now, the compulsion to run must be met. Her deep conviction is that when she does, God is pleased.
Read another story of hope, Jake DeShazer.