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Running through uncertainty: Kaitlyn James ready for State
Kaitlyn James
Turlock High graduate and MJC cross country runner Kaitlyn James shows off her third place Northern California medal. - photo by FRANKIE TOVAR / The Journal

The transition from high school to college can be a rough task. Unknown expectations, self doubt and anxiety are all part of the equation when teenagers step onto the collegiate level. This process can be even more nerve-racking for student athletes, who must adjust to the new academic setting and a higher level of competition.

Turlock’s Kaitlyn James was no exception. James, a 2011 Turlock High School graduate, began her first semester with Modesto Junior College’s cross country team with little to no expectations of herself.

“I was scared,” James said. “I thought I was going to be the slowest girl on the team.”

Despite her initial fear James pressed forward, training hard and building rapport with her teammates. Eventually, as she became more comfortable with her team, her confidence began to build and her skills developed exponentially.

“She was motivated, wasn’t burnt out and was excited about running,” head coach Mary Shea said. “By the end of September she started improving a lot.”

“I had to really work hard at it,” James said. “Then I slowly started passing people up.”

James’ improved running abilities helped the MJC team place first in the Big 8 conference and third overall in Northern California. James also added some personal accomplishments to the year’s highlights, finishing third overall in the Big 8 conference and sixth overall in the Northern California Championships.

“I never thought I was going to go this far,” James said. “That was a big accomplishment; I didn’t think I was going to place at all at any meet this year”

“She’s someone who didn’t realize her potential in the beginning,” Shea said.

James and her team now plan on utilizing their full potential today at the California CIF Cross Country State Championships. This will be James’ first appearance at a state competition at any level.

“I want her to trust herself and her training and run to her capacity. Then the results will come,” Shea said. “Our goal is to break top 10 in state.”

To contact Frankie Tovar, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2041.