Freshman Runs with Four Sports


Photo Courtesy of Jadyn Zdanavage

Jadyn Zdanavage (right) takes the lead at the Laguna Hills Invitational on Sept. 14. As a freshman, she holds the spot of fastest female runner in the Pacific Coast League and is ranked ninth for her grade in the entire state of California.

Lauren Hsu and Tiffany Wu

In the chilly December air, nervous exhales form white clouds of condensation. Frozen fingers seek warmth under arms, and the rising sun illuminates the starting line of the 2018 National Championships, glinting off bright red curls tied back in a ponytail. Freshman Jadyn Zdanavage adjusts her ear plugs, draws in a deep breath, closes her eyes and takes off. 

Zdanavage discovered her passion for running in third grade when she joined Mustang Milers, Woodbury Elementary’s running program. Later that year, she also joined Equalizers Track Club, based in Tustin. 

With her club, Zdanavage qualified for the United States of America Track and Field National Championships, where her team placed second for four consecutive years. Individually, Zdanavage competed in nationals five years in a row and has been ranked top 25 in the country for three years. 

“Running’s had a big impact,” Zdanavage said. “It’s basically been the center of my life for the past six years. It’s helped me with better mental toughness, it’s helped me with the ability to persevere through a lot of things that life can throw at you. Running is your life, in a way. It helps prepare you for the real world.”

Since elementary school, Zdanavage has balanced multiple sports, running for three days of the week and alloting two days for basketball or lacrosse, depending on the season. According to Zdanavage, her participation in multiple sports helps prevent injury by working different muscle groups. 

“My parents always encouraged me to do multiple sports because they thought it would benefit me in the long run,” Zdanavage said. “They’re definitely a pretty good influence on me, because they helped me stay in those sports. I would have a pass where I didn’t want to play that sport, but as I keep playing it I rediscover the love for it.”

Zdanavage said she also finds support and guidance from her teammates, peers and coaches. The quality time spent together, the encouraging environment and a shared love for the sport all contribute to creating special bonds and friendships. 

“[She has] focus, discipline, experience in running, a desire to improve and get faster every time she competes, desire to be a better teammate and a better cheerleader for the team,” cross country coach Victor Quiros said. “She’s a phenomenal runner, and she’s enjoyed a lot of success this season.”

In addition to her personal and athletic growth, Zdanavage has also grown in her appreciation for all aspects of sports. 

“I just love playing [sports]. I love being on a team; I love doing competitive things,” Zdanavage said. “I’m a competitive person, so I want to do the best that I can. I love the hard work and that you can lead up to a bigger goal. I want to do the best I can at anything. I want to submit my best work for any subject. And athletics is a lifestyle, not just something you do: it shapes how you view your life.”