Gracie Jessup

Salt Fork senior Gracie Jessup, second from the right, signed a National Letter of Intent on Thursday to attend Illinois State University. Joining Jessup at her signing were from left to right: her father, Floyd Jessup, her mother, Becky Jessup, Gracie Jessup and her brother, Ben Jessup.

CATLIN — Salt Fork senior Gracie Jessup officially signed a National Letter of Intent to attend Illinois State University in Normal where Jessup plans to run track for the Redbirds.

So, why Illinois State?

“I didn’t think I was going to go there, but when I went over for their junior day last year, I just fell in love with the program and the facilities,’’ Jessup admitted. “It’s a Division-I program, and I thought they really took the time to get to know me, more like a small-school.’’

Jessup plans to study biological sciences with a plan to become a physician’s assistant upon graduation and after that, she wants to pursue a career as a dermatologist assistant.

“I’ve always been drawn to helping people and their skin,’’ she said, noting that one of her favorite television shows is Dr. Pimple Popper on The Learning Channel.

Earning an NCAA Division I scholarship has been a goal for Jessup since the eighth grade when she won the IESA state title in the 100 meter hurdles.

In her first two seasons at Salt Fork, Jessup has finished 7th and 3rd in the event, but the COVID-19 pandemic kept her from competing during her junior season.

“Your junior season is when college look at your the most and that’s what I was looking forward to last year,’’ she said. “Before the pandemic hit, I felt like I was getting stronger and I could tell that my times were getting faster. When everything got cancelled, the only thing I could do was to keep practice and wait for the summer season.’’

But, even that was severely limited for Jessup.

“I’m on the Vipers track team and we had time trials at Kanakee High School,’’ Jessup said. “They were small and not really the same as a meet.

“Thankfully, I had done enough before last year to get the attention of Illinois State.’’

Jessup acknowledged that she chose Illinois State over Ball State and Murray State.

“I will definitely be running the 100 hurdles at Illinois State and probably the 400 hurdles,’’ she said. “The coaches have talked about wanting me to work at being a multi-event performer.’’

In women’s college track and field, the outdoor season offer the heptathlon where athletes compete in the 100 hurdles, the high jump, the shot put, the 200 meters, the long jump, the javelin and the 800. During the indoor season, it is the women’s pentathlon, which is the same events except for the 200 and the javelin.

With her signing complete, Jessup said she is focused on trying to win state this year — if there is a state meet.

“If we are not able to hold a state meet, I just hope that I can get some school records,’’ she said.

Former Salt Fork standout Jenny Kimbro, a multi-event athlete at the University of Iowa, holds both the 100 and 300 hurdle records for the Storm.

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