Jessica Hoefert, of Godfrey, takes the lead during a regional cross country race with the St. Louis University cross country team in 2012.
Many who find success are too busy to look for it.
Take Jessica Hoefert, for instance, a 22-year-old senior at Saint Louis University. She grew up in Godfrey and was a standout soccer player for the Marquette Catholic Explorers, going on to play at Millikin University after graduating in 2010.
However, Hoefert decided to take her life in a new direction after transferring to SLU in January of 2012. She’s made the switch from college soccer player to distance runner over the past two years, and on May 29-31 she will compete at the NCAA outdoor track championships in Fayetteville, Ark., wrapping up two remarkable seasons with the Billikens’ track and cross country team.
“If you’re going to commit to something, you have to love what you do,” Hoefert said. “And that’s been the case with me here.”
She runs the 3,000 and 5,000 during indoor track, boasting SLU’s top time in the 5,000, posting a time of 17:39.84 at Notre Dame’s Meyo Invitational. She also had a top 3,000-meter time of 10:21.22 at the Indiana Relays.
In outdoor track and field, she won the 5,000 meters at the SLU Invitational with a time of 17:33.95, with a season-best time of 17:19.81 in the 5,000 at the Conference Championships, putting her in ninth place overall.
She’s been All-Conference in the Atlantic 10 for the past two years, too, and is even an Academic All-American. In June she will also be taking her Medical College Admission Test, so academically and athletically, Hoefert has been pretty busy and successful since high school.
“It was a last-minute decision,” Hoefert said when talking about transferring from Millikin to SLU. “I knew nothing about track before; I don’t think I had ever even been to a track meet.”
She displayed a natural talent for distance during her sophomore year at Millikin. After coming back to Alton in November 2011, she decided to compete in the 10-mile Thanksgiving Great River Road Race. She got second place out of 600 people, and pretty soon she would be hanging up her soccer cleats for track spikes.
A week after the race, Hoefert met with the Billlikens’ cross country and track and field coach Jon Bell, and in January she transferred, making the switch from a Division III soccer player to a Division I distance runner.
“I had to prove myself before I got a scholarship,” she said. “But I got one at the start of my junior year.”
And though her once hidden talent has kept her busy since transferring, her ability to roll with the punches and endure through the toughest of races has yielded her great success.