Truman State womens senior swim captain Jessica Jenkot is a consistent leader for Truman athletics, whether she’s racing through the water during a swimming meet or leading a meeting in a classroom.
A four-time All-American, Jenkot is a leader for her team and for the Student Athlete Advisory Committee, or SAAC, at Truman.
SAAC is a national organization comprised of representatives from each respective sport created to give athletes a voice in the community. Jenkot said SAAC’s primary focus is to give back to the Kirksville community through various fundraising events during the school year. SAAC president, top men’s swimmer, Jerod Simek, said Jenkot has transferred her leadership skills as a swimmer to SAAC by remaining organized, dedicated, and focused on tasks at hand.
Former SAAC President Dave Scott created one event, Basics for Bulldogs, last year. It gives children in the Kirksville area a chance to play their favorite sports with some of Truman’s top athletes. The event is March 25 in Pershing Arena. Last year’s event had 24 participants and Jenkot said she hopes to see even more this time. She said her favorite part of the event is the interaction the athletes have with children in the community.
“We bring more to the Truman community than just our performance on the field, court, or pool,” Jenkot said.
Assistant Athletic Director Linda Anderson is the faculty adviser for the group and said she has noticed a difference in Jenkot’s leadership skills since joining the organization. Anderson said Jenkot’s dedication to fundraising for the community really has emerged during the last year when she and other SAAC members raised more than $1,600 for the Kirksville area food bank and more than 320 pounds of canned food items.
Jenkot said her SAAC involvement with SAAC almost never began. She initially joined the organization when her roommate began taking a night class two years ago and asked her to sit in for her. Since then, Jenkot hasn’t missed a meeting and is an SAAC executive board member as well as the organization’s secretary and treasurer. Anderson said the experience has helped Jenkot grow into the vocal leader she is.
“Her experience with SAAC has really given her the chance to apply her leadership skills to all areas of her life,” Anderson said.
In the pool, Jenkot has been just as dedicated. When Jenkot arrived at Truman during 2008, she decided to swim because she said she didn’t live up to her potential during her high school years at Carl Sandburg High in Illinois. Jenkot said her primary focus always has been to be the best she can be and to swim as fast as she can before her career at Truman ends. Four All-American honors later, Jenkot has yet to be satisfied.
Jenkot said she is doing everything in her power to improve both her time and her teammates’ performances for the 2012 NSISC Championships in Cleveland, Miss. Jenkot said her leadership role has varied from those in the past because she leads by example and dedication rather than intimidation.
“We want to encourage young swimmers to get better because they want to be the best, not to have them try hard just because they are afraid of us,” Jenkot said.
Next week, Jenkot will compete individually in the 50-meter freestyle, the 100-meter freestyle, the 100-meter breaststroke and possibly the 100-meter backstroke at the New South Intercollegiate Swim Conference in Cleveland, Miss. Her coaches are deciding which three events she will compete in for NCAA Div. II qualifying during practice this week.
“I want to earn an A cut,” Jenkot said, “In the past it was if you got an A-cut you advance to nationals but now with the heightened A cut line only two or three people get automatic qualifiers for Nationals instead of 10- to 15.”
Since the 2010 season, Div. II has competed in the same manner as both Div. I and Div. III schools, which sets an A-cut time based on last year’s top results. Jenkot also will have a chance to qualify for the NCAA Div. II National Championships with her relay team events, which include the 200-meter freestyle relay, the 200-medley relay, the 400-meter freestyle relay and the 400-meter medley relay.
Whatever happens in the coming weeks, Jenkot said her focus is just on the moment and doing what she can while she is here. After graduation in May, Jenkot hopes to pursue a career in the Peace Corp. and to teach and travel in Europe. With her last season coming to a close, Jenkot said her time left is bittersweet.
“It’s exciting and very scary,” Jenkot said. “If it doesn’t go as planned I just want to be able to say that I gave it all I could.”
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