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Klahowya's Jessica Cantu ran to the top of her class
For Jessica Cantu, there’s nothing new about running past the competition.
Not since she turned 12 years old and defeated her father, a former runner, in the 100-yard dash for the first time.
It was a friendly rivalry, of course, but also was a confidence booster and sign of what would later come — on the track and beyond.
“She didn’t beat me, she smoked me,” Jesus Cantu said. “I will never forget it.”
What Jessica Cantu won’t forget are the athletic and academic experiences she had at Klahowya Secondary School from seventh grade through graduation.
The Silverdale resident, 18, ran cross-country for four years and competed in track and field for six. She became the head manager of the wrestling team in ninth grade, completed six Advanced Placement classes on her way to graduation, maintained a 3.9 grade-point average and was the school’s valedictorian.
For those reasons, she is the Central Kitsap Reporter and Bremerton Patriot 2010 Female Student-Athlete of the Year.
“If you have the athletic talent, don’t try to just ride off that,” she said of her message to younger student-athletes. “Always try to put your efforts into school as well.”
Cantu directed her efforts toward school from day one, earning A’s in every class but two.
She didn’t take AP courses for college credit, she enrolled for the challenge. Cantu will attend Western Washington University this fall, but she has yet to decide which degree to pursue. Her hope is to find a niche while dabbling in a wide variety of classes as a freshman.
As valedictorian, Cantu spoke to her classmates at graduation in June.
“It’s funny because I get good grades and I work hard at them, but I don’t feel like it’s a chore,” she said. “You get to a point where you just have to get things done.”
Cantu admits it was a challenge to juggle running, managing and studying while maintaining a social life.
When she discovered it was possible, however, the was motivated by the challenge.
And although she never competed on the wrestling mats, Cantu and coach Wayne Gizzi believe she contributed as much to the team.
Her duties included keeping score, creating posters and banners, taking inventory of equipment and traveling to most of the away meets. There were three managers for the team, and Cantu trained them all.
The Eagles had their best season in school history last winter, defeating Central Kitsap High School for the first time at Battle of the Bay and winning league, district and regional titles.
Gizzi credits his top manager for much of the team’s success.
“She was kind of like my left arm for four years,” he said. “She came in knowing nothing about wrestling and walked away as our best manager.”