Yes, it may be hard to believe, but Jessica Tonn has a mean streak, or perhaps fiery might be a better way to describe it.
It's there; behind that smile, under that team-first attitude, hidden by that grace and humility.
It's there. It has to be.
"There definitely is a part of me that's super-competitive," said Tonn, a senior at Phoenix Xavier Prep. "It really started coming out last couple years when Sarah Penney was on the team. People may not have seen it, but we were super-competitive all the time. We were best friends off the course but pushed each other hard."
You can't win two straight 5A Division I state championships like Tonn has or make four trips to the Foot Locker National Cross Country Championships without having a ruthless mind-set on the course.
And you can't be the Tribune's Girls Runner of the Year for the third straight year without something driving you from the inside.
"I just think that at Xavier, every year, the intensity increased a little," Tonn said. "We have really high goals."
Tonn was the central figure in the Gators reaching those goals, helping lead the way to three straight team titles at the 5A-I state meet. She was her team's top finisher each year, beginning with a runner-up finish her freshman year, a third-place finish as a sophomore and closing with back-to-back state titles. In her senior year, Tonn set the state championship course record at Cave Creek Golf Club, running a time of 17 minutes, 28.15 seconds.
But perhaps Tonn's biggest impact came off the course in her relationships with her young teammates like freshmen Sarah Fakler (who was second to Tonn at the state meet) and McKenna Gaffney, and other young runners like Daylee Burr and Katie Penney.
"I just tried to be a good captain and told all of them to call me or text me if they were nervous about a race or just needed some advice," Tonn said. "I didn't have a super great role model my freshman year, and I knew that having one really helps."
Tonn's impact at Xavier will be felt for the next few years as this new group of Gators tries to add to the three-year championship run.
"The state titles were the most satisfying part of my career," Tonn said. "Knowing that my teammates are happy. I see the amount of work that they put in, and I see how much they sacrifice. It's really satisfying."
All-Tribune first team
Name, School, Yr. Comment
Jessica Tonn, Xavier, Sr. 2-time state champ made 4 trips to Foot Locker Nationals
Sarah Fakler, Xavier, Fr. Was right behind Tonn at 5A-I meet; bright future ahead
Sarah Schmidt, Mtn. View, So. Doug Conley champ; ran to 5th-place finish at 5A-I meet
Brianna Decker, Mtn. View, So. Central Region champion
Megan Kupres, Desert Vista, Jr. Tempe City champ; was sixth in 5A-I
Taylor DeLaVega, Perry, So. 5A-II runner-up was Chandler city champ
Christina Vanderhout, Notre Dame, Jr. East Sky Region champion; 3rd in 4A-II
Runner of the year: Jessica Tonn, Xavier
Coach of the year: Dave Van Sickle and Jeff Messer, Xavier. It takes co-head coaches to handle all of the talent the Gators have, and Van Sickle and Messer made the entire squad better.
All-Tribune second team
Name, School Yr. Comment
Daylee Burr, Xavier, Jr. Went from not on team in 2008 to 4th at 5A-I meet
Christen Collins, Pinnacle, Sr. After injury-plagued junior year, placed 3rd in 5A-II
Danica Danje, Corona del Sol, Sr. Capped career with 10th-place finish in 5A-I
Katie Penney, Xavier, Jr. Fourth Gator on list; was seventh at state meet
Jenna Maack, Desert Vista, Fr. Emerged as top-tier runner; was eighth in 5A-I
Ashley Hatch, Highland, Fr. Another talented Hawk; was ninth in 5A-I
Ashley Workman, Queen Creek, Sr. Desert Sky Region champion
Aradia: Tess Berghoff, Jr. Cactus Shadows: Terri Baker, Fr.; Dani Zalewski, Fr.; Jesse Hass, Sr.; Melissa Nelson, Fr. Chaparral: Kristen Bennett, Jr. Desert Vista: Brittany Tretbar, Fr.; Megan Dudzinski, Sr. Dobson: Sabrina Polanco, Jr. Gilbert: Brooke Wood, Jr. Gilbert Classical: Cassie Ronai, So. Hamilton: Amber Urban, Sr. Highland: Kristy Rush, Fr.; Tory Haberman, So.; Danielle Bonlender, Sr. Horizon: Rachel Antol, Jr. Horizon Honors: Monika Kawski, Jr. Marcos de Niza: Natalie Jones, Jr.; Paige Libsack, So.; Jessey Tenioro, Fr. Mountain Pointe: Cera Hassinan, Fr.; Lindsey Schader, Jr. Notre Dame: Julie Vanderhout, Fr.; Monica Turley, Fr. Pinnacle: Lacey Kalinen, So.; Kyndal Sorenson, Jr.; Sydney Mierau, Fr.; Dana Stull, So. Saguaro: Nicole Jakubczyk, So.; Olivia Brancati, So. Seton Catholic: Jordan Plichta, Sr. Valley Christian: Ashton Wolf, Jr. Westwood: Sarah Hanson, Jr. Xavier: Christian Andreen, Jr.; McKenna Gaffney, Fr.