The sky is the limit for freshman women’s cross-country runner Nicola Jansen after leading the team through a very competitive season.
Jansen is already piling up the accolades in her short time on the Hilltop. She has the highest-ranked finish in the NCAA Regional from a Bradley freshman on the women’s team and has already obtained the fifth-best 6K time in school history. It was not much of a surprise that Jansen was also named the Missouri Valley Conference Freshman of the Year.
“They called out my name, and I was kind of shocked, but it felt very good having that honor,” Jansen said.
Jansen may have been shocked, but she has earned the recognition, only falling two spots shy of qualifying for the NCAA National Championship.
Freshmen have a lot of adapting to do when it comes to coming to college, but most students do not have to make a nearly 8,800-mile trek. Jansen, originally from Pretoria, South Africa, did just that.
“It’s very hot, not like here where it is cold,” Jansen said. “Before the race on Friday, I’ve never seen snow.”
A lot of Americans have nary an idea what life is like in South Africa and Jansen noticed that when she came to Bradley.
“Since I’ve came here, they ask me, like, ‘Do the lions and the wild animals walk on your street or something?’, and I’m like, ‘No,’” Jansen said.
The American concept of “let it flow” regarding their hair does not work the same where Jansen comes from.
“The schools in South Africa were so strict,” Jansen said. “We have uniforms, and the guys’ hair [isn’t] allowed to be long. It has to be cut.”
Of course, Jansen had to learn how to live life on her own, but it is a lot different coming from another continent. She is quickly learning to be independent, and even perfecting her English as well.
“I’ve learned how to look after myself, to stay healthy and working as a team with the girls and not comparing [myself] to others all the time because I feel like that is a thing a lot of us do all of the time,” Jansen said.
Not only is the South African lifestyle different, but so is the way cross-country is viewed.
“Back home, cross-country was a singles sport; … it wasn’t a team sport,” Jansen said.
The concept of a team was something Jansen had to embrace when she came to Peoria and she has certainly embraced the team culture, but how did she end up at a school in the middle of Illinois in the first place?
“[Coach Gauson] sounded like he wanted me here; I felt that he really wants me,” Jansen said. “Bradley is a smaller school where there is a lot more attention to each student, that is also a big thing as well.”
Jansen gets to combine her passion for running while being able to study what she wants; she is currently majoring in physical therapy.
While the entire campus is quiet and lonely over Thanksgiving break, Jansen will stay on campus, due to the journey back home being an arduous one.
The common theme of Jansen leading the Braves will be around for years to come and she is on the right track to continue to dominate the stat lines and headlines.