Athlete of the week: Jessi Coryell, Zimmerman, track: Dancer's grace

Jessi Coryell is a versatile track star for the Zimmerman Thunder and she credits her success in part to body control from being a lifelong dancer.


by Bruce Strand, Sports editor

Zimmerman track star Jessi Coryell was asked a month ago by her coach if she’d be willing to add the triple jump. Coryell had much on her plate already with high jump (state qualifier last year), 100-meter hurdles and discus, but she said, sure.

Coryell, whose favorite sport is dance team, which helps her achieve the graceful body control that’s her hallmark, stayed after practice to get the basics of the event once called the hop-skip-and jump, and broke the school record in the next meet. She took fourth in the conference “triple” two weeks ago along with second in the high jump and fourth in hurdles.

“It’s hard on your body but really fun,” said Coryell about the latest venture in her three-sport, 13-letter career at ZHS. “I think my being in dance really helps with the flexibility.”

Jennelle LeBlanc was pleased but not surprised.

“Jessi is very talented but also has the work ethic to go with it,” said the coach. “And she is very versatile with the jump and hurdles and throws. She can do it all.”

The 5-foot-11, 155-pound Coryell’s best event is high-jump, with an apex so far of 5 feet, 3 inches at in indoor meet in April. She reached state with 5-1 last year. She set PB’s of 34-0 in the triple and 16.2 in hurdles at conference, then broke them at sub-sections with 34-101/4 and 16.15. Her best discus is 90-51/2. Last year, she got third, fifth and sixth in conference in high jump, hurdles and discus.

Dance was her first love, starting in first grade in studios in first grade. She’s danced on varsity six years and made all-conference three years, always perched in the center of the line as the tallest member.

“I like performing for people,” she says. “When they watch and you can see they enjoy it, that’s why it’s so much fun.”

She’s one of the reasons the dance team, coached by Jenessa Kraus, has been Zimmerman’s best Mississippi 8 activity so far with three second-place finishes behind Rogers. “There’s nine seniors who are all good dancers, who’ve danced as long as I have,” said Coryell, explaining that success.

Her other sport is soccer. Coryell played midfield in grades 10-11 and mostly center mid defense as a senior, when she had two goals and three assists for a 5-13 team.

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“I think dance has always been number one with Jessi, and then she found out she’s pretty good at track, too,” said soccer coach Jeff Downing. “In soccer, the main thing is her speed. She’s more of a runner than a soccer player. She is a big, strong kid, and not afraid to step up and challenge players with more skill sets. She is very good at tackles (taking the ball) because she closes in so quickly.”

Coryell, who wants to be a veterinarian, will attend the U of M. She’s heard about a club there called Premier Dance Team that competes with other colleges. “I think I’ll try out for that,” she said.

The Coryell scorecard

5-29coryell2.jpgPersonal file — Age: 17 … Family: mom Paige, dad Scott, brother Jake, 21 … Sports: soccer, dance team, track … Academics: 3.5 GPA …. College plans: University of Minnesota … Ambition: veterinarian

Favorite stuff — Class: Anatomy … TV show: “Fresh Prince of Bel Air”… Movies: Disney fare, Toy Story, Tarzan (“I’m a kid at heart”) … Reading: “Twilight” series … Food: Italian, especially lasagna; and chocolate … Drink: fruit juices, lemonade … Team: Llikes watching Twins and Vikes with dad … Music: “laid back” acoustic like 3rd Eye Blind … She’d like to visit: Australia

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