MINNEAPOLIS -- Freshman Jaycie Thomsen comes to the University of Minnesota as a three-sport letterwinner from Wayzata High School where she earned six cross country letters, four Nordic skiing letters, and four track & field letters.
"I'm more cross country focused for sure," Thomsen said. "I love long runs. I love the team aspect of cross country, too; especially in high school, cross country was a lot more team-oriented than track."
The team at Minnesota mirrors Thomsen's large high school team. With a roster of nearly 40 women racing cross country this fall and nearly 80 team members in track & field, the Gophers' 2017-18 squad is actually slightly smaller in numbers than recent years. Nevertheless, Thomsen already feels at home.
"Even being in Ely [for cross country preseason training], there were girls all around me pushing me in workouts and I was able to help push them," Thomsen said. "I just love that atmosphere. In high school, I came from a really big team, so I liked the idea of having a bigger team in college, too. It will be super fun to have people to train with all year around."
Like many runners, Thomsen began her athletic career dabbling in other sports. A former soccer player, she ditched her cleats and shin guards in middle school when her mom encouraged her to give running a try.
"I originally got into cross country in middle school," Thomsen said. "I was a soccer player and decided I wanted to just run. My mom had run a bunch of 5K races, and she encouraged me to run one. I thought, 'Why not?' and ever since then, I've liked running."
What's so great about running though?
"Running is fun!" Thomsen said. "I love getting outside, running with people, running by myself, that's what it is for me -- fun. I wouldn't be doing it now at such a high level if I didn't have fun with it and enjoy it."
Shortly after she began running, Thomsen determined she wanted to extend her running career as long as possible. Inspired by the success of her upperclassmen teammates as a ninth grader, Thomsen set lofty goals for herself, goals that were validated by her own accomplishments later in her high school years.
"My freshman year, we had a huge, strong senior class, and a lot of them went on to run in college," Thomsen explained. "I aspired to be like them. I followed in their footsteps.
"I had wanted to run in college, but it didn't really occur to me that I would be able to run at this level until my junior year track season. That's when things clicked. I hit a breakthrough in my training, and I was racing really well. I decided I was going to go for it; this was something I really wanted to do."
Thomsen's breakthrough season included earning all-conference and all-section honors on the track as a junior. She went on to place third in the 4x800m relay and fourth in the 3200m at the 2017 Minnesota Class AA State Track & Field Championship to close out her high school career.
When it came time to choose a college, Minnesota was a natural choice for the Maple Grove, Minn., native because of the team, the coaching staff, the academic opportunities, and the city of Minneapolis.
"Honestly, I loved everything about Minnesota," Thomsen said. "I loved the team aspect. I really liked Coach Hopkins' philosophy on recruiting good athletes and developing them to be the top of the top. You see a lot of Division I programs where athletes burn out in the first couple of years, and I really liked that there's a lot of balance within the program here.
"I just love the school, too. I love being in the big city. It would've been weird for me to go to school in a smaller town, especially after growing up here and having access to the city. That was a big thing for me."
Not only does Thomsen feel at home on the cross country and track & field teams and living in the city of Minneapolis, but she was drawn to the University of Minnesota because of the exceptional opportunities to continue her academic career.
"Right now I'm studying biochemistry and food systems," Thomsen said. "I'm super into healthy food, science, sustainable agriculture, and learning about the environmental toll of the food system. The University of Minnesota has a really good biology program as well as a plethora of research opportunities. I also love that the campus has its own organic farm that sustains a lot of the campus."
With one week of classes down and her first unofficial collegiate competition, a third-place finish at the Intrasquad 5K exhibition race, in the books, Thomsen's collegiate career is just beginning but the horizon is bright.
"I'm excited about a lot of stuff," Thomsen said. "I love everything about the state of Minnesota -- I love the people, the atmosphere, and all of the fun and outdoor activities available. The University of Minnesota encompasses everything that the state has to offer all in one campus. I'm excited about this team, and I'm also really excited for the freedom of college."
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