The first U.S. winner of the Jordan Invitational women’s 10,000 since Molly Huddle in ’10, Jessica Tonn stamped herself as an up-and-coming contender in the long track race among Americans.
Tonn (rhymes with lawn) was a 12-time state(track and XC titlist as an Arizona prep whose high-water mark collegiately was an NCAA 5000 bronze in ’15 as a Stanford senior.
Her comments on her biggest victory yet—in her first serious 10K and on her alma mater’s track—bespeak delayed gratification, a sense of, “Finally!”
That and great fondness for the Brooks Beast team and coach Danny Mackey’s program she has believed had her on target for the last two seasons—but for a string of injuries.
“I came out of college and joined the Beasts, obviously, and had a really weird winter with a calf strain,” Tonn says of her first pro year, ’16.
“Then we went to Albuquerque and I trained really, really well, had one workout where I PRed in the 400 four times. Katie [Mackey] dragged me through that workout and I ran right around 60 and then sub-60 four times and I felt amazing. And then about a week out from the Trials I felt a pain in my shin and it turned out to be a stress fracture and I had to scratch the Olympic Trials.
“Then the next year I was on a long run with Katie [who herself broke through to make her first Worlds team indoors this year], actually, and about 7 miles in my second metatarsal on my left foot fractured completely. A complete fracture out of no symptoms, nothing. Bone density came back in like the 102nd, 98th percentile. It was just out of the blue.
“Then this year I had a plantar issue. January 5, to be exact, I had just a freak—my plantar kind of snapped at my heel attachment. It didn’t fully tear but I felt a really sharp tug and it turned out to be a minor stress reaction.
A lot of bummer “then”s in her recitation—a string now finished.
“Ever since then, you know, I just strung together really good training,” she says. “We went to Park City as a team and we were just on top of everything and had just a really good team experience training there.
“The vibes were awesome, people were just rolling. Drew [Windle]and Katie set the whole tone this summer and winter so we just had nothing but good training, good vibes. It’s been amazing and then Desi [Linden] fricking won Boston so it’s been amazing for Brooks. I’m just building off that momentum.”
Tonn, now 26, meant business when she stepped on the line at Jordan.
“I definitely wanted to win,” she says. “I wanted to put myself in a position to run comfortably through the first 5K, and then Danny was like, ‘If you’re feeling good and the pace isn’t hot, you might need to mentally prepare for taking over after 12, 13 laps and just bearing down and it’s going to hurt.’
“I kind of wanted to be more conservative over the first half so I could really be in the contingent to win. Because I wanted to do that on my home track and especially for Brooks and for Danny and the team.”
That’s what she and the rest of the pack did as Japan’s 20-year-old Mao Ichiyama forged a lead of around 11 seconds by lap 11, kept that margin steady for 7 more circuits and finally got caught with 2 to go.
When Tonn struck on the final backstretch, her surge was swift and decisive.
“I just want to do my part. I feel like it’s been 2½ years and it’s been a long time coming so I finally get to see the pieces [fall into place],” she says.
Tonn also feels like she has found her distance. “Yes, the body likes the 10K,” she says. “I’ve accepted that. I definitely want to run a good 5 and a good 15 this year. I feel like that is in the cards. Where I’ll do that, TBD, but I love the 10K. This is my first [serious] one so hopefully I will be super-aggressive and confident and even more fit at USAs but I really do like the 10.” □