Cheever makes impact after switch

Cheever scored one goal and added two assists last year on the soccer team.

Chris Lempesis

As a freshman at Minnesota, Jamie Cheever attempted to pull off the feat of competing for both the soccer and women’s indoor track and field teams.

Things went quite well for her, as Cheever became an impact performer for both squads.

But, in the end, Cheever decided she was in love with just one sport: running. So she dropped soccer to compete full time for both the indoor track and field and women’s cross country teams.

Judging from how Cheever has performed early on in the cross country season, it’s hard to fault her decision.

The redshirt freshman has already become a strong contributor for Minnesota, finishing in the top five in both the team’s intra-squad meet and last weekend’s Oz Memorial Run.

Coach Gary Wilson called her a “tremendous athlete.”

“(She’s) got a lot of tools. She’s just a great person, typical distance runner,” he said. “Obviously we’re thrilled to have her.”

Cheever’s athletic ability is unquestioned. That she has already begun to excel on the collegiate cross country course is somewhat more surprising.

She hadn’t competed in cross country since her senior year of high school in 2004, and, until last weekend, hadn’t run on a normal collegiate-length course, which is six kilometers, compared with four kilometers at the high school level.

Her ability to be a quick study has even taken some of her teammates aback.

“If you were to come out and observe the team, you wouldn’t even know that this is her first time ever (on the collegiate level),” junior Ladia Albertson-Junkans said.

Albertson-Junkans also said the adaptability Cheever – who competed in track on a partial scholarship but in soccer as a walk-on – has shown in cross country is similar to what she showed early on in the indoor track season – a season that ended with All-America results.

Cheever’s lead off the distance medley relay run at the NCAA Indoor Track and

Field Championships kept the Gophers in the race, a race the team ultimately finished third in, setting a school-record time (11 minutes, 7.27 seconds) in the process.

Of course, that’s not a whole lot different from Cheever’s play on the soccer field last season.

Playing at a position completely foreign to her – outside left defender – Cheever started 16 of 19 games, collecting a goal and two assists.

“It was an exciting season,” Cheever said about the 2005 soccer campaign. “I think I probably played better last season than I had ever done before that.”

Another stat Cheever posted: 1,359 minutes played, sixth-most on the team.

“I just think to be her best track athlete, and when you

play as many minutes as she did on the soccer field for us, there was no way she was going to be able to do both well,” soccer coach Mikki Denney Wright said.

“We’ve talked to a couple other kids about doing (track and soccer before). It’s just hard.”

Cheever, though, said there wasn’t any one specific factor in her decision, just more of a realization that running was the right sport for her. She also said her old soccer teammates and coaches have been nothing but supportive of her since making the move and that they have been asking and congratulating her about her early cross country finishes.

And it’s not as though Cheever, both of whose parents ran cross country in college, is completely done with soccer, either.

She was an assistant coach for a girls club team in Minneapolis this summer and said she hopes to be the head coach of a team next summer.

As for a return to soccer on the collegiate level, however, she is less hopeful.

“No, I think I’m a cross country girl now,” Cheever said.

“But I think, maybe someday, when I’m older I can join an old women’s league or something like that.”