NORTH SALEM, N.Y. – Senior runner Ava Jolley, who is nearing the end of her meritorious career at North Salem, has verbally committed to Columbia University, where she will run cross country and track.

Jolley, twice an All-State runner, has been a member of North Salem’s varsity cross country, indoor track, and outdoor track teams throughout her high-school career. She was named captain of the cross-country team for her junior and senior seasons, and also captained the track teams during her junior season.

In cross country, she earned All-State honors her sophomore and junior seasons. As a junior, she made the New York State Federation Cross Country Team. She also earned a spot on the All-County Outdoor Track Team her sophomore year.

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Jolley has helped lead the North Salem girls cross country team to three consecutive league titles.

How are you gotten through this period of social distancing? What have you been doing to keep busy and stay ready for the fall season?

Running is a great sport because you can run anywhere—you don’t need anything except for yourself and your sneakers. It was really difficult to train without my team and my coaches, but I just pushed through as best I could. It was hard to motivate without any season in sight, but I tried to keep it fun—finding new trails to run is one of my favorite things! Honestly, being able to go outside and run every day was the only thing that kept me sane.

How old were you when you started running? Do you have any early memories of when you started?

It’s embarrassing, but I was a terrible runner when I was younger; I really hated it. I started running in seventh grade, when I joined the modified cross-country team, and for some reason—probably the awesome team energy—I was an instant convert!

Who has had the biggest impact on your career so far? What did this person do to influence you?

I owe all of my success in this sport to my coaches: Coach Kowgios, Coach Gould, and most recently, Coach Posch. They’ve always had so much faith in my abilities and have really pushed me over the years to be the best I can be.

What is your favorite memory of running for North Salem?

The first time I ran at Bowdoin park, I was in so much pain; it was the only time that I ever thought that I was going to walk up a hill. After that, every race at that course has been among my favorites. Tackling that hill is always a treat.

Do you have any pre-meet rituals?

I have so many pre-race rituals—too many to list! I think every runner is a little superstitious. I don’t like to get jittery before a race, so I don’t lose energy—I do a few strides, and shake my arms out right before the race starts. I also close my eyes and “get in the zone” right before the gun goes off.

What are your post-high school plans, athletically and academically? 

I just verbally committed to Columbia University, and I’m really excited to run cross country and track there. I’m planning on majoring in political science or international studies—I’ve always been really interested in domestic and foreign policy. Besides that, we’ll see!

What’s your favorite place to eat locally and what’s your go-to order?

I am obsessed with the acai bowls from Sobol in Ridgefield. The girls on the team love to go after a hard workout.

What is something about yourself people would be surprised to learn?

Something people might not know about me—I have two left feet (by this I mean, I am INCREDIBLY clumsy).

What is your favorite spot to vacation? Where is somewhere you have not visited yet but would like to in the future?

My family and I take a trip to the Outer Banks beaches in North Carolina every summer. It’s absolutely beautiful, and I’m at my happiest when I’m there. My grandmother’s Jewish, so above and beyond everything I’ve heard about the spiritual experience in Israel, I want to travel there to explore my heritage.

What is the go-to app on your phone and why?

I’m really exposing myself here, but TikTok. It just sucks you in! And of course, Netflix.

How do you adjust your game when you are not performing at the level you know you can?

Running is 50 percent mental. When I’m in a race, I just have to get out of my head and focus on the girl in front of me—not how long I have, not how tired I am. Telling myself that I’m going to have a strong finish also helps.

What is your favorite course to run?

I’m not sure if my team is going to like my answer, but Bowdoin Park is by far my favorite course. Painful, yes, but it’s so rewarding to finish! The hills are killer.

Lastly, what do you expect of yourself and your team this season and how are you preparing yourself?

This is such a weird season—I’ve been saying that the 2020 teams are definitely the most hardcore! Running with masks, and not having some of my favorite meets on the calendar, is tough, but the whole team is working really hard and I’m so excited to see what happens at our first meets!