The rain struck down on Zoe Jarvis as she lined up with the other runners. Mind clear, only focused on the race ahead. This is her time to block everything out in her life and do what she loves. Before she knew it, she was putting one foot in front of the other, leaving the competition behind. With only her private thoughts and humid breeze, she continued forward, focused on beating The University of Tampa's freshman record time.
In just her second track meet as a freshman, Jarvis ended up breaking the school's record with an impressive 17.54 time. She attributes this as one of her greatest achievements in her running career. Jarvis credits a lot of her success to her middle school speech pathologist, who not only helped her work through her autism, but also noticed something special in her athletic ability.
"I was the fastest in my gym class in eighth grade and my speech pathologist knew about that," Jarvis said. "Without him, I might not have started running."
Once she discovered her love for running, she never looked back. Jarvis spent her first two years of high school at Kubasaki high school, which is located in Okinawa, Japan. Traveling was nothing new for her, considering her father was and still is an active duty marine. After spending two years in Japan, Jarvis moved to Chaparral high school in Temecula, California, all while continuing her passion of running. She earned MVP in both cross country and track all four years of her high school career and was team captain in 2016.
Setbacks are inevitable in all sports, which Jarvis knows too well. If anything, they force you to work harder and let you know that it will not be easy.
"At the very end of my senior year in high school at league finals I missed going to prelims by not even a quarter of a second for the mile event," Jarvis said.
She said that while this defeated her mentally, she did not let it stop her from pursuing what she loved. Instead, she used it as motivation and continued to improve so she could be fully ready for her next chapter at UT.
UT was an easy decision for Jarvis. Her father is stationed here and she received athletic and academic scholarships. She also liked how it kept her close to home. Her life is not just cross country and track, as she battles with autism on a daily basis. Running is the perfect outlet for her to let her feelings go and be herself.
"Having autism makes it hard to fit in or get into groups, but running has helped me be more social and outgoing," Jarvis said.
She defines herself as nervous and shy around people she does not know, but when she is comfortable she is "outgoing, confident, brave, and hardworking."
Jarvis is majoring in digital arts, with a focus on photography. She said that she hopes to be a sports photographer when she is done with schooling. Jarvis also desires to continue running after she graduates, mainly marathons and triathlons.
Now in her sophomore year, Jarvis is set on working hard, not only for herself, but for all of her teammates. She hopes they can make it to Nationals, but she also knows there will be hard work ahead if they want to achieve that goal.
"We need to start improving with pack running," Jarvis said. "Can't be so far away from each other, we seem to spread out a lot."
One of her personal goals for the season is to achieve a sub 18 in the 5k, specifically a 17.30. Improving from her freshman year is at the forefront of her mind, but that will be hard to do considering how well she performed. Jarvis was awarded the SSC Commissioner's Honor Roll and was a USTFCCCA All-South Region Selection. Her best event was the 5K, where she earned third place at the Valdosta State 5K with a time of 18:59.8, 10th place at the Mountain Dew 5K with a time of 18:21, and earned sixth place in the South Florida 5K with a time of 18:48.1.
The 5k was not the only race Jarvis excelled in. She ran the SSC 6K in 23:06.56 finishing in seventh place and finished the NCAA Regional 6K in 21st place with a time of 23:09.14.
"I try not to think about the past while I run, so I always feel motivated for upcoming meets and seasons instead," Jarvis said. "Running makes me feel free and I meet so many new people and create friendships that I would not have been able to if I never decided to run."
Written by Matthew Rolison