MERCERVILLE, Ohio — Opportunity is what you make of it … regardless of where you are from or what you have experienced.
Jessica Luther is living proof.
Luther — a senior at South Gallia High School — will be continuing her running career after committing to Kentucky Christian University on Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019, at a small signing ceremony held at the SGHS library.
Luther’s story is one of accomplishment, both in the classroom and in the athletic world. She currently holds a 4.5 grade-point average and ranks second in a class that goes 45-strong.
Luther has also competed in six different varsity sports during her three-plus years as a Lady Rebel — which includes a pair of three-year participations in both cross country and track and field.
Luther’s normal high school career, however, took a dramatic turn at the end of her junior fall season after she was involved in a car wreck that left her with a broken C-2 vertebrate in her neck and a minor brain injury.
Luther, fortunately, made a full recovery and has continued pushing herself to not only get back to where she was before the accident, but to also expand her abilities to become even better than she was beforehand.
Luther, who acknowledged that its been a struggle at times while getting back to a competitive state, is thrilled to be joining the cross country program at KCU, as well as both the freshly-minted indoor track and field program and the outdoor track and field squad.
“It’s kind of like a dream come true. Ever since I started running my sophomore year, I realized that this was what I wanted to do,” Luther said. “The last year hasn’t gone the way I had hoped, but a lot of it has been about the recovery after the accident. I’m really hoping that things will go better during track season, but I’m also really excited to know that I have four more years to improve myself.”
Luther isn’t afraid of competition as she has participated in both cross country and track for three years, plus has two seasons apiece with the varsity basketball and softball squads. She also competed in volleyball as a sophomore and is currently a member of the SGHS wrestling program.
Current KCU cross country and track coach Chuck Wentz — a former standout at Fairland High School — has been tasked with starting an indoor track program while also expanding expectations in the outdoor track and cross country programs.
As the Knights also head into a new league — the Appalachian Athletic Conference — Wentz believes that Luther has all of the characteristics needed to be successful in the school’s upcoming push for accelerated growth.
“She’s already had some challenges in her life and the fact that she’s already back out here competing and wanting to lead, I think it speaks volumes of her character and commitment,” Wentz said. “She’s a leader and that’s the type of athlete we at Kentucky Christian are looking for as we try to grow our programs. She’s someone that we feel comfortable with in being a cornerstone for what we want to do over the next four years.
“It’s a good area for runners, but sometimes you have to dig a little bit to find them. It’s a good day for us at KCU to add Jessica, but it’s also a good day for South Gallia. It proves that hard work pays off no matter where you are from, and we are excited to have her.”
Luther holds numerous records in both cross country and track and field, but SGHS coach Marcus Meyers says it’s her presence that makes the most difference in any given season.
“As far as student-athletes go, Jessica is the best of the best. She’s dedicated to the sport and the school and her studies. Between her efforts and what she has overcome, she’s been the heart and soul of the cross country and track teams during her time here,” Meyers said. “She’s a hard worker with great work ethic and she tries to make people around her better. She’s going to do good things over the next four years at Kentucky Christian.”
Located in Grayson, Kentucky Christian is a NAIA-affiliated program that also competes as a member of the National Christian College Athletic Association. KCU is a private four-year undergraduate school that has roughly 500 students on campus every year.
When asked about what drew her to sign on with KCU, Luther noted the campus was very similar to her high school — albeit a little further down the road.
“I like that it is a small campus where the teacher-student ratio isn’t too high. I also like the idea that there won’t be a lot of outside distractions being a Christian-based school, so focusing on education and training should easier to handle,” Luther said. “It’s close enough to home, but it’s also just far enough away because it’s less than two hours away. I know my family and friends can get there and I can still have some space to grow over the next four years.”
In retrospect, Luther considers herself fortunate to have an opportunity like this — and not just because she has made a full recovery from the accident. As she noted, all of the effort has paid off on this day — and it’s something that everyone in her community can take pride in.
“I’ve had to work hard to get here, but I don’t think you’ll ever be good at anything in life if you aren’t willing to work for it. The hard work may not be fun at the time, but the payoff is worth it. Today has a good feel to it, especially considering where I was a few years ago,” Luther said. “It’s proof that if you dedicate yourself and work hard, it doesn’t matter where you are or where you are from. I’m proud of my time at South Gallia and how it has prepared me for this next challenge. I’m looking forward to the next journey.”
Luther plans on majoring in Elementary Education and is the daughter of Dafney and Mike Davis of Mercerville.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.