For the past three years, Tessa Valdivia has been one of the premier cross country runners in Eastern Jackson County.

However, the Blue Springs High School senior always had to take a backseat to the premier runner in the state, her friendly crosstown rival Tori Findley, who is now a freshman at the University of Missouri.

Valdivia has been on the all-conference team the past four years, the-all district team the past four years and earned state medals as a sophomore, finishing 11th; and as a junior, finishing sixth.

This year, she wrapped up a brilliant career with a second-place time of 19:00.46 at state to finish in second place and earn The Examiner’s Cross Country Runner of the Year award.

“I am ecstatic, so excited for Tessa,” Blue Springs girls cross country coach Matt Johnson said. “She watched Tori and learned from Tori and we knew her time would come this year and she went out and had another great year.

“She is so quiet, and doesn’t say much, but all you have to do is watch her to see her compete. Running is like oxygen to Tessa – I don’t think she could survive without running.”

Ironically, Valdivia made a similar comment, without knowing about the metaphor her coach had used describing her passion for running.

“I can’t even imagine life without running,” said Valdivia, who was second at conference, first at districts and then finished her Wildcats cross country career with the second-place state finish. “I don’t know why, but I just love to run. I am happiest when I am running and I really looked forward to my senior season.

“I’ve had success in the past, but I wanted to finish strong this year and have at least a top five finish at state. To finish second, and to win this award from The Examiner is very special.”

Finishing her senior season was a bittersweet moment for Valdivia.

“I just can’t believe it’s all over at Blue Springs,” she said. “I love my girls and my coaches and am going to miss them, but I am looking forward to my next big challenge.”

That challenge will be competing at Southwest Baptist University.

“I’m looking forward to college, but we still have our (high school) track season, so will still get to compete with a lot of my friends at Blue Springs in the spring,” she said.