Fleet-footed Pearo runs to the front of the class

Jessica Pearo will represent McMaster at the 2011 Ontario University Athletics’ Women of Influence Luncheon.

The OUA will recognize the top female scholar-athletes from across the province at the eighth annual Women of Influence Luncheon on Wednesday, March 2 from noon to 2 p.m. at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

The event honours female student-athletes who have excelled in their chosen sports, fields of study and community involvement. This year’s guest speaker will be tennis star Venus Williams.

Pearo has been one of the most outstanding cross country runners McMaster has seen in decades and her four years as a Marauder have propelled her to national status. She has been named an OUA All-Star and a Canadian Interuniversity Sports All-Canadian all four of her Marauders’ years and has been named McMaster’s team MVP three times. This year also marked her first OUA championship win, beating the field by 13 seconds.

Just a week later, Pearo went on to win her first CIS Championship, capping off a perfect season, winning all five races she competed in.

The Richmond Hill native was also a member of the Canadian World University Cross Country Team in 2010.

In 2009, the kinesiology student won the OUA female student-athlete community service award. Pearo volunteered as a marshal for the Terry Fox Run held on McMaster’s campus in September 2009, helping with the coordination of marshals for the event. In addition, she has volunteered her time collecting donations through the Salvation Army Christmas “kettles” campaign. For the past four years, she has volunteered during the holiday season collecting donations for this very worthwhile campaign.

Pearo has continuously maintained the Queen Elizabeth II Aiming for the Top Scholarship with her GPA during her four-year career at McMaster.

Join OUA as Williams speaks about her career on and off the courts, and how she set a new standard for all female athletes around the world. Tickets to the luncheon are $168.37 (taxes included) at the early bird price and can be purchased by registering at https://register.womenofinfluenceinc.ca/woi/register.aspx.

Q: What is your proudest academic achievement?
A: I have been named Academic All-Canadian for three consecutive years.

Q: What is your proudest athletic achievement?
A: I think it is a tie between winning the CIS National Championships and representing Canada at the 2010 World University Cross-Country Championships.

Q: What is your most memorable community related moment?
A: Working for the Salvation Army Christmas Family Services Campaign. Every year I volunteer for several hours on a Kettle shift and in 2008, I helped with the distribution of toys to needy families. I found it so rewarding and opened my eyes to how fortunate I am.

Q: What woman has most influenced you, and why?
A: The woman who has had the most influence on me is my coach, Paula Schnurr. Being a two time Olympian, she has the most respectable knowledge about the sport, but she also understands the mindset of a female endurance athlete. She has been able to counsel me through many difficult times in my training because she understands and empathizes. She was once a student herself and understands the other aspects of life which are just as important as the sport in which I partake in. She teaches and demonstrates balance in life, which is the most important part.

Q: If you could sit down to dinner with any woman, who would it be, and why?
A: I would sit down with Sylvia Ruegger if I had the opportunity. She has held the women’s Canadian marathon record for several years and, having heard her speak before, she radiates passion and love for the sport. She is an amazing role model and also has a passion for her faith life. I found it very helpful to hear her speak of combining the two areas of her life into one, and how she was able to draw upon several sources for encouragement and motivation.

Q: What are your future plans?
A: As an athlete, I want to run a fifth year as a varsity athlete, and then begin my long road to marathon training. Over the next few years, I want to slowly increase my racing distances and work my way up in mileage. As a career, I am applying to Physiotherapy and hope to one day run my own clinic and help athletes such as myself.