Trinity’s Paige Jaffe finds escape running cross country

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CHICAGO — Running gives Trinity’s Paige Jaffe a chance to escape harsh memories, like the disaster that struck her family in May.

The junior from River Forest was sleeping at a friend’s when she got a call from her stepdad telling her that there was a fire at their house. When Jaffe got home, the gravity of the situation finally struck her. The house was a total loss and almost everything she owned was gone.

“I was really shocked when I got to the house and was crying,” Jaffe said. “My entire family lost everything. The only thing they found of mine was a box of stuff in my room. It had every birthday card I was given, all my bibs and ribbons from running and some family photos. It was weird because it was all paper stuff in a paper box.”

Jaffe saw that as a sign. It would be cross country that helped her get through the ensuing months.

The team and school rallied around Jaffe. Teammates bought her running clothes while an online fund-raiser raised $10,000 for her family to get back on its feet.

“My entire team was there for me,” Jaffe said. “They bought me new track gear and shoes and they were all very supportive of me. It helped me realize that even though I lost my house, everything would be OK. I still had cross country, my team and my family.”

Jaffe’s family didn’t have a permanent place to stay during the summer so she bounced around. However, she made sure to make time for cross country.

“A lot of people use running to work out their problems but when I’m running it’s one of the only times when I don’t think about anything else,” she said. “I can be thinking about something or dwelling on it all day, but I don’t think about it when I run. And then when I finish I feel so much better about the day.”

Teammate Emily Doyle is glad Jaffe is still running.

“I think it has given her something to focus on,” Doyle said. “It’s stress relief. Running releases endorphins that make you feel better and I think it helped her get back in the groove.”

Jaffe ran a 20:08 at the Class 2A state meet last year and her best time this season is 20:38. She hopes to run around 18:45 by the end of the season and return to state, although Trinity has moved up to 3A this year.

Jaffe has been the No. 2 or No. 3 runner for the Blazers this season. She’s had some big flashes of excellence, like Sept. 27 at the Roy Gummerson Invitational at Schiller Woods. Jaffe was Trinity’s No. 1 runner, finishing 29th with a time of 21:07.6.

“She was our top finisher, which was the first time she’s ever has done that,” Blazers coach Renee Koziol said. “Emily has held the top spot since freshman year but Paige just kind of stuck with her and felt comfortable passing her at the end.”

Doyle was thrilled to see Jaffe make a move, believing that the sky is the limit for her teammate.

“I’m really happy for her to pass me because no one else really does that so it helps push me too,” Doyle said. “She’s gotten a lot stronger this year and she has a huge drive. She has a lot of passion for running and she just pours her guts into it. When she puts her mind to it, she can do anything.”

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