Jessa Perkinson's year to remember got even more memorable Wednesday when she received the Cascade Collegiate Conference's top honor.
Perkinson, a junior distance runner from Roseburg, was named the 2016-17 Red Lion Women's Athlete of the Year for all sports in a vote by the conference's athletic directors, the CCC office announced, becoming Southern Oregon University's first individual to earn the award in 18 years.
SOU Sports Hall-of-Famers Jill Carrier (1994-95) and Nada Janackovic (1998-99) are the only Raiders to previously win it. Perkinson joined their company by setting an SOU record with five All-America performances in the same year, including an NAIA outdoor track and field title in the 5,000 meters.
"She's obviously super talented, and one illustration of that was when we were at San Francisco State and I was convinced she had strep throat but she went an ran a huge PR anyway," SOU cross country and track and field coach Grier Gatlin said. "More than that, her attitude is always positive. And when you add that kind of talent to the attitude she has, this is what you get."
Perkinson's run began in the fall when she placed third at the NAIA Cross Country Championships, the top finish ever for a Raider at the national meet. During the winter, she took fourth in the mile and pushed SOU's distance medley relay team to a runner-up finish at the NAIA Indoor Championships. And this spring at the NAIA Outdoor Championships, she became SOU's first 1,500-meter women's All-American and just two hours later captured the 5K title – her second to go with the 10K title she claimed in 2016.
She won CCC titles in the 1,500 and 5K, cruising in the latter with a school and CCC Championships record time of 16:37.47. Two weeks earlier, she broke her own SOU 1,500 record in 4:30.11.
Also a Daktronics-NAIA Scholar Athlete and CoSIDA Academic All-District honoree, Perkinson will enter her senior season already a nine-time NAIA All-American.