Ferndale cross country runner Jillian Anderson sees much more than her 5-foot-2, 85-pound reflection in her bedroom mirror every morning.
Transcribed on its surface is a list of her personal best times. Also displayed are her closest competitor's PRs.
It's a never-ending pursuit to improve for the Golden Eagles' pint-sized runner coach Nick Carlson said has a chance to be best in school history.
"I will always see them, and it will motivate me a little," Anderson said the of race times.
Her competitive drive is second to none, and Anderson's size and warm personality tend to mislead others who assume her presence must make her lackadaisical. Anderson's hidden competitive edge has even fooled her own coach.
"What I can say about her is she is the most competitive runner I have ever had," Carlson said during a phone interview. "She just wants to win, and she wants to be up front. The positives about her size is that people underestimate her, and to be honest, I did, too."
Neither Carlson nor Anderson knew what she would amount to during the first day of cross country last year.
Anderson was a first-timer, and Carlson hadn't yet seen his freshman race, but she quickly left a striking impression on her coach.
Anderson instantly challenged top Ferndale senior runner Makalee Latta and beat her the first of two times during the midseason Hole in the Wall Invite.
"It opened my eyes," Carlson said. "This is a kid that can really go. She's gotten a little bit bigger than last year, and I think by her senior year she will be the best Ferndale girl that we've ever had in terms of her times and state ability."
Competition drives Anderson, but increased confidence is the ingredient behind her success.
Anderson has transformed from a runner who was hesitant to run cross country to an upper-echelon talent within an elite Whatcom County pool of runners.
"Last year I didn't know what to expect at all, and I was scared," Anderson admitted. "I remember on the first day of practice, I didn't want to go because I didn't know anybody, and I was so scared because I didn't know where I was supposed to be or anything like that."
Anderson has played basketball since she was in fourth grade and did softball last year, but besides a stint with track in seventh grade, she was foreign to competitive running before her freshman season. It was Anderson's mom, who also was a strong high school runner, that encouraged her to compete.
Turns out, moms do know best.
Anderson said hers is always motivating and scouring Athletic.net for new race results. Anderson's drive to be the best also stems from a friendly rivalry with classmate and longtime basketball teammate Heidi Landeros.
The two sophomores have battled for a starting point-guard spot each of the past four years. Interestingly, Anderson is Ferndale's sophomore class president and Landeros is VP.
"She is really competitive, and we are always head-to-head," said Anderson of her rival, basketball teammate and friend, who may run cross country next year.
But Anderson's fast times this year boil down to what she does on her own between the start and finish line. She owns Ferndale's fastest girls' time and ranks among the top 25 Northwest Conference runners at the 5,000-meter distance.
There's no specific type of run Anderson excels at more than others, she said, but the Golden Eagle's racing style never ceases to impress Carlson.
"She is a small kid, and you don't see her when there is a big mass of kids," said the Ferndale coach. "You can't see her in there, but she's not intimidated. She works her elbows a little bit and makes sure she doesn't take any guff from anybody. She puts herself in position to win races and be successful. She did that last year, and she's doing it again this year."
Anderson began making a name for herself last season, but she fell short of reaching the state run by just three places. There was still much to be proud of. She'd beaten Latta for the second time, and missing the cut line for state has added even more drive for an already highly-motivated individual.
"I was really disappointed I didn't make it to state, but in the beginning of the season I had no idea that I was going to be that close, so it wasn't too bad," she said.
State has consumed Anderson's mind lately. Qualifying is her main focus and goal, and the road to Pasco starts off with a series of talent-packed races beginning with the Northwest Conference Championships at 4:40 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 24, at Bellingham's Civic Stadium. Anderson finished 27th during last year's race.
Two keys to reaching her goal is eating right and getting proper rest, Anderson said. A proper diet shouldn't be an issue, but Carlson will likely be challenged when it comes to limiting Anderson's training regimen.
"In fact today, we had an easier workout because of a meet tomorrow," said Carlson a day before Ferndale's Lake Lap Invitational Thursday, Oct. 17, at Lake Padden. "She did not want an easier workout. She wanted to do some other things that would get her prepared for districts. Every turnout, whatever the workout is, she is always saying, 'What can I do better?'"
Less than an hour before Thursday's Lake Padden race, Anderson responded to a question asking her what it means that she already owns a Ferndale school record for fastest time in a race.
"Well, I remember Carlson telling me that I could be one of the best runners at Ferndale High School ..." Anderson said.
Before she could begin talking again Carlson, who overheard Anderson's response while approaching with a race identification sticker, interjected an emphatic "ever."
Anderson smiled, then continued: "So that's exciting, and that motivates me to be that person."
As if Anderson already didn't have enough motivation.
Reach Andrew Lang at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-756-2862. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for Whatcom County sports updates and stories.
Reach ANDREW LANG at email@example.com or call ext. 862.