Josie Bushar is a 12th-grade student and cross country and track athlete at Pine View High School who loves running “more than ice cream and Disneyland.” Her infectious, lighthearted optimism, however, belies an intense drive.
Over the last three years, she has risen to the challenge of balancing individual goal setting with the leadership needed for overall success in a highly team-oriented sport. “She’s really good at getting their whole team to work hard together,” says Selma Bushar, Josie’s mom. “She is very, very dedicated. It pays off in her races.”
“It’s fun to push yourself and see how much you’ve accomplished from where you start to where you end,” Josie says.
Josie’s family has deep roots in southern Utah. She spent part of her childhood in Enterprise before they moved to Washington Fields eight years ago. She has a sister who is also part of the cross country and track team, and two brothers. Running is a pastime they all enjoy together. “Introducing her to the sport is really the only thing that I’ve been able to do for her,” Selma Bushar says. “Once she decided to do it, she just took off. We just support her.”
Josie made varsity her freshman year. However, juggling running and her other passion, dance, became more than she could handle. She made the difficult choice to focus on the former. “She’s such a great example of commitment to the team,” says David Holt, Pine View’s cross country and track coach. “She knows what’s expected of her, and she expects good things of everyone around her.”
“It’s fun to push yourself and see how much you’ve accomplished from where you start to where you end.“
Her breakthrough came as a sophomore. In cross-country, she finished within the top 10 in Region 9, helping propel Pine View to a Region win and second-place finish at State.
Her personal bests include 11 minutes, 43 seconds in the 3200m and 19 minutes, 8 seconds in the cross country 3-mile.
On a typical school day, Josie wakes up around 5:30 a.m. and goes for a 3-mile run with the team, followed by weight training. After class is another practice and then homework. Often, she is involved with organizing camps and other team activities. “I know that the time I do have is very precious, and I have to use it very wisely to get everything done that I need to,” she says.
Josie also loves hiking and being outside, and plays the piano. She is a well-rounded student-athlete who maintains a 4.0 GPA and was elected class president for the 2016-17 school year. “For her to manage everything she does on the sports team, it’s pretty amazing that she can also keep up her grades in difficult classes,” Selma Bushar says. “I’m proud of her because she works very, very hard.”
Josie and her fellow Panthers run every day over the summer, doing hills to build a solid base. Once school starts, they concentrate more on speed. Tapering begins as the big races approach in October, including State.
For Josie, teamwork was an acquired skill. “I’ve learned to listen to others and my coaches, and take advice from them,” she says. “I hope they’ll remember how much of a fun time we’ve had together, that we worked hard together, and that we really learned to love each other a lot.”
“She’s not just about herself. She’s a really good friend to everyone, and wants to make sure everyone’s included,” says Addi Baker, Josie’s teammate and cousin.
Josie credits another Pine View coach, Travis Roberts, for inspiring her to do her best and never give up. “She brings a positive attitude and a work ethic to the team that demonstrates how dedication will help you improve,” Roberts says. “Everyone’s trying to push to get better, not just the ones who run at State. It takes a lot of hard work.”
The 17-year-old views hardships and disappointments as opportunities for growth. She suffered a knee injury during training ahead of her junior year that kept her on the bench for a month and a half.
Once healed, finding her rhythm again was a struggle. She found motivation in her personal motto, “buff and tough,” a reminder that she is strong and will always persevere.
She gradually returned to form as the season progressed, running some of her best times and ultimately qualifying for State in five events—the 3200m, 1600m, 800m, 4x400m relay, and medley. The Panthers took Region yet again, and Josie was among the top 10.
Josie is considering a career in physical therapy, and doesn’t yet know what college she will attend. She also wants to run a marathon someday. “I would love to get an athletic scholarship,” she says. “I think it would be super cool to run in college, but even if I’m not ready for that level, running’s something I can take with me no matter where I am or how old I am.”
Holt, who has coached Josie since she ran with his middle school club, believes that her current times will give her a real opportunity to keep running at the collegiate level. He anticipates a strong senior year that could possibly include a third straight Region title, victory at State, and qualifying for the Nike Cross Nationals. “I think she could end up being one of the top seven runners in 3A, an all-state athlete in cross country, and definitely top five in the region. (These are) goals she should be looking at,” Holt says. “Whatever we accomplish as a team will be on her shoulders.”
As co-captain, Josie brings reliability and experience to a group of girls that has struggled with consistency. “You can have a team that’s extremely gifted, but they won’t ever accomplish their best because they’re missing a certain type of leader,” Holt says. “For us, Josie is that leader.” • HSSI