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Distance star Jordan commits to Liberty University

Danielle Jordan accomplished her goal of choosing a college before the start of her senior track season.

But finding a school at which to run nearly ran the distance standout ragged.

It was really hard, says Jordan, who is home-schooled but competes for North Medford High.

Jordan gave a verbal commitment on Saturday to accept a full-ride scholarship to Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., were she'll compete in cross country and track.

The spring signing period begins April 12.

— Mostly, it just takes the pressure off, says Jordan. I've seen a lot of seniors go through track where they're so focused on college, they don't have a good track season.

Jordan, who last fall placed third in the Class 4A state cross country championships, sought an NCAA Division I Christian school. Ideally, it would have been on the West Coast, near the family to which she is so close.

But a November visit to the Virginia school made her realize it would be tough for others to measure up.

I wasn't seriously considering going there, says Jordan. I thought it would be a fun trip to go back east, but I didn't want to be that far from home.

Upon arriving, she was swept away by the coaches and team members and the way they embrace their faith.

Some Christian schools, says Jordan, go through the motions of religious commitment.

At Liberty, there is chapel three times a week and Bible study at practice. Further, head coach Brant Tolsma wrote a book, The Surrendered Christian Athlete.

What he wrote in the book, you saw it lived out on the team, says Jordan.

That ultimately played a big part in Jordan's decision, but it wasn't yet a done deal.

Jordan visited NAIA schools Western Baptist, Seattle Pacific and Northwest College, then Oregon and Oregon State came into the mix.

Oregon coach Marnie Mason coached Jordan as a junior at North Medford before taking the Ducks' post last year.

Oregon State hired Kelly Sullivan two weeks ago to head its women's cross country team. Sullivan, formerly the Willamette coach, is a family friend of the Jordans.

The proximity of the two Pac-10 Conference schools and Jordan's relationship with the coaches gave her pause, but Liberty held up as her choice.

Through running she had an opportunity to attend an eastern school she never would have considered, and she is taking advantage.

Liberty belongs to the Big South Conference. It's a small Division I school but has enjoyed success, particularly in track.

The Flames have won all 16 conference track titles ' 10 outdoor and six indoor ' since the championships were instituted.

Heather Sagan, an assistant to Tolsma, won the 2002 NCAA indoor mile and is training for the Olympic Trials.

They have produced some quality people, says Jordan.

She expects to go in as the No. — runner her freshman season.

Her best time in the 5,000 meters came at the state cross country meet last fall, when she ran 18 minutes, 12 seconds. It would have won the previous nine meets, some by significant margins.

The previous spring at the state track meet, she accomplished her bests of 10:00.15 in the 3,000 and 4:42.47 in the 1,500.

She likely will run the 5,000 and 10,000 in track this season.

Jordan will have something in common with others in the Flames' program. Reyna Quiroz, a freshman, is from Canyonville, and Jordan stayed with her during her visit.

Jordan also has corresponded with another of Liberty's recruits, an Ohio girl, and two of the men's recruits are home-schooled brothers from New York.

Still, it will be a big move.

Someone asked me the other day, 'Are you ready for college?' says Jordan. I said I am now, but I won't be in six months when I get on that airplane.

Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 776-4479, or e-mail