Burlington senior shined in cross country, basketball, soccer

Jessa Burling is enjoying her best basketball season of her career for the Lady Demons. (Mike Ramczyk/SLN)


By Mike Ramczyk


Described as a motivated self-starter by her parents, Burlington High School senior Jessa Burling excels at everything she tries.

“I love challenges, so sports are a great way to experience that,” said Burling, who leads the Demons with 16 points and 10 rebounds per game.

Burling, a 5-foot-10 point guard, has scored in double figures in 10 of the team’s 11 games this season, and the Demons’ 7-4 mark is the best start in head coach Mary Parker’s four-year regime.

Not only does Burling average a double-double, she recently enjoyed consecutive triple-doubles with points, rebounds and steals, and she also lead the Demons in assists.

An all-conference performer in basketball, cross country and soccer, Burling’s banner 2017 has earned her the 2017 Burlington Standard Press Female Athlete of the Year.

Early this basketball season, Burling broke the all-time Demons’ scoring record, and she later surpassed the 1,000-point milestone. Her commentary about the accolade is all you need to know about Burling, who also in the top 10 of her 2018 class and will join her brother Brad at the University of Wisconsin in the fall.

“To me, it doesn’t make sense that it’s just my name on the record because I wouldn’t be able to achieve it without the teammates and coaches that surrounded me the entire time,” she said.

Blessed with natural ability, Burling began playing sports at age 4, kicking the ball around and shooting buckets with older brothers Ben and Brad at their city of Burlington home.

Always a year younger than the girls on her youth soccer team, Jessa has enjoyed unwavering support from her dad, Eric, the BHS principal, and her mom, Ellen, as they attend the majority of her sporting events, which begin in August and extend through June.

While Eric says they never need to remind Jessa when homework is due, practice begins or what time the big game is, Ellen says Jessa is a leader in everything she does and works hard to continually improve.

A major contributor to Jessa’s success is youth coach Brian Barry, who always motivates her to achieve greatness.

Brian’s daughter, Ashlyn, grew up a teammate and friend with Jessa in multiple sports, and the two are close friends.

“She is extremely humble and one of the nicest kids you will ever meet,” said Brian Barry Wednesday about Jessa. “She is one of the most coachable kids that I have ever had the pleasure of coaching. She is extremely intelligent, which helped her pick up strategies and skills very quickly.

“She is 100 percent a team player and always one of the hardest working kids at practices and games. She is exactly what a student-athlete should be.”

Ashlyn Barry, who witnessed Burling’s high level of performance first-hand as a cross country, soccer and basketball teammate, said Burling is the most humble person she knows.

“I have played on a lot of different teams with many athletes, and I can’t think of one that compares to Jessa,” Ashlyn added Wednesday night. “She is an incredibly hard worker and never complains. She is also a very good leader, vocally and by example. She is a great team player and always puts her teammates first. Nobody deserves this more than Jessa.”

While the positive support has outweighed any negative setbacks for the most part, Burling has missed a basketball game here or there with ankle issues, but she is currently healthy and a coach on the court and in practice, according to head basketball coach Mary Parker.

The Standard Press caught up with Jessa recently to discuss a successful 2017 and look forward to a jam-packed 2018.


SP: It’s been a big year in basketball. Take me through the season so far.

JB: It has been a very fun and exciting season. I don’t really believe the scoring record and the 1,000-point marker affected my focus on the team, if anything it motivated me to play better for my teammates.

I always try to play my best for them, not for myself, so my focus has always been on the team.

SP: Briefly take me through 2017. What did you learn?

JB: It’s crazy to think it’s already over, but 2017 was very eventful. I learned a lot through all my sports, but I think the most important thing was to enjoy the moment. Watching all the previous seniors leave last year really put into perspective that you have limited time in high school sports.

I learned to, in all the chaos, be sure to enjoy what you’re doing because you will miss it one day.

SP: What has been your biggest challenge? How did you overcome it?

JB: I have been pretty fortunate to not face much adversity within my life. There is a great group of people around me, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. As long as my ankles hold out, I am usually pretty happy.

SP: What was your favorite part of 2017?

JB: I think my favorite sports success was the soccer season we had in 2017. It was really important to have a season like that for all the seniors that were going to be leaving us, and I believe we made the most out of it on the field.

I also think it’s one of my favorites because of the team aspect. Obviously I was ecstatic to break the school record for scoring in 2017 as well, but I would much rather be recognized on a team level, rather than just an individual level.

SP: Academically, you recently committed to UW. What went into your decision? Was playing college sports ever an option?

JB: I guess I always wanted to go to Madison from a young age. It’s very fortunate that there is such a well-respected university in Wisconsin, and so I decided to take advantage of that. Sports was never really a deciding factor, I always wanted to go to school for school.

SP: What’s your New Year’s Resolution?

JB: My New Years Resolution was to read more. Kind of odd I know, but I am an avid reader.

SP: At Madison, what will you most look forward to?

JB: I am most looking forward to meeting new people at Madison. I would love to be a neuroscientist or a psychologist when I’m out of school.

SP: What will it take to make 2018 even better than 2017?

JB: 2017 was a very eventful year, and fortunately 2018 will be very eventful as well because of graduation and getting started in college.

It will be a change of pace to not be involved in sports, but my new challenge will be to keep making myself better. I look forward to the challenge in itself that college is, and I know it will make me a better person.

SP: What do you value the most from your time with Coach Barry?

JB: Not many people can say that they have had the same coach since they were very young, but Coach Barry has been with me for as long as I can remember.

It is indescribable the impact he had on me, but I think the most important thing he taught me was to always love what I’m doing. He made sports a fun activity, not a chore, and I have carried that with me throughout high school.

It’s always reassuring to have him at games cheering on the Demons because he has been with me through it all.


SP: How do you balance 3 sports and school work?

JB: It becomes hard to balance sometimes, but my family and friends always keep me on track. All of my coaches always emphasize that school comes first, and they are always willing to help, too.

SP: What advice do you have for the little girl that wants to be the next Jessa Burling?

JB: I would say that it’s always a good idea to stay in sports, and as many as you can.

The more sports you’re in, the more memories you make that last a lifetime. Keep working hard, but the most important thing is to have fun and stay positive.



Meet Jessa Burling

I am Female Athlete of the Year because: I have had great coaches, teammates, and supporters, all who have motivated me to work harder.

Sports are: a huge part of me.

Favorite movie: “Sandlot” Favorite Song: Too hard to choose, I listen to music all the time.

Text or talk in person? I would rather talk in person because I feel that it’s more enjoyable. But, I definitely do text a lot.

Favorite postgame ritual: Going to Culvers and ordering a kids meal!

Favorite thing about holidays? Being with family. It’s rare that we are always together because everyone is so busy.

My favorite athlete: Nick Klug, Burlington senior