Athlete Profile: Jonathan Jackson



Athlete Profile: Jonathan Jackson

By Copy Editor

Despite a season-ending injury last year, Chicago native and Indiana State University senior Jonathan Jackson won first place in the 800-meter sprint at the Missouri Valley Conference 2014 Indoor Track and Field Championship March 2—a race that he won fourth place in last year—and finished in eighth place in the 400-meter dash the year before on an injured ankle.

Jackson grew up on the North Side and attended Lane Technical College Preparatory High School, where he began running track as a sophomore. Indiana State University recruited him to run the 400-meter hurdle event.

The Chronicle spoke to Jackson during the March 3 WCRX The Benchwarmers show about his success running track, sports injuries and goals.

THE CHRONICLE: What is the difference between running track at the high school level and collegiate level?

JONATHAN JACKSON: In high school, you can get by on pure talent. Once you get to college, you meet a whole bunch of talented kids, but then at the same time, you also have to put hard work into it. That’s mainly the huge difference. You have to put in the work if you want to be that much greater.

CC: Why did you choose track?

JJ: I’ve always liked to run. I’ve played a variety of sports, but running is the only thing that came natural[ly] to me. It’s more than just running fast—you have to have endurance [and] you have to actually think about strategies about running.

CC: What is the most difficult race you have competed in?

JJ: Probably when I went to the NCAA [preliminaries] last year, where [I] raced all the big names. You were either nervous, or … just tired and you’re just trying to push through.

CC: What is your favorite event?

JJ: My favorite event, which is the one that I was recruited for, is the 400-meter hurdle. It’s the whole lap outside a 400-meter track with hurdles incorporated, so you have to sprint a whole 400 [meters] while jumping over 10 hurdles.

CC: Why did you choose to attend Indiana State University?

JJ: Because of the coaching staff. The coaching staff knows exactly what they’re doing. My head coach has coached three Olympians; some of the people that he’s coached have some of the records in the NCAA books. My event coach, she was a pro athlete. They know what they’re trying to do.

CC: What do you hope to achieve before you graduate?

JJ: I’ve always dreamed about being an All-American, so that’s something that I’ll never give up on. I have this outdoor season to prove that, so I’m going to do that, hopefully. After college is over, if I don’t get the option to go pro, then I want to work in a hospital with disease research and stuff like that. That’s always been a big goal of mine, too.

CC: How close are you to being represented professionally?

JJ: Right now, my best in the 400 hurdles is 51.7 [seconds]. For me to go pro, I would have to run at least 49, twice. Two seconds doesn’t seem like a lot, but in that race, it really is because you’re already sprinting and you have to improve that by 2 seconds, so it’s close.

CC: How do you train to run faster?

JJ: A lot of speed work, a lot of weight training, surprisingly, and a lot of endurance training because some people have natural speed. With endurance training, you can get them to maintain that speed for a longer time. With weight training, the stronger you are, the more explosive you are. With less work, you can go further without exerting more energy. You can save that for later parts of the race.