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ND Cross Country: Jackson gets back on track

Maija Gustin | Tuesday, October 12, 2010

After two-and-a-half years of what he calls “very little success,” senior Dan Jackson is in top form and is ready to lead the Irish to the 2010 NCAA Championships.

“Last fall I had a dismal cross-country season and I came nowhere near accomplishing my goals,” Jackson said. “I believe this was due to a lack of commitment to the sport. I didn’t realize just how much work it took to compete at the highest level.”

After a year of training hard, Jackson has been a top runner for the No. 28 Notre Dame men’s cross country team. He led the Irish to a victory at the National Catholic Invitational in September, finishing second overall in 24:10.

Jackson again finished first for the Irish at the Notre Dame Invitational, running in 24:13. The Irish finished seventh overall, facing tough competition from No. 3 Oregon, No. 10 New Mexico, No. 15 Florida State, No. 21 Tulsa, No. 23 Penn State and No. 26 UCLA.

“I’m very optimistic about the season after our two tune-up races at the National Catholic Meet and the Notre Dame Invitational.” Jackson said. “I was able to compete well even while training very hard in the days and weeks leading right up to the meet. Once I begin to rest more and let my legs and body recover I will be able to run even faster.”

The Irish have several races in the upcoming month, including the Pre-National Meet and the Big East Championship, but Jackson is only thinking about the biggest stage.

“I have my eyes set on only one race this season and that is the NCAA National Championship in Terre Haute, Indiana, on November 22,” he said.

Jackson is confident in his ability to make it to the championships.

“I believe my greatest strength as a runner is my body’s ability to withstand week after week of very hard training,” he said. “Durability is a great asset in a runner because consistency in training is arguably the most important predictor of success in distance running. While most people have trouble running 80 or 90 miles per week, I can easily run more than 100 for many weeks in a row.”

After what he referred to as a “dismal” past, Jackson believes he is on the right track.

“I ended the spring track season on a high note, finishing 20th in the country in the 10k at the National Championships,” Jackson said. “I now have the confidence and focus it takes to compete with the best in the NCAA.”

In the time leading up to the NCAA Championships, Jackson will look to befriend and fellow runner Greg Meyer for inspiration. Meyer is the last American male to win the Boston Marathon. He finished the marathon in 2:09 in 1983.

“Greg was a Boston Marathon champion in his day and was one of the greatest runners of his era,” Jackson said. “But more importantly, I look up to Greg because he is the toughest person I know. When he raced, he raced to win and wasn’t scared or intimidated by anyone he went up against.”

Jackson plans to lead the Irish to the Championships in November and says they are ready to do just that.

“Our team is improving every week right now,” Jackson said. “We are really going to surprise some people. We have some extremely talented runners on the team that have had a lot of success in the 1500, Mile, and Steeplechase in the past, but who are now expanding that talent to the 8k cross-country course. It’s going to be exciting.”

Beyond November, Jackson is looking forward to his favorite spring races.

“I really enjoy running the 5k and 10k in the spring when we travel out to California,” he said. “The races there are always held at night under the lights. The cool evening weather and still air provide for very fast times, and the competition is always very good.”

Jackson has high hopes for himself and for his team for the rest of the season.

“I want to be the best possible leader I can for this team,” he said.