Derrick Jackson dealt with a lingering hamstring injury last year that did not allow him to compete at the Midwest Conference Championship. The sophomore from Florida came out this year ready to prove himself all season and during the Midwest Conference Championship, and that he did.
Jackson has been breaking Knox records and winning meets all year long; the MWC was the biggest test so far and he aced it. Jackson won the 60m dash and won the 200m dash by setting a Knox record with a time of 22.15 seconds. Jackson performed the way he felt he could of last year had he not gotten hurt. Jackson has been breaking Knox records and winning meets all year long.
“I had a lot on my mind because last year I got hurt so I wasn’t there mentally. This year I came with a big chip on my shoulder. So I had to do it. I came out, competed, and I set school records,” Jackson said.
Jackson’s coach, Evander Wells, believes that he would have performed this way last year had he not succumbed to injury. Wells is trying to ensure that Jackson, and other athletes, don’t get injured.
“I’ve heard about a lot of injuries and hamstring issues last year. I’m going to listen to him if he’s feeling pain, like with any athlete. If you’re feeling something, we’re going to pretty much shut you down at that point,” Wells said.
Wells always has the end goal in mind. Proving your toughness by playing through an injury isn’t worth it if It’s going to cost you conference.
“If we have a really intense day, then the next day we come in with a day that’s not as intense. We’re working on some other things. That kinda gives your body some time to recover, then the next day we do some things to help recovery. Recovery is a big part of what we do with the team and everybody. Anyone who’s had any type of injuries, we do keep an eye on them, making sure that it doesn’t flare up,” Wells said.
“What I don’t want you to try is push through it and show that you’re tough. At the end of the season, you gotta be healthy to run well. I’m pretty sure he was just as talented last year as he is this year. The difference is he’s healthy this year,” Wells said.
Jackson’s confidence level took a hit after that. After going through the grind of the regular season, he couldn’t compete at one of the highest levels for D-III.
“Mentally I know for a fact I wasn’t there at all. Like I said my coach picked me up. I had picked my teammates up cause I said, ‘I guess I’m gonna still be there for my team regardless. It’s a team sport, I had used that right there to motivate me to get better,” Jackson recalled.
Jackson trained hard to prepare for the season. He was pushing himself to get better.
Having Wells as the coach has also proved beneficial.
Wells has helped Jackson by running alongside him as he trains. Jackson views it as a blessing that he has the former Division 1 athlete as a coach.
“I get some times out of them and if that means getting out there myself and running, I’ll do that. He’s ran certain times and I’ll get out there and he’ll run a little bit faster,” Wells said.
Before the season, Wells and Jackson came up with goals that they thought were attainable this year and Jackson has accomplished feats that weren’t one of the goals.
“Winning conference was one and the 60, but the 200 was kind of a bonus,” Wells added. I don’t think that was necessarily a priority, but we can go ahead and check that off the list as well. We’ve still got some things we’re working toward with nationals coming up in a couple of weeks, but you know, we’re on the right path to do everything that we really want to do.”
Jackson’s competitive spirit is his best attribute – besides his speed – according to Wells.
“Every time he steps on the track I think he’s expecting to go out and perform well. He’s expecting to win. It doesn’t really matter who he’s up against,” Wells said.
Jackson has already broken five school track and field records but he’s not done yet.
“I’m trying to break my own records. I’m trying to come out big. Before I graduate, I guarantee it’s going to be at least six or seven, somewhere in that range,” Jackson said.
With the conference over and Nationals approaching, Jackson’s confidence is at an all-time high.
“In I think 1997, I forgot the alumni‘s name, but he was ranked 16 coming into nationals and he came out on top. I just gotta have that mindset and just do what I gotta do. Just come in first for sure,” Jackson said.