Jordan Jackson is a different runner than he was a year ago. The 1,600 meters he spent on the track were enough to take every bit of energy out of him.
Don't be mistaken, the Wellsboro junior was very good at what he did. The bronze medal he carried home from the PIAA Championships a year ago was a testament to that.
But that 1,600 meters a year ago was enough for Jackson. But in the year since Jackson finished third in Class AA in the mile as a sophomore, he's transformed himself as a runner.
He's a stronger runner, one that doesn't rely just on endurance to get through a race like the mile. He can push himself when he needs to. He can kick earlier in races to make a strong finish.
Things were certainly different for Jackson last Saturday at the District 4 meet. He took a runner-up finish in the 1,600. He followed it up with another runner-up finish in the 800, and even ran the 200 just because it was a different kind of race than what he usually runs and he enjoys it.
"I think it's not as strenuous on me. I'm still running good times and I'm not dying," Jackson said following his busy day at the District 4 meet a week ago. "I'm able to run three events and I'm still feeling pretty good. Last year I was pretty much just running the mile and I was shot pretty much the rest of the week."
Jackson's transformation has him just about where he'd like to be in his bread-and-butter event. His goal this year was to get to 4 minutes, 20 seconds in the 1,600, and he's less than 3 seconds from meeting that goal. He'll get two shots at it this weekend at the PIAA Championships in Shippensburg. He finished second at the district meet to Northeast Bradford's Curt Jewett in 4:22.88.
He enters the state meet as the third seed in the Class AA 1,600 behind only Jewett and North East's Ryan Smathers, last year's state runner-up. He's seeded eighth in the 800, but he's less than 2 seconds off the top seed.
There was some frustration when Jackson didn't come away with the district title in either the 1,600 or the 800 a week ago. But Jackson said sometimes you just have to tip your hat to a runner like Jewett, who won the race in 4:18.48. He also led the 800 when he started his final kick with about 300 meters to go. He couldn't maintain that pace and was passed in the final 50 meters and finished second.
But it was all a learning experience for Jackson. With his new style of running, he's still experimenting, finding what pace works best for him.
"It's slightly frustrating, but I'm still pretty happy to PR in the 1,600 and nearly get a PR in the 800," Jackson said after finishing his three-race day. "I think I have the speed, I just need to figure out when to take off right so I can use it to my advantage. I still have another week at states to help boost me up for the year."
Jackson really noticed the change in his running during the cross country season. He was constantly running the hills in competition and in practice and he could feel himself becoming stronger in his running.
He was the Green Hornets' top finisher in the team's seventh-place finish at the PIAA cross country meet. He also finished eighth overall. Now he's hoping this new style of running will translate into results when he needs it the most.
"I definitely have higher expectations. I want my PRs to be better and I really want to improve," Jackson said. "I'm hoping to break 4:20 at states and it looks like I'm on pace to get that, so it's going to be really good if I do."