Feb. 19, 2014
By Jon Cooper
The Good Word
When junior distance runner Morgan Jackson won the mile at last week’s Cupid Classic held at the Birmingham (Ala.) CrossPlex, she was naturally over-joyed.
What athlete wouldn’t be after gaining his or her first collegiate victory — one of four Yellow Jackets to win their event, and one of 15 to gain a top-five finish — in the process, shattering their personal best time?
Jackson did both, running 4:51.69, to outdistance the field of 50. It was the second time this season in five meets that she’d beaten her personal best, and knocked almost 13 seconds off her personal record (P.R.) coming into the season.
“Personally, I kind of like this track because I’ve been running good times on it,” said the Kennesaw, Ga. (North Cobb High School) who set a P.R. on the same track at the Jan. 18th Auburn Invitational, running a 4:56. “It’s a 200-meter banked track. It’s pretty fast. It’s a really nice facility. If you have a good track you’ll have good times. There are different surfaces. Some are better for racing, some are better for training. This is a really good track for racing.”
While last Friday was the first time Jackson finished first in an indoor college race (she’s won in cross country and outdoors), she has grown quite accustomed to leading a group of students. Jackson is out front as president of the Student-Athlete Advisory Board, where she took over January.
She knew when she took over that she had to hit the ground running, something that also is familiar territory.
“I have some big shoes to fill because [women’s basketball player] Shayla Bivins did a great job,” said Jackson, who first got involved in SAAB as a sophomore, volunteering as secretary before being selected vice president at the end of that year. “I want to be as motivating as she was to SAAB and the rest of the student-athletes. I’m taking the role very seriously. We actually had our first SAAB meeting in January, which I led and it went really well. I’m looking forward to the next one, which is at the end of this month.”
Jackson knows that being a successful leader for something as important as SAAB means being confident in her abilities and taking the lead on ideas.
“One thing [Bivins] mentioned is that you really have to put yourself out there. You can’t sit in the corner. You need to pull up a chair and sit at the table. Get involved,” she said. “Even though I feel like I am involved right now there is always more you can do to network, meet new people. If I put myself out there I’m also getting student-athletes out there in just getting the word out and spreading our values. So really, being confident and putting yourself out there to benefit the group.”
The weight of her school work (she is a Biomedical Engineering major), training and competing on the track and serving as SAAB president seems like a load that Atlas might have difficulty shouldering. So how does Jackson do it?
“Very carefully,” she said, with a laugh. “It probably also helps that our sport sometimes can be pretty independent. I can set my runs around meetings, so my sport is pretty flexible with it.
“Biomedical Engineering — I can find time for because I really enjoy it,” she added. “So actually liking my major helps keep me motivated to want to do the work. The same for my sport and SAAB because I really enjoy doing it. It makes me want to find time to do it. Really, I have to stress that I couldn’t do it alone. My coaches, my parents and other student-athletes definitely help me a lot.”
Jackson, who has plans to apply for Georgia Tech’s Master’s Program for Mechanical Engineering upon graduation, won’t be resting on her laurels over the summer. Instead she’ll venture out on her own in Europe, when she tackles a unique internship at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland (also known as EPFL).
“I’m working as a research intern in their laboratory of motion analysis and measurement,” she said. “I’ll be analyzing the motion of Olympic ski jumpers and dancers. I’ll be going over there by myself and be there a whole summer but I’m really excited because I’ve never gone abroad before.”
You can bet she’ll continue to do in Lausanne what she does in Atlanta, make every second count.
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