Jackson perseveres through injuries
Senior sprinter enjoying career-best results in final season
One could forgive Desmond Jackson for spending the next couple of weeks scooting around campus encased in bubble wrap. If ever there was a guy that needed protection both physically and mentally, it is Jackson.
Since arriving on Abilene Christian’s campus four years ago, he’s battled ill-timed injuries and a coaching change, all of which shook his belief in himself. He wouldn’t dare think about what else could happen, because he feared it probably would. That is, until this season.
Jackson is finally healthy and totally onboard with his training program that has paid off with the best season of his career. For his efforts, Jackson has earned a trip the Division II championships May 26-28 in Turlock, Ca., where he will compete in the 100 meters sprint, 200 meters sprint and 4x100 meter relay.
“It was all part of the plan,” Jackson said. “Finally, it’s all falling into place. I’ve been through a lot since I’ve been here. God has had a plan for me and I am having a breakout year. I have never felt better.”
That is apparent. Jackson has earned All-American honors in both the 60 meters and 200 meters dash for the indoor season and helped ACU win its 13th NCAA Division II indoor title, its first since 2005. He was also chosen the Lone Star Conference’s Outstanding Male Track Athlete after leading ACU to its 18th straight outdoor conference.
It’s a fitting way to end a collegiate career for Jackson. The peaks and valleys along the way have made this year that much sweeter to the Midland, Texas native.
“It seemed like something was always going wrong,” Jackson said. “I was really doubting myself because I couldn’t keep healthy when I needed to be. It was frustrating.”
Not so much by his results, because they were usually strong for the bulk of his first two years. But when injuries struck, they hit him usually late in the season which robbed him of his ability to compete fully in major competitions. He endured a heartbreaking cycle. He’d score points to earn his team titles, but when it came time for individual titles at season’s end, he was too banged up to get them.
“It was either a strained hamstring or a pulled groin or something,” Jackson said. “I’d do well enough to get there [for national individual titles], but my injuries hampered me. I could not do my best. It got to me mentally.”
Jackson looked forward to a great junior season, one that would be injury-free. But it would not be without its share of drama. Don Hood, the coach who recruited him, resigned. The ensuing upheaval that is attendant with coaching changes affected Jackson. He had to get used to a new training program and the coach who brought it in, Roosevelt Lofton.
It was particularly stressful for Jackson because he felt his junior year was one where he had really begun to mature as a person, and was ready to throw himself into his old routine.
“Then everything changed,” Jackson said. “It was really hard. And that is nothing against Coach Lofton. I just was so young minded before and hadn’t really done everything I needed to do to be the best. I was ready to dedicate myself to the program that was there and do the things off the track that would help me on the track.
“Everything was completely different. I know it took me a while to get into it and get my mind in the right place.”
And his body. Lofton wanted Jackson to develop both to become the sprinter he needed to be. Lofton instituted more discipline in training, more structure. There was a scientific approach to each aspect of running, pre-race as well as the races themselves.
“There was a lot of process and a lot for him to process,” Lofton said. “We had to fix the injuries, which meant him being more diligent with warm ups, his flexibility, his stretching. He had to realize there are consequences for not doing those things.
“I asked him what were his future plans, and where he wanted to go. Once those were established, I told him it was going to take this, and this and this to get there. He had to decide what he was willing to do to get there.”
So the change in Jackson’s attitude was on and so were his results. His work ethic improved and he is poised for more greatness.
“I’m completely sold on it because now I’m running the faster than I ever had before,” Jackson said. “I found out I really could compete with these guys. I began thinking, ‘Why not me?’ I am dedicated to it. Just school and track now. I want to be the best I can be.”