Richard Montgomery High School has won the last two indoor county titles and the last two outdoor county titles. One of the main contributors during that stretch was the team's top hurdler Tyler Jackson. Jackson came on especially strong during the 2006 outdoor track season among a very strong field of county hurdlers. Many of the county leaders graduated and Jackson became the man to beat, but not many people predicted he would finish the indoor season with a county, region, and state title in the 55-meter hurdles. He continued to improve during outdoor season with a county and region title in the 110-meter hurdles and a personal best time of 14.86. Now that his senior year is upon him, he is preparing to bring his skills to a new level and defend his many titles. Here he explains why he chose to hurdle, how he pulled off a state title just two days after the regional qualifying meet, and what it was like competing at the highest level at Nike Indoor Nationals.
MoCoRunning: Hey Tyler. What’s up? Are you glad cross country season is over?
Jackson: Cross country was fun, and I loved every bit of it (Except when we were killed during workouts) and it does help me a lot for track in different ways. And as much as I'm sad that my senior year of XC is over, I'm really excited for track to start.
MoCoRunning: Why hurdles?
Jackson: Hurdling was always just something that seemed really interesting to me. Whenever I watched the Olympics when I was little, I always loved watching the hurdles. Also there was a lot of other raw sprinting talent on our team when I was a freshman (Gary, Brendan, Alonzo...) So I figured that I could shine in hurdling, mastering technique over speed.
MoCoRunning: It looks like you kept things pretty low key over the summer, but did you do summer track? Should we expect to see a new and improved Tyler Jackson this indoor season?
Jackson: I was unable to run summer track due to my hectic summer schedule and being out of town a lot. However I did train for XC and lifted a fair amount over the summer as well. I've gotten significantly stronger and a good deal faster.
MoCoRunning: Is there anything in particular you have worked on for this upcoming season?
Jackson: I've worked on putting on more muscle so that I have more stength and speed to pull from in races. It's also to start faster.
MoCoRunning: Last indoor season, we had a little bit of inclement weather that forced the regional meet to the same week as the state meet. Do you remember how you approached last year’s regional championship meet knowing that the state meet was just two days later?
Jackson: Not really. To me it was just a short turnaround and I had to deal with it. I was only running the 55 hurdles so I didn't have to worry too much about being worn out, just winning my heats. I massaged my legs thoroughly those next nights and took a hot bath.
MoCoRunning: You worked the entire indoor season and lowered your personal best in the 55-meter hurdles from 8.03 to 7.98 at the regional championship. Then just two days later, you dropped down to 7.71 out of nowhere, winning the state title. How did you pull off such a dramatic improvement in two days?
Jackson: The state meet was just as much luck as it was skill. I ran the race nearly perfectly (I think I hit the 4th hurdle) and my form was pinpoint. I don't really know where the speed came from other than wanting it that bad. I hadn't been worrying about it, but once I was in the race and realized I could win, I pushed as hard as I could and managed to lean just at the right time. Also during the race I got this feeling of omniscience where I could know/feel exactly where everyone was around me and could tell when they made small mistakes that I could capitalize on. It also helped me determine what to do and exactly when and how to do it. It kind of felt like slow motion, but as more like I was thinking incredibly fast to the point that the whole race was one big concious reflex.
MoCoRunning: You decided to cap off your great indoor season with a 60-meter hurdles race at Nike Indoor Nationals. Tell us a little bit about your race that day.
Jackson: I sucked at Nationals. I was really nervous, the guy next to me false started which made me more nervous. I choked starting, and my first hurdle was bad. The whole thing was just a disaster. I was glad to be there, but was just too nervous to focus and promised myself that I'd never have another race that bad again.
MoCoRunning: What is it going to take for you to make another trip to Nike Indoor Nationals or even Nike Outdoor Nationals in 2008?
Jackson: I'm not really sure. I just plan on winning states and qualifying again. This year I'm not going to choke.
MoCoRunning: You must have some serious speed to be a state champion in the hurdles, but why is it that we never see you in any open sprints or relays?
Jackson: My speed is good, but my technique is better. The primary reason I am so fast is just because I have good hurdle form. And that's just from running over them a lot and practicing perfecting the small details. Also our team at RM has been EXTREMELY deep in sprinters. In terms of pure speed I was like the 7th or 8th fastest guy behind Patrick Pinchinat, Gary Frazier, Brendan Etzel, Alonzo Evans-Chase, Anthony Pace (during indoor), John Ryan, and Brian Sickles. This year I'm like 4th/ 5th fastest so I'll be running more relays.
MoCoRunning: 55-, 110-, or 300-meter hurdles and why?
Jackson: All three, because they're all hurdles. But if I had to pick a favorite I would say the 110. That's because it's long enough so that if your start isn't good you can recover, but short enough that you don't have to worry about burning out on the end stretch.
MoCoRunning: Every hurdler hits the ground hard at some point. What has been your most memorable fall?
Jackson: I've actually only had one big fall. I was always so careful when I was training, and once I got good it wasn't really an issue. But my biggest fall was freshman year when I was making the transition from 5-stepping to 3-stepping. I couldn't make the 3rd step so I just kind of lobbed over after my fourth. However, I was then leading with my left leg, which I wasn't used to doing. So I pretty much lost control and fell head over heels into the next hurdle. A few scratches, but I was fine.
MoCoRunning: Have you gotten any college looks yet?
Jackson: I have been getting letters from colleges, but I don't want to HAVE to run in order to keep my scholarship. I'd rather get an academic scholarship. However if I can't, I might try to sign with the University of Delaware if I attend there.