Jackson Braddock is a senior at Southern Regional High School in Manahawkin, New Jersey. The University of Virginia commit scored career wins in 2019, securing victories in both his NJSIAA Sectional and Group Championships in cross country before going on to finish sixth at the Meet of Champions, fifth at the Team Northeast Regional and 29th at Team XC Nationals. Braddock owns indoor best times of 4:19.94 in the mile and 9:06.86 in the 3,200m. Oudoors, he ran a top 10 New Jersey performance of 8:54.02 at the Music City Distance Carnival in August. Here, he explores the highs and lows of his high school career.
No matter what, you remain constant.
When I first embarked on my running journey freshman year, I didn't know what to expect. I'd never run track or cross country, and I was a bit nervous for the majority of my first season. Slowly, though, running became less of a hassle and more enjoyable. And by the end of cross country my freshman year, I was completely attached to running. It slowly weaved its way into my life more and more, and before I knew it, it was time for spring track.
Unfortunately, it was also time for my first injury. The thing that I'd become infatuated with over a number of months had suddenly been taken away from me in an instant.
I felt dejected and was disappointed to miss the entirety of the spring season. Although I did not know it at the time, this cycle would repeat itself again. Sophomore year nearly mirrored freshman year, and I was once again sidelined. My frustration boiled over, and I wanted to blame it on running. The thing that brought me the greatest sense of euphoria also gave me lots of anguish. It seemed like I loved running, but maybe I wasn't meant to be a runner. I'd been ravaged by injuries for two years, but was adamant to truly elevate my habits ahead of my junior year.
But during my first two years running, I definitely felt like I had seen glimpses of talent. Going into my third year, I knew I had to be consistent, and be there for my teammates and myself. While I had certainly put immense effort into training during my first two years, there were many elements to my regimen that were not optimal.
I began to dial in other aspects such as recovery and nutrition, hoping that running may finally be a bit kinder to me. As I learned more about running, I learned that the actual training aspect of running was only one piece of the puzzle. I made sacrifices that I normally wouldn't have made in those first two years. Sometimes, I worried that it was all for nothing. I felt like I was on a journey by myself, and honestly felt a bit silly sometimes.
As I read about the professional runners and their habits, I attempted to mimic these habits. It all seemed a bit ridiculous, since I was only a high school runner who had achieved very little. But I reminded myself that I was doing this because I truly loved to run. And even If I wound up short of my expectations, I wanted more than anything to be able to run every day.
When I was injured, I knew running was still taking place amongst others, just not myself. I knew running was constant, and I strived for that consistency. I wanted to toe the line knowing I had done everything in my power to win.
All these years later, I've come upon a realization: There aren't many constants in life, but running is. This was never more prevalent than during these past few months. When the world around me had seemingly shut down, I knew I could still get out the door and run. I could still challenge my limits and dream of races in the future.
When everything and everyone is constantly changing, I know I still have running.
Southern Regional High School, '21
CONTRIBUTE TO THIS SERIES
If you are a cross country athlete or coach interested in contributing to this series at the state or national level, please send your essay to MileSplit USA editor Cory Mull at firstname.lastname@example.org, or to your local MileSplit editor in your respective state.
Read the full series here.