When a face and hamstring injury slowed down Rose Jackson, she was still talented enough to be considered a top-three indoor multi-event athlete. The rest of the Summit League now knows they’re in trouble if her health ever reaches 100 percent.
Rarely do you hear of a track and field athlete sustaining a facial injury. For junior Rose Jackson, a collision with her knee and face proved anything is possible while competing in any kind of athletic event.
Jackson is a multi-event athlete on the Bison track and field team. Along with other individual events, Jackson has been transformed into one of the best heptathlon and pentathlon athletes on the team.
During the indoor season, women multi-event athletes compete in the pentathlon, which is a combination of five events encompassing every element of track and field. The 60-meter hurdles, high jump, shot put, long jump and 800-meter dash are included and whoever collects the most overall points wins.
After placing fourth in the Summit League Indoor Championships her true freshman season, Jackson was a perennial favorite to finish in the top three. But a fluke injury almost put her out of contention early in the competition last season.
The second event of the first day of competition was the high jump. Jackson admits it isn’t her best event, but when she fell back onto the mat after clearing the bar, she kneed herself in the face, knocking four of her upper teeth backward. Quickly, the pain turned into triumph.
“It was a blur,” Jackson said, trying to explain the moment. “I PR’d, though.”
Jackson jumped her career-best five-feet-two-and-one-fourth inches and placed sixth in the event. The problem was, she had three more events to go, and a lot of points to make up after finishing sixth in the 60-meter hurdles prior to her freak injury while high jumping.
Thank God Jackson’s mother is a dentist.
“My mom was here and she’s a dentist, so she said, ‘It’s okay Rose,’ and then she just pushed them back,” Jackson said. “It was kind of gross.”
With her teeth set properly, Jackson courageously fought through the pain and won the shot put and 800-meter run. She finished with 3,553 points, placing her third and was honored as an All-Summit League performer.
Jackson capped her sophomore season by winning the Summit League Outdoor Championship in the heptathlon (seven events). Jackson registered career bests in javelin and 100-meter hurdles during the meet.
As brutal as a facial injury could seem, it hasn’t been slowing her down. In fact, a hamstring injury sustained during the Jack Johnson Classic in January 2015 has lingered for over a year.
“It happened last year and it’s just been iffy,” Jackson said. “That’s why I’ve been cautious about sprinting and I haven’t been competing in the early meets much. You just have to know your body and know if you go past a certain limit, you might hurt yourself, but you have to know that you have to try at least.”
Jackson added that many of her favorite events that induce quick, explosive movements have been on hold for now. She hopes to feel well enough to compete in 60- and 100-meter dashes at the end of the season. In the meantime, she isn’t letting her bum hamstring stop her from competing overall, which is a scary thought for her competition, who are hoping they never see the Willmar, Minnesota, native at full strength.
“I think if we can get through a season without injury, there’s a lot of potential,” head women’s track and field coach Stevie Keller said. “Right now, it’s not there, but it will get there eventually.”
Keller explained that Jackson can be competitive at 80 percent, but they’ll be carefully monitoring and adjusting her training until she feels 100 percent.
Jackson originally came to NDSU as a sprinter. She was a seven-time state track and field placewinner and holds Willmar High School’s long jump record.
It was Jackson’s first high school coach in Detroit Lakes, Minn., that made the connection between her and NDSU. Jackson moved to Willmar her freshman year of high school but her coach Mike Labin still had her contact information. He passed it along to then-NDSU head coach Ryun Godfrey when he inquired about Jackson.
“I was really nervous. I was like, ‘Why are you calling me?’” Jackson said with a giggle, explaining her shyness and her apprehension about talking to a Division I coach. “I remember I got a couple calls from Ryun (Godfrey) and I didn’t pick up because I was just really nervous. So I was listening to the voicemails and said, ‘Ugh, I better call him back.’ So I finally called him back and said, ‘I’m interested.’”
Jackson fell in love with the atmosphere NDSU had to offer along with the short distance from home. She’s pursuing a math degree and is quick to note another not-so-important factor in coming to NDSU: “Also, it’s close to Detroit Lakes and it’s green. Green is my favorite color.”
You’ll notice green coming from Jackson’s mouth today. It’s her green and yellow mouth guard she’s been using since her high-jump, knee-to-face accident. The mouth guard is a nice touch and it doesn’t surprise Keller.
“Not just athletically, but mentally, she’s one of those people that brushes things off pretty quick,” Keller said. “Sometimes I wonder, when she has something good, I’d like to see a little more enthusiasm and excitement, but sometimes too much of that can affect the next event, too. She’s pretty level-headed.”
Battling her sore hamstring has been challenging and frustrating for Jackson. She has remained involved in competitions by competing in extended running competitions such as the 200, 400 and 400 relay races.
Hamstring injury or not, Jackson expects to be at the top of the pentathlon events this winter and heptathlon this spring. And for the sake of her competition, they could use a sore Jackson, just so they can keep up with one of the most well-rounded track athletes on the women’s side in the Summit League.