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Posted 03 Jun 2001   For week ended June 01, 2001
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Sent on Mormon-News: 30May01

By Kent Larsen

LDS Woman Leads Jump Over Track's Last Gender Hurdle

EUGENE, OREGON -- Both women and men compete in every NCAA Track and Field event, from the 100-meter dash to the marathon, except one: the steeplechase. That is, until now. In the NCAA championships, starting today in Eugene, Oregon, BYU's Elizabeth Jackson is favored to lead the field and hurdle this last gender barrier. The event is gaining popularity, and may be added to the Athens Olympics in 2004, breaking the last Track gender barrier there also.

Jackson's achievements as a cross-country runner and her training from BYU coach Patrick Shane (coach of Olympic steeplechase gold medalist Henry Marsh) make her a likely candidate to lead the field into the Olympics, if the event is added. Jackson is the only BYU athlete, male or female, to be named All-American in track four times. She was also given the Outstanding Senior Female Athlete Award for her academic performance as well as her performance on the track. And in the steeplechase, she holds the current American record of 9:55.53, set May 18th at the Mountain West Conference meet. "She's an all-American woman in more than one way," says Shane. He says Jackson is an artist, musician, and dancer, as well as an athlete. "She's just a well-rounded individual," he said.

Jackson took on the steeplechase just four years ago, as competition started on an unofficial basis at NCAA meets. The race requires runners to run 3,000 meters, jumping a total of 35 barriers through the race, including seven water hazards, 10.5-foot-long pools that begin three feet deep and gradually angle up to ground level. While most athletes don't like the event, Jackson loves it. "Right away I was like, 'I love this event,'" she told the Daily Universe last year.

Jackson has a nimble style that she says comes from her 13 years of ballet experience as a youth. "Hurdling is leaping over a bar, and I did that all the time in ballet," Jackson said. "Coordination and flexibility from dance help me accelerate through the water jump." Her coach, Shane, says that she is simply the best, "Liz has the best water-jump technique of any woman I've seen." Last year, he was more prosaic when he told the Daily Universe, "She dances over the barriers and through the water. She's an artist out there, performing."

Jackson started ballet at age 6 while growing up in Salt Lake City. By 13 she was good enough to be accepted at the San Francisco Ballet School, where she took summer classes. But by eleventh grade, Jackson decided against ballet because it would take her away from home. She turned to track instead.

In 1996 she won the Utah state championship in the mile, and in the process won a scholarship to BYU, where Shane saw her potential. She has done well at the 5,000 meters, and in the meantime, the steeplechase has become an event for women also. Starting with the current meet, the event is scheduled at most collegiate conference meets and in a seven-meet USA Track & Field steeplechase tour, which will be capped by national championships June 21-24 in Eugene, Oregon.

And to Jackson this only increases the fun. She says she enjoys the steeplechase more than other track and field events. "It's more fun to run over something than to run only in circles."


One Gender Wall Left Standing
New York Times 30May01 S2
By Marc Bloom

Four time All-American runner works her way to the top
BYU NewsNet 13Apr00 S2
By Haynie: NewsNet Sports Writer


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