BILLINGS — If you want to catch Q2's Athlete of the Week, running shoes may not be enough. You might think more along the lines of a motorized scooter. Or even a plane.
Jackson Wilson loves to run. So much that it's paying for part of his college, which is paying off for Rocky's cross country program.
“I did track in middle school and decided in high school I’d give it a go,” Wilson told MTN Sports regarding his decision to pursue cross country.
Wilson just won his fourth straight Frontier Conference title, outracing the field by about 30 seconds with a winning time of 24:51.8.
“Mainly, I just wanted to do the best I could do and do for my team because I really wanted to get us to nationals,” he said.
It worked. Rocky's men and women each qualified for this week's NAIA cross country national championships with at-large bids. Both RMC teams placed third at last week's Frontier championships in Great Falls.
Bears' assistant cross country coach and former Rocky record-setter Jackson Duffey is among those impressed with the senior's accomplishments.
“He’s taken the program to a new level that I don’t think too many people expected,” said Duffey. “No (school) records stand anymore. He took my last one at indoor last year.”
Ranked among the nation's top five, Wilson's chances of placing highly at this week's national meet seem within reach.
“Hopefully, I can maybe come back with a win there,” Wilson said.
Ironically, Wilson is a Box Elder native. Not Box Elder, Montana, but rather Box Elder, South Dakota.
“I’ve never been to Box Elder here, but where I’m from is just a small town … military base,” he said.
Driving from one to the other is estimated at a little over nine hours. Imagine trying to run that route.
“(It would) probably (take) a lot longer than nine hours,” Wilson said with a laugh.
Then there's the option to fly from one Box Elder to another, which wouldn't be a stretch for Wilson who is majoring in Aeronautical Science. He said becoming a flight instructor is the next step, which may lead to joining the pilot ranks.
"I’d probably try to start with a regional airline, most likely. SkyWest flying under Delta and whatnot.”
This week Wilson will have to settle for being an airline passenger as he and the team fly to Vancouver, Washington, for the national meet. Although, runners trying to keep pace may feel like they're chasing a plane.