From the Bench: Effort Perhaps Slipping Under the Radar Proves Worthy of Indians Sports History Book

By Jeff Toquinto on November 05, 2017 from Sports Blog via

When the final history of Bridgeport High School sports is written, there are going to be a whole lot of chapters on grit and determination to go along with a whole lot of state titles and wins. While the book is far from complete and there are many chapters yet to be added, let me assure you one for the books was produced last weekend.
In fact, it’s one that those not following the Bridgeport boys cross country program may have missed. As most of you know by now, the boys’ team finished sixth at the recent state meet at Cabell Midland High School.
What most that casually know about the team’s result probably don’t know what happened to the individual who ended up crossing the finish line first for the Indians. On this particular day, sophomore Jackson Jacobs did something that should probably be getting a little more attention.
The attention shouldn’t just be coming here locally. Instead, the attention should be something sports folks should at least make note of on a statewide basis.
For those thinking it’s because he was first for Bridgeport, well, that would be incorrect. If it’s because you believe he posted a solid time of 17 minutes, 34.32 seconds then, again, that would be incorrect.
Jackson Jacobs not only excelled in the state meet, but he did so by running virtually all three miles of the race with one shoe. Not by choice, mind you, but because he felt he had to for his team due to circumstances beyond his control.
Jacobs actually started the race sporting both of his lime green Saucony running shoes. He didn’t get very far with both of them on.
“In the first 100 to 150 meters out of the start, someone stepped on back of my shoe and it went under my heel. Couldn’t get it back on to my foot and couldn’t do anything as it flew off,” said Jacobs. “Some people think you can stop and put it back on, but that’s right at the start of the race and if you stop and bend over you’re literally going to get run over, probably spiked, so I kept going.”
The decision was purely instinct. Jacobs said it’s never happened to him before so he was able to process the danger and the fact that even a successful stop would cost him as much as 15 to 20 seconds. That time in three-mile race could have resulted in a much lower finish than the No. 18 spot he managed.
“I honestly processed everything pretty fast. My first reaction was to dig my foot into the ground on my next step hoping it would slide back on and it didn’t,” said Jackson. “The next step it just flipped off. Instead of panicking I quickly told myself that ‘this is the state meet so go.’ That’s what I did.”
BHS Coach Jon Griffith realized the situation. He knew it wasn’t a good one.
“To run without one shoe for three miles is on a good day a miserable task.  The pounding your foot takes is incredible,” said Griffith.
Here’s the thing – it wasn’t a good day. Here’s the other thing for those who run and walk barefoot. Jackson Jacobs wasn’t on a track or running indoors.
On this particular Saturday last weekend, it was raining. And it was cold – right around 42 degrees. To top things off, the course include muddy inclines, gravel, ponds of water and just about everything else that is standard and requires proper footgear to complete a cross country course.
“The conditions weren’t really good. If I had to pick a day to have that happen or a course, it would have been a day where it wasn’t cold and rainy and the course wouldn’t have already had three races ran on it before we ran,” said Jacobs. “The course is a good and difficult course with gravel and rock and there was more of it put down because of the mud, but I just kept going.”
The fact that he was continuing and doing so at a high level of success wasn’t lost on Griffith. Days after the meet, he was still pretty much amazed at what Jacobs accomplished.
“You are running at an angle … for three miles.  That takes a toll on your hips and knees.  Like I said that is on a good day.  We were about as far from a good day as you can get,” said Griffith, who added that the loss of the shoe throws a runner off balance. “It was downright cold; 42 degrees and steady rain and wind is pretty miserable.  Then to run through the mud and puddles without your shoe on just has to make it worse.”
It did make things worse. Much worse.
“I had a lot of slipping issues going up this one steep hill and coming down the big hill to the finish. There’s a lot of gravel and by that time I really couldn’t push off my right foot because it hurt,” said Jacobs. “My foot was really cold and before the first mile ended, when I was pushing up a hill, it started hurting.
“I just blocked it out,” he continued. “The main thing I did to help do that was knowing that I wasn’t going to have to race for a while so I decided to go big or go home.”
He went big. And in the process, he turned in one of the gutsiest performances in recent Bridgeport High School sports history – perhaps of all time.
Here’s the thing – runners lose their shoes in cross country races. What Jacobs had happen wasn’t an anomaly. What was unique was finishing at the top of the heap in miserable conditions bad enough that no one would have thought twice had he just packed it in for the day.
“We have had a few kids lose a shoe early in a race and they invariable run a much slower time than normal.  It’s what any coach or fan would expect.  However, in this case, he ran just fine,” said Griffith. “In fact, he placed two spots higher than predicted he would finish.  That just amazes me.
“It tells me that Jackson is one tough individual.  He is also one of the brightest and most likable kids on the team,” said Griffith. “His performance Saturday moves him way up the list of the toughest kids, physically and mentally, I have coached in any sport; track, football or cross country.”  
So how’s the foot?
By the end of the race it was bruised up and swollen. In particular, Jacobs said the pain was primarily on his heel and big toe. The good news was that there were no cuts to his foot.
“The pain pretty much went away (Wednesday). It feels good. I’m ready to start running again,” said Jacobs.
Jacobs has two more years of cross country. He also has two more years of track.
“I hope to improve for next year and know I need to work hard to do better. Hard work will ultimately result in better times,” said Jacobs. “I’d like help add another state title to cross country.”
It’s safe to say he’s already added his name to the history of BHS sports. And he managed to do it with one shoe.
Editor's Note: Top photo shows Jacobs with one shoe on and the mud, water and hard conditions he had to run on, while the bottom photo shows him crossing the finish line. The middle two photos show Jacobs near the start of the race just after his shoe came off.

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