The Anatomy Of A Dylan Jacobs Amazing Run

Dylan Jacobs speaks very briefly after his big run and sportsmanship

Most of the boss talk in terms of boys cross country has been about Lyons Township senior Danny Kilrea. Kilrea has been on a rampage from day one of the 2017 season. He has beaten everyone in his path by a substantial margin. He even beat Sandburg senior Dylan Jacobs very bad in their season opener the first week of September. Now the talk may change course before we enter the post-season. Jacobs has since narrowed the gap if you go by his easy win over Logan Hall (Sr., Arthur) on September 16 at the Peoria Notre Dame Richard Spring Invite. But now with after Jacob's echo chamber victory yesterday at Detweiller one more time before the ultimate trip in November for the state championship, the rematches against Kilrea is going to be well received. 

Sandburg head coach John O'Malley details what it took to get Jacobs to this point below.

Photos by Mike Jortberg



As a passionate cross country fan and historian, I certainly understand what that time means. It gives Dylan a great deal of confidence. He should be confident; he's earned the right to be. We also recognize that while it means a lot in terms of his ability, it also means nothing at the same time. No one can win a state championship in October, let alone September. Our plan is falling into place.  We have been working on specific skills and segments of the race and their corresponding energy requirements. Our performance indicators have given evidence to Dylan's ability to break 14:00 for a few weeks now. Part of our plan since last January has been this progression. And Dylan is right on target. He still has a ways to go. Dylan is very confident in our process. 

These races serve as progressions of putting together our optimal races. Two weeks ago our strategy had nothing to do with an optimal strategy for that specific race. It was setting up this performance, and more importantly, later performances. Dylan was building a mental model for future success. In fact, it was a poor strategy given the hot conditions. But it was essential to Dylan's progress and the team's progress. Yesterday was more of a complete race, but it was still setting up future performances more than optimizing the race yesterday. His fast opening set the tone for the race and expressed Dylan's mindset. 4:31-9:11. Dylan loves to to hurt and compete. He's fearless. He doesn't get too worked up about races, he just loves it. He has a mindset that is so rare. I'm continually in awe of him. I've learned a lot from him. I also know that simply because someone has a physical capacity to do something that doesn't mean they have the mental capacity to do it. 14:00 is a barrier. There are all sorts of barriers.

And here is what we've concluded at Sandburg: we don't break record, we break limitations. I've been absurdly lucky enough to coach "record" breakers. And here is where the magic in those performances lies: It's not about workouts or the most optimal splits (that stuff matters), but the most important factor that differentiates the so-called record breakers from the rest is that the record breakers have an unrelenting rejection of physical, mental and emotional limitations that inevitably present themselves in life.

So, I can tell you that Dylan Jacob's 13:57 is a materialization of his unwillingness to put limitations himself. We have a healthy disrespect for the record books. Why? Records are limitations. We don't respect limitations. Teenagers especially are hammered with all sorts of social and emotional limitations. What they can and cannot do. What's cool or uncool. What's worthy of attention. What toughness looks like. We reject that narrative on our team. That's not where we live.

With that in mind, Dylan's progress is not about Lukas Verzbicas or Tom Graves because that sets up barriers and limitations. Those guys, that Sandburg tradition is a huge motivator and a part of our team's identity. We are very proud of that. But our focus will be on Dylan's progress and Dylan's limits. The same goes for the rest of the team. Like any runner, we are planning on improving over the next five weeks and have no interest in an arbitrary record setting up the expectation for that progress. We create our own.