Sept. 5th, 2012 – Is Jackson Bertoli the Favorite to Win State?
September 5th, 2012
By: Drake Sterling
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Terre Haute Junior, Jackson Bertoli, who has been a threat for All-State finishes in both cross country and track in the last year, has quietly produced some early results this cross country season that deserve a closer look.
Bertoli has been undefeated to fellow Hoosier Harriers thus far. And when you take into account the tough meet schedule the Braves have faced early, that feat is one that is not one to take lightly.
In his first meet, the Bloomington North Early Bird, Bertoli took down Preseason All-State Ranked #13 Cole Hester and #4 Matt Dorsey by over 10 seconds. While winning the meet held in mid-August doesn’t help you much in October, the fact that he continued to run well on the Lavern Gibson Cross Country Course (home of the State Cross Country Meet) does. When asked in an interview what he thinks might set him apart from other athletes in contention for a State title, Bertoli stated that he thinks having run the course so many times and being familiar with it is an advantage. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve run through the course in my head. I know all the tangents. But really, it’s all guts in cross country, it’s not a secret.”
Bertoli and the Braves then traveled to Purdue University to compete in the Purdue Invite. The meet, which featured even tougher competition, including Preseason #2 Connor Sorrells, concluded with the same result. This time, Jackson won by an astonishing 30 seconds. When asked what the main difference is between his performances early this season versus last, Bertoli mentioned, “Last year it was go out with the leaders and hang on for a good time. It’s kind of a weird feeling now. As a frosh, I was looking up to guys like (Connor) Sorrells and (Troy) Reeder as legends. Now I can actually get up there and race with them. I definitely think I have progressed a little faster than I thought I would. I’m just trying to stay focused on each workout, each day. It’s a waiting game. Mostly, I have worked on the mental aspect of racing and believing that every day I’m getting better, stronger, and more fit. I know that everything we do is to run well in October.”
As if his first two performances weren’t enough, Bertoli’s most impressive race was this past weekend at the State Preview Meet, arguably the biggest meet of the season thus far in Indiana. Bertoli was set to face Preseason #1 Troy Reeder, #2 Connor Sorrells, and #3 Alec Kostelnik. On top of those, the race featured the #6 ranked distance runner in the nation, Jacob Thomson of Kentucky. Thomson distanced the Indiana competitors mid-race while Jackson survived a surge by Sorrells at 4k and responded. He continued to put 9 seconds on Sorrells, finishing 5 seconds back of Thomson in a personal best, 15:44.
So what more can he do to be crowned the early favorite? Nothing for now…but he will have another matchup with Sorrells this weekend at the Brown County Eagle Classic. Along with Sorrells, Matt Dorsey and Cole Hester will be making an appearance as well as some fresh faces in Westfield studs Kyle DuVall, Colin Rinne, Kyle Burks who recently won the Harrison Invite in 15:44, and others.
So we asked Bertoli what he would say to someone who told him he was the early favorite for a State Title. He replied, “I wouldn’t say it’s totally out there. I’ve talked about with (Coach) Walsh a few times. It’s about who’s going to be on that day…it could be any of 5-6 guys. It’s not won in August or September.
So what does Coach Kyle Walsh think about his star pupil’s new found success? “It wouldn’t be outlandish to say Jackson is the favorite, but, there’s going to be some amazing athletes that don’t win State. There are so many good individuals in our state. Predictions and rankings are fun and I like them. They are a great part of our sport, but it doesn’t change our plan for the State Meet.”
Walsh is right. This is the first time since maybe 2006 that the race looks truly wide open individualBut he does think that Jackson has a few things that you just can’t coach…a few characteristics that he thinks might be able to get him to the top of the sport. “He has the drive to do things when I’m not looking. If he did every single think I told him, he would be a good runner but he’s doing so much outside of that, whether it’s little bit more core work, or cross training, or whatever.”
So keep an eye out for the tall kid with the powerful stride from “The Haute”. He might just (continue to) surprise you.