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Friday, Mar 27, 2015

Ex-Eagle prepping for the finish line

Hernando Today correspondent


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Though she may not realize it, an ex-Springstead High distance standout is a source of local inspiration.

In 2010, Jaclyn "Jackie" Renee White inked a national letter of intent to run cross country and track and field for the Division I Nicholls State University Colonels in Thibodaux, La.

White, who was born in Chicago, calls herself a "Florida girl." She's on track to graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in family and consumer sciences in May.

Her degree is a branch of psychology - mainly dealing with counseling and social services.

White rarely has any time off. In her internship, she teaches drug and alcohol prevention to local middle school students.

When she's not training, she'll try to relax by supporting Nicholls State's other athletes at basketball, softball or baseball games.

White, 22, the middle of three children to Weeki Wachee's Michael and Renee White, enters her final semester in Cajun Country sporting a fine 3.0 grade point average.

She's been on the Dean's List and has been named to the Southland Conference All-Academic Team, as well.

Interestingly, the transition from Spring Hill to Thibodaux was "pretty smooth," she said.

"Thibodaux is a very Southern culture," admitted White. "The biggest adjustment? It was the food here. My stomach wasn't used to having grits or eating crayfish or gumbo or having (Creole) jambalaya."

Initially, White's Spring Hill accent served as a curveball to the natives.

"When I first got here, folks made fun of me - they said I talked funny," said White. "They said it was mostly about how I said things. I didn't have a problem with it. I've really come to like the people here."

White, who visited her family last Thanksgiving, has practically resided in Thibodaux since stepping foot on Bayou LaFourche.

"The people here have made it fun," she added. "I love Nicholls because it's a D-I program in a smaller setting. I'm not sure if I could have survived at say, LSU or at UF (University of Florida) - because they're so big. As a student, you're like a raindrop on those campuses.

"At Thibodaux, I enjoy my one-on-one's with my teachers. They know because I'm an athlete, I'm constantly on the go," she said. "But the faculty here has always accommodated my hectic schedule."

The changeover from prep athletics to the D-I collegiate level was enabled in no small part with an assist by her teammates.

"It wasn't very difficult for me to fit in," noted White. "Most of my teammates are from all over the place. We've got a lot of Canadians on the team. What's cool is we're all kind of in the same boat.

"The Thibodaux people have been very helpful in teaching us their Southern ways. It started by showing how to snap a crayfish, how to fish and really how to blend in," she said. "I really don't have much spare time besides practicing and running. I work at the college library for some spending money."

? ? ?

At Springstead, White rose to a standout cross country runner under skipper Joel Myers.

As a junior and senior, White was named to the All-County cross country teams. In 2009, she was also feted as the Hernando Today's Runner of the Year.

Across the last 12 seasons of Hernando County cross country (or since the sport adapted the 5-kilometer standard), of the 246 thinclads who have completed at least one varsity race, the 5-foot-2 White ranks sixth lifetime.

In 20 career meets at SHS, White's fastest 3.1-mile time was 20:22.00.

As a senior, White was not only Hernando County's only female runner to be represented in the 36th FHSAA Finals at the Little Everglades Ranch in Dade City; she was the county's lone state qualifier.

Besides three seasons of cross country, White was at home on the Booster Stadium oval. She concentrated in the 800 meter, and the 4x400 and 4x800 relays.

As a senior again under Myers, she was a member of the Class 3A, District 7 4x800 championship squad. She also finished runner-up in the 800 and helped the mile-relay team place third.

At the rugged 3A-Region II Meet at Harmony, she, Kailey Genrich, Sasha Spalding and Mikayla Bogulski sped to a winning 9:45.89 clocking in the 4x800. In the Osceola County meet, she placed runner-up in the 800 (2:23.58) and helped the mile-relay squad place third.

For her efforts, White capped off her brilliant senior season reaching states at Winter Park in all three events.

As a freshman at Nicholls, White was named All-Southland as a member of the distance medley relay.

Last season, the multi-sport White captured the Southland indoor 800 meter at Norman, Okla., while finishing runner-up in the 1,600 and second in the distance medley relay.

To show much how much she's improved, White was seeded ninth prior to the 1,600 in Norman, but dropped 10 seconds to place runner-up.

For her efforts, she is the school's record-holder in the indoor 800 at 2:14.20. She's taking direct aim at the 800 outdoor record of 2:10.20. She has nearly eclipsed that standard with a personal-high 2:10.60.

For her efforts last track and field season, White was named the Southland's Outstanding Running Performer.

White gladly admits her track and field efforts have superseded her four years of cross country.

"I PR'd (ran a personal record) a few times in cross country," pointed out White, who's best stands at 19:10.00. "In the conference and bigger meets, we had to run 6Ks - that was a harder transition. I was always used to 5Ks.

"But I wouldn't trade in my experience in cross country for anything," she added. "It helped me get in great shape for track. I felt like it (cross country) was getting me faster and stronger. It's all about building confidence."

In January 2012, Nicholls State hired former 12-time NCAA All-American Heather Van Norman as the new cross country and track and field coach.

"Coach Van Norman is amazing. She's been there and done that as a performer," explained White. "She's helped me drop four seconds off my 800 time. What she did specifically for me was help me concentrate on the middle of my ace.

"Overall, I'd start pretty fast and I finished decent; she helped me get over being complacent in the middle of a race," insisted White. "To me, she's very inspirational and is a major reason for my success."

As the indoor track season recently began, White admits she's physically not at 100 percent.

She suffered from plantar fasciitis during her final season of cross country. Plantar fasciitis is a common runner's ailment. It's the inflammation of the thick tissue on the bottom of the foot.

The only way to heal was for White to take some time off: 1-2 weeks from training.

"Right now, I'm about 75 percent," emphasized White. "The main thing is we're trying to get ready for the outdoor track season. The toughest thing is being mentally prepared to do what I've been able to do. The ultimate goal remains - to reach nationals."

White's No. 1 goal is crystal clear.

"Right now, I just want to score points for the team," she said. "I want to get my times back down and most importantly I've got to get my mind back mentally. I can't get discouraged."

During her last visit home, "I spent time with my parents, saw Coach Myers and saw some friends and classmates, but after a few days, I was ready to go back," explained White on her current life path. "I love Spring Hill and Hernando County, but Thibodaux is where my life is now."

Nearly four years after signing that letter of intent, White bears no regrets.

"As you see some of the bigger facilities at LSU or Georgia, you say to yourself, 'Wow! That's pretty big,' but I don't think I would have fit in there. At Nicholls, I've been able to create relationships due to the class sizes. I like the people and the campus.

"And the track program has treated me well. I have no complaints," she added. "It's like Spring Hill in that everybody here knows you."

By the numbers: Springstead's Jackie White in cross country (2008-09)

- Compiled by TONY CASTRO


2008^ 11th 6 20:44.91#

2009^$ 12th 10 20:22.00*

* Denotes county's best time.

# Denotes county's second-fastest 5-kilometer time.

^ Denotes All-County selection.

$ Denotes Runner of the Year.

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