After demonstrating a competitive fall season by being named Little East Conference (LEC) Cross-Country All-Conference Rookie of the Year, first-year Jacob Pearl has continued that momentum into indoor track. On Saturday, February 15, Pearl qualified for the New England Division III Championship in both the 3,000 meter (8:40.84) and the one-mile (4:23.26).
While Pearl grew up playing a variety of different sports, he did not begin his running career until middle school. “I really get so much enjoyment out of running and I love competing. Just the vibe and the energy is something that I’m really drawn to,” Pearl said.
His passion for running carried him through middle school, high school and now to college. “I knew I wanted to run in college, so I kind of just kept at it and kept working hard,” Pearl said.
During his cross-country season, Pearl was named Rookie of the Week four times and placed third at the cross-country Little East Championship. Additionally, he was the fastest finishing first-year. When Paige Mills took over as head cross-country and track and field coach in January, she said she began with a focus on strength building for the athletes. However, with championship season approaching, the team’s workout focus has shifted.
“Now that we are getting closer to championship season we have been adding more speed work. For Jake, we have really been focusing on his paces he needs to hit moving forward,” Mills said. “I do not rush speed work. I make sure that we have the strength and the fitness is there. That’s where doing all those thresholds come into play, because that’s a really good place to work from. You’re not flirting with injury. You’re keeping it safe and recovering faster so you can have more quality days.”
As the season has progressed, Mills said Pearl’s long runs have begun coming together and getting much stronger. Mills also said this was what indicated that Pearl was ready to start the speed work. Senior Lynne Hebert, who practices distance with Pearl, said Pearl demonstrates a lot of discipline in workouts and races. “He’s always the person to surge at the end of the race. He’s strong the whole race and the strongest at the end of the race. During workouts, he’s going to hit the paces no matter what day it is. He doesn’t really have a bad day,” Hebert said.
On the day of competition, Mills said the original plan for Pearl was to run a powerful mile and then see what he could do in the 3,000 while running on tired legs. However, after a last-minute schedule change, Pearl ended up running the 3,000 before the mile. “I’d never run [the 3,000] before, so I wasn’t too sure how it was going to play out. I just tried to stay up toward the leaders and basically tried to hang on,” Pearl said.
Mills explained the strategy for the 3,000 was to stay aggressive. “I was so happy with his performance. That race could not have gone better. Jake has a great way about him. He is calm, he is cool, he is collected. Then when he steps to the line, he’s a total animal. He sends it and it’s awesome,” Mills said.
After running a New England Division III Championship qualifying 3,000, it was on to the mile. “The mile was just purely hanging on for dear life,” Pearl said.
Once he crossed the finish line, Pearl had achieved another New England Division III Championship qualifying time and ran a lifetime best.
“It was a dream come true to see him as a double-qualifier and do so well with a huge lifetime PR (personal record). It was such a great moment and we were all so happy,” Mills said.
After spending a large part of the season focusing on building a strong foundation of fitness, Pearl said he was really happy to see his hard work paying off. “It’s always nice when you put in the work and you do everything and you get good results. The equation works and it’s very fulfilling,” Pearl said.
For the rest of his indoor season, Pearl said his goals are to set a personal best in the 3,000 and the mile again, do well in upcoming championship competitions and continue having fun. As for his career, Pearl said he would love to be an All-American Athlete.
Mills also has ambitious goals for Pearl. “Jake is really strong and that was clear from day one. He is an incredible athlete. He’s national caliber. Jake has such range it’s hard to say right now what his real niche event is going to be. I think he’s going to be able to put together a really strong mile to 5K. Maybe by senior year 10K. It’s hard to say because he is really so talented,” Mills said.
Erin McNemar can be contacted