It's hard to find someone with more of a family connection to running than Abby Kohut-Jackson.
Kohut-Jackson is a redshirt freshman on the women's cross country team. Both of her parents, Marian Kohut and David Jackson, raced in college, with her mom racing for a year at the University of Chicago and her dad running four years at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.
But coming from a running family didn't mean she never had to work. Kohut-Jackson has gone from an unattached runner to competing on the Gophers team and helping them finish runner-up in the 2017 Big Ten Championships. All of this happened in one year.
“She came in last year and she wasn’t in that elite tier by any means,” said head coach Sarah Hopkins. “I think at the end of last year, she got a taste of how good she could be. In track, she started to work her way into the upper tier, and I think that just gave her an extra boost going into the summer."
Kohut-Jackson started her career off in Huxley, Iowa, before heading to the Twin Cities, where she stood out on and off the course for Ballard High School. She was valedictorian of her class and has her sights on the path toward neuroscience in college. With high hopes on the course and high hopes in the classroom, Kohut-Jackson says she had to work even harder to reach her goals.
“This time of year makes me feel like I’ve changed a lot,” Kohut-Jackson said. “I’ve learned a lot about myself as a runner, and I think I’ve learned how to balance all areas of my life better now.”
In cross country, she earned four top finishes at the Iowa High School Cross Country 3A State Championship. In her senior season, Kohut-Jackson finished fifth in state in the 5 kilometer, but it was clear that even though her time at Ballard High School was over, her future was bright with her ambitions fueling the way.
Kohut-Jackson chose Minnesota despite being from Iowa — a decision that didn’t come easy.
“I looked at a lot of schools, but I think [Minnesota] had the best combination of what I was looking for from academics and athletics,” Kohut-Jackson said. “It had a great team, a great coach, as well as good programs I was interested in studying.”
Now, Kohut-Jackson has put together quite the 2017 season. She’s won the Oz Memorial, and had a 39th place finish to help the Gophers place second for the Big Ten Championships. Kohut-Jackson hopes to keep that momentum going heading into the NCAA Midwest Regional on Nov. 10, back in her home state of Iowa. Though it’s only her first official collegiate season, Hopkins said she’s ready for the challenge.
“She’s locked in,” Hopkins said. “The biggest thing is she’s confident, and she ended up having one of the better freshman debuts at a Big Ten cross country meet last week.”