While the start of a new cross country season can be exciting for many runners, September was a challenging month for redshirt junior Abby Kohut-Jackson.
Kohut-Jackson dealt with an injury throughout the summer and the early part of the season. It didn't keep her from training completely, but it was frustrating for her because she could not commit to her usual routine.
However, Kohut-Jackson said she was fortunate to battle through it in the offseason rather than in October.
"I think that being older and having gone through this a few times I was able to rely on my years of training rather than absolutely having to hit this certain month of training," Kohut-Jackson said. "It’s been hard to have to take it a day at a time, but I think that was really my mindset for a while there [was] to sort of take it one step at a time."
By remaining patient and relying on her cross-training rather than only running, Kohut-Jackson has been able to contribute to Minnesota's women's cross country team this season. Arguably her best meet of the season thus far was at the Joe Piane Notre Dame Invitational on Oct. 4, where she finished as the third-fastest Gopher and ran a personal-best in the five-kilometer race with a time of 17:07.88.
Head coach Sarah Hopkins said she did not want to rush Kohut-Jackson back, and instead focused on making her confident she could compete in the later part of the season.
"The goal was to make sure she was ready by the middle of October and not trying to be overly ready for the beginning of September," Hopkins said. "I think had she tried to be on her A-game at Oz [Memorial], she probably would’ve been pretty disappointed. But knowing that it was going to be a build and she was going to feel better and better every week was the big lesson."
Kohut-Jackson said she was able to feed off her teammates' energy throughout the recovery process.
"I think being around the team and having that energy was really good for me," Kohut-Jackson said. "I still felt very connected to the group even when there were some days when I was running on my own or doing a modified workout. That helped a lot."
Not only does Kohut-Jackson contribute to the team's success as a runner, but she is also a team leader as her teammates voted her to be one of the captains this season. She believes in working diligently and letting her actions speak for herself, Hopkins said.
"She’s a great lead-by-example type of person," Hopkins said. "She’s not one that’s going to be super loud and way out there, but she’s also got good energy and she’s gotten better and better every year."
While the season has been successful thus far, Kohut-Jackson and the rest of the Gophers are focused on the remaining meets of the season. Minnesota will compete on Friday, Oct. 18 at the Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational in Madison, Wisconsin.
"The mantra running through the team is keeping a chip on our shoulder," Kohut-Jackson said. "Even though things are looking pretty good and pretty exciting for us, we still have to keep that mentality that we do have something to prove."