There is nothing like a little time off.
After redshirting the 2016 outdoor track season with an achilles injury, Jerrell Mock has began this cross country season in masterful manner. In his two races, he placed first overall in the Men’s 8k at the Roy Griak invitational (25:06.3) and second overall in the Men’s 8k at the Washington Invitational (23.25.5)
“Sometimes having that kind of break lets the body recharge and then handle a big load of training,” head coach Art Siemers said. “In Jerrell’s case he had a great summer of training and we were confident he was going to come back strong, which he definitely did.”
Mock credits his successful recovery to having prior issues with his achilles. While running for Logan High School in Logan, Utah, he was forced to go through a similar healing process.
“I had a different achilles injury my Senior year of high school,” Mock said. “It was something I’ve dealt with before so it was nice in a way that it was something familiar because I already knew the routine to get better.”
The Junior was also in familiar territory when being tagged with a redshirt following his achilles injury. Mock’s CSU career commenced by being redshirted for his Freshman cross country season. This was a common move made by CSU coaching staff, as they frequently redshirt freshmen for their first seasons of track and cross country.
Unlike most, Jerrell was given the opportunity to compete during his freshman season of track.
“Though we plan on redshirting Freshman for their entire first year, we felt Jerrell was already ready to contribute to the team so we figured it would be beneficial to give him some experience,” Siemers said.
Mock really made his presence known the following year. In 2015, he was named an All-American in both cross country and indoor track before sitting out the outdoor track season. Mock finished in 19th place overall in the 2015 NCAA Cross Country Championships as well as fifth in the Mountain West Indoor Track Championships 5k.
After two extremely successful sophomore seasons, the achilles injury Mock suffered before attempting to earn a trio of All-American honors could have been devastating for his career. But Mock’s intense work ethic and maturity helped pushed him through this mental battle during his extended off-season.
“I look up to Jerrell a ton, he is a great friend and great teammate,” CSU women’s cross country athlete Ali Kallner said. “His work ethic is off the charts and that’s a big reason why he’s been so good.”
Once he recovered from the achilles injury, Jerrell had over a whole summer to work towards getting back to his previous level of running. Siemers believes Mock’s efforts during this time directly translated to his success so far this season.
“He was able to get really good training,” Siemers said. “He pushed his training to a new level this summer and was able to run more mileage than he did in the past. He gained the confidence needed and it carried over.”
Mock is a huge contributor to CSU’s current ranking of 21 in the USTFCCCA national polls and No.11 in FloTrack. He has emerged as the runner to beat on CSU. Though there is now a target on his back being ranked the ninth best runner in the nation on FloTrack, Mock remains undaunted.
“It’s exciting and is a good tool to see where I’m at,” Mock said. “People look at those rankings and learn the names up there. In the long run I don’t think it will change the way we do things as a team. I don’t think it will change how I go about my races too much.”
There are plenty of talented runners at the Division 1 level. Many of them are not able to execute to their full capabilities like Mock can on race day. Mock is a runner who is always able to stick to his pre-race strategy without getting caught up in the emotions and physicality of a race.
“He utilizes his game plan every time,” Siemers said. “For example at Griak his goal was to really attack the hills later in the race and take the kicks out of some of the faster mile-type guys so that way his finishing speed could hold off those guys at the end, it worked perfectly. At Washington it was a super flat course, really fast, and his goal was to run with Chez (Edward Cheserek) as long as he could. He did that until Chez put the hammer down then his goal was to stay as close as he can and try to hold on for second against some really good runners.”
Though everything seems to come together for Mock in his races, he claims he is a nervous wreck before each race.
“I’m a basket case at the line before a race,” Mock said. “Once I can get out of that start shoot and I know I’ve had the start I’ve wanted I can settle in.”
Through his rollercoaster of a running career, the talented third-year runner believes his team and individual progress have carried him along the way.
“The biggest thing is having a team to workout with,” Mock said. “The other thing is the sense of improving and seeing your own progress. That progress isn’t possible without a team to push each other though.”
Mock has a big challenge awaiting him this weekend as he looks to earn his third 2016 Mountain West Men’s Cross Country Athlete of the Week title. The CSU men travel to Madison, Wisconsin for the Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational on Friday, Oct 14.
The playing field is loaded with talent. Five of USTFCCCA’s top-10 teams will be competing, this includes No.1 Northern Arizona, No.2 Syracuse, No.3 BYU, No.7 Portland, and No.8 Iona.
Northern Arizona’s Futsum Zienasellassie and Syracuse’s Justin Knight are favorites to take home the gold. They were ranked No.3 and No.4 according to FloTrack’s Men’s Individiual Rankings on September 25.
For Mock, coach Siemers expects more of the same.
“It’s going to be a whole new level at Wisconsin because he’ll have a plethora of All-Americans to compete against,” Siemers said. “So now his goal is to go out there and do similar to what he did the last few times, go out with the leaders hang on as long as he can and press later in the race if he can.”
Collegian sports reporter Eddie Herz can be reached by email at email@example.com or on Twitter @Eddie_Herz