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Jackson Tandler ran cross country for the first time as a senior and helped Guilford win a division title. (Photo courtesy of Jackson Tandler )
Jackson Tandler was thinking about returning to the football field this fall, but when the 11-on-11 season was canceled, the senior decided to try out a different sport at Guilford High School. Jackson signed up for the boys’ cross country team, and it turned out to be a great decision for everyone involved.
Jackson competed for the Guilford football team in his sophomore year. He didn’t play as a junior, but was considering a comeback in his senior campaign. However, with football limited to a 7-on-7 non-contact format, Jackson opted for another sport where he could put his athleticism to good use. Jackson signed up to run cross country and found that his experience in his other sports—which include basketball and lacrosse—helped him make a smooth transition to the trails.
“I love the game of football, and I have some great friends on the team. However, after sophomore year, I began focusing on basketball and lacrosse more,” says Jackson, who still plays basketball and lacrosse for Guilford. “During the spring and summer of this year, I started running long-distance, initially to stay in shape for my other sports. As I became more passionate about running, I joined the cross country team, which allowed me to compete with some of the best runners in the state.”
The biggest surprise for Jackson as a cross country runner is the amount of strategy that’s involved in every race. Jackson became a student of the sport and used what he learned to his advantage while powering his way through the most grueling moments of a 5K. Jackson finished his senior season by taking 15th place at the SCC Division A Championship, helping Guilford earn a first-place finish as a team. Jackson’s time of 18 minutes and 38 seconds put him in 48th place for the SCC overall.
“It takes a high tolerance for pain to run as fast as you can over a five-kilometer course. The preparation and work that goes into each and every practice is tremendous,” Jackson says. “Everyone shows up ready to work, and yet we still have lots of fun. The team is built with great guys and coaches, and they know how to push each other and compete at a high level. It was a great experience running with them during this senior year.”
Head Coach Jon Rivera has high praise for what Jackson achieved during the recent season, especially since he knows how rare it is for an athlete to have so much success in just one year of running.
“Jackson came out for the team late, but made an instant impact. Jackson quickly earned the all-important five spot on the team, meaning he was an integral part of every race, whether we won or lost,” says Rivera. “He worked hard, did every workout, listened to the coaches and his teammates. He is the guy you want to go to battle with, because you know he is going to give you his all every time.”
No matter what sport he’s playing, Jackson is always on the go. Whether he’s on the pathways, the basketball court, or the lacrosse turf, Jackson prides himself on giving a top-flight effort in every arena.
“Running has helped me improve as an athlete, and long-distance running keeps me in great shape for basketball and lacrosse,” says Jackson. “Whenever I have the opportunity to play any sports, especially during this time of uncertainty, I try to ensure I make the most of it. My teammates and I will find spare time, get together, and safely practice with each other and improve. I also go to the gym, hit against the lacrosse wall, and shoot around in my backyard.”
Jackson was named a captain of the Guilford boys’ lacrosse squad for his senior season and feels eager to lead the team this spring. Jackson is also an assistant coach for the Guilford Youth Football program’s 6th-grade team and additionally volunteers as an assistant in the town’s recreation basketball league.
“I get a real kick out of coaching both, because I love knowing I can have a positive influence on the younger kids,” Jackson says.
In addition to his athletic success, Jackson maintains a 3.8 grade-point average with a heavy Advanced Placement course load at Guilford High School. Jackson has intentions of majoring in either mechanical engineering or physics in college, where he may also continue with his lacrosse career.
“I worked out with a few college lacrosse teams, but I am first looking to pursue an academic career in college,” says Jackson. “Depending on where I go, I will consider walking on to a team.”