UF's Jackson a speed skating standout
Published: Wednesday, June 19, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, June 18, 2013 at 5:43 p.m.
As a former junior world and U.S. national champion, Erin Jackson has rarely found a reason to slow down in nearly eight years of competitive roller speed skating.
Before graduating from Ocala Forest High School in 2011, the 19-year-old inline skater already owned seven medals from racing at the World Championships — her sport's highest annual competition.
Unlike many of her professional peers jostling for position on the track, however, Jackson is also balancing her time with the demands of studying materials science and engineering at the University of Florida.
“I don't have much time to train until the college semester is over,” said Jackson, who is entering her junior year at UF. “Kind of like this year. I didn't really start training until May.”
Despite being named the U.S. Olympic Committee's Female Athlete of the Year two weeks ago, Jackson felt that her world-class form slipped during international meets due to her hectic schedule.
Jackson finished 2012 undefeated in domestic competition, but had one of her lowest finishes at the World Championships in September when she came away from Ascoli Piceno and San Benedetto del Tronto, Italy, with a lone bronze medal in the 500-meter.
“It was actually a pretty bad year,” she said. “That was the worst I've done since I've been on the (U.S. national) team. That was my fourth year going to worlds, so I usually get more medals or better medals.”
A member of Team Florida, Jackson knew she wanted to change her training regimen during the school year, which hinged on her ability to travel to either Tampa or Orlando on the weekends.
Instead of commuting to one of Team Florida's facilities, Jackson was encouraged by her Australian-based professional sponsor, Bont, to begin competing in roller derby to get more time on her skates in the offseason.
“The strength training for derby, it's not so much endurance as it is quick bursts and sprints,” said Debbie Rice, who manages Team Bont USA. “So she gets a lot better training out of that for her sprint work in inline.”
Known as “Ms. Jax'em” on the derby course, Jackson parlayed her speed skating background into a spot on the Jacksonville RollerGirls team as a jammer, who scores points by lapping players on the opposing team.
She also recently tried out for Team USA in an effort to make its final squad for the 2014 Roller Derby World Cup, but will not know her placement until late August.
“Speed skating is really the only sport I've ever done — the only one I've ever been serious about,” Jackson said. “It was different doing a team sport. I'm used to the individual with speed skating.”
While roller derby is a more physical brand of skating than Jackson's inline races, Team Florida coach Tony Cabral said the potential benefits of competing in the sport outweigh its risk of injury. Roller derby is one of the most rapidly growing sports in the world with more than 1,200 leagues in about 38 countries, according to USA Roller Sports.
“I knew she'd be good at it, because anything this girl touches she can just take off in it,” said Cabral, who has coached Jackson since 2008. “That seems to be what's happening with the derby. She's doing well.”
Jackson will put her unorthodox training to the test today when she competes at the Outdoor Speed Skating National Championships in Colorado Springs, Colo., for a chance to make the U.S. national team ahead of August's World Championships in Belgium.