James Wilson Stays Humble and Hungry

Sept. 16, 2011


Redshirt freshman James Wilson is no stranger to working through pain to accomplish his dreams.

Before junior high school, he was active in sports like basketball and soccer, his favorite sport, to which he attributes his first real lessons in endurance, conditioning, and his introduction to running. He then began track and field and found that he not only enjoyed running, he was good at it.

“We didn’t have a high school soccer team,” said Wilson. “I went to a pretty small school.”

Wilson was faced with the decision to stay in Abilene, Kan., or follow in his older brother’s footsteps and transfer to a bigger high school to play soccer. In addition to his parents’ wishes, Wilson decided to stay and run.

Wilson was challenged with his toughest obstacle yet when he caught his foot in a conveyer belt while working in a warehouse, an injury that kept him sidelined for eight weeks during the fall track season.

“To be able to come away from that and stay motivated really showed me that this (running) is something I want to do,” Wilson recalled. “I knew I had to get out there and take care of business.”

In his high school career, Wilson placed first three times in the 1,600 meters at the Kansas 4A State Championships, set two school records with a 9:19 in 3,200 and a 9:23 in the two mile, and was named to the academic all-state cross country team his senior year 2010.

When it was time to take his running ability to college, Wilson didn’t wait for the schools to come to him, but instead took it upon himself to seek out the one school he had loved his entire life.

“I grew up a Jayhawk,” said Wilson. “After my brother went to KU, it just seemed natural.” Wilson knows that although he initiated the first contact with KU, he has earned his spot on the Jayhawk cross country team, especially with his performance at the Missouri Cross Country Challenge. He placed second overall and the race was only his second in a Crimson and Blue uniform on Sept. 10 .

“It was really cool,” Wilson explained. “Not that it was a really big surprise for me (to place first among the KU finishers), but we’ve got six or seven guys who are close in training and ability and on any given day could be our top guy. It helps a lot having that depth because our goal is going to nationals.”

But Wilson can’t ignore the fact that although he finished in second place and first among the KU men, he was only seconds behind Missouri’s Max Storms. It’s no secret that the Kansas-Missouri rivalry is one of the most heated in the nation, and Wilson says the race might have sparked a new rivalry between Storms and himself.

“He’s an upperclassman so I don’t know how long it will last,” said Wilson. “He seems like an all right guy as far as Tigers go. Next time I won’t let him get away that early in the race.”

But Wilson acknowledges that he wasn’t the only Jayhawk racing and knows his team was working just as hard as himself, as eight of the top finishers in the race were wearing a KU uniform.

“It’s nice to have those people to run against to gauge your team off of,” said Wilson. “We are putting in a lot of good training right now and when it comes time to finish that last mile, you’ve got push yourself through it even if it hurts.”

091611aac_99_6923147.jpegAlthough Wilson has shown great progress on the trails, he still has yet to decide the direction he wants to go after his collegiate career is over. Although a redshirt freshman eligibility-wise, Wilson is in his second year at KU and under NCAA rules, he must declare a major before the start of the next school year.

“I never wrote for the school paper or anything, but I thought about going into sports journalism,” Wilson explained. “I was raised on sports. My dad played baseball and I’m a college athlete now. It’s something I think I would really enjoy. Once college is over, I don’t know if I’ll be able to compete competitively so something like sports journalism would allow me to stay close to it.”

Wilson marvels at the idea of traveling all over the world to cover track meets and talk with the world’s greatest athletes.

“It would be a dream to work for a company that could allow me to do that,” said Wilson. “To be able to see those guys compete in person and ask them about what it takes to get there would be a dream.”

For now, Wilson is focused on the 2011 cross country season ahead and is working diligently with his teammates to achieve their goal of an NCAA national title, a goal which hasn’t been achieved by the Jayhawks since 1953.

“Not only do I have to keep working hard, we’ve got to step it up as a team,” concluded Wilson. “We are doing everything it takes to compete with the best in the nation.”