Big Man on Campus: Q&A with Michael Jordan

Pat Hickey

No, not that Michael Jordan. This MJ garnered All-American honors last year as a junior in cross country and outdoor track and field. The first-ever recipient of the “Big Man on Campus” title, Jordan was named Great Lakes Valley Conference (GLVC) Men’s Runner of the Week on Sept. 18. Over the weekend, the senior led the seventh-ranked Eagles, recording the 11th fastest time in USI history at the Greater Louisville Classic. Originally from Pike High School (Indianapolis), Jordan ran the eight-kilometer race in 24 minutes, 59.4 seconds. 

The Shield: Why USI?

MJ: It was the best choice at the time and a place where I could excel.

You are a three-sport athlete (cross country and indoor and outdoor track and field). Which sport is your favorite?

Probably outdoor track because of steeplechase. It’s the first event I excelled at on a national level.

Tell me about your coach, Mike Hillyard. What stood out during the recruiting process?

The best thing is he’s more than a coach – he can be a friend and a role model. He’s easy to talk to and for him, it’s more than just practice. I could tell he really wanted me here to be a part of the team, and not just a number.

Do you feel added pressure being a team leader?

Everyone will have some amount of pressure. I try not to add any pressure, especially with running, because your training reflects how good you are going to be. … If you put the work in, you are obviously going to be good.

Talk a little bit about your training. I’m sure it takes a lot of work.

The last 14 weeks I have averaged running 100 miles (each week). The highest I’ve done is run 110 miles a week.

Wow, that’s incredible. How were you able to build up that stamina?

Adaptation. My senior year in high school I was only running 50 miles (per week) but it’s just slowly increasing a little bit at a time, and your body adapts to it. Maturity also has something to do with it.

What is your mindset heading into a meet? Do you set personal goals?

I want to get a fast time and a new personal best. I always want to see our team compete. 

Talk about the transition from focusing on cross country to track and field.

It’s totally different. You have to focus more on speed and be more race-pace specific. I’m aiming for 3K. … I need to do a little more speed work for that. It makes it hard because we don’t have an indoor facility, so it’s hard to get fast reps without getting injured because of an icy track.

How does your team bond during the season and are you close with your teammates?

We are bonding throughout the whole season. Your friends are the team. Most guys are running between 80 and 100 miles a week with each other, and that’s plenty of quality time, along with traveling on weekends. Before meets, sometimes the team goes out to eat, but … we don’t want add pressure.

After USI, what do you want to be remembered for?

(I want to be remembered as) a person that always worked hard. I may not have done everything right but everyone knew I would be at practice working hard. That’s the main thing – being a hard worker.

You are a nursing major with a psychology minor. What are you trying to pursue with that?

It all depends on where I am running. I may continue running for some team or I might decide to start nursing at some hospital. It all depends. I was only 17 seconds from making the Olympic trials before having an emergency appendectomy.

What has been the most difficult thing to overcome, either athletically or academically?

My freshman year, trying to adapt to freedom. … It’s hard to balance school, athletics and a social life. You can’t have all three. I started having success when I started to balance running and school only.