Tribune Top 5 Male Athletes: No. 5 Jack Nicholson

Josh VanDyke • Jul 5, 2018 at 6:15 AM

The Tribune is counting down our top five male and female athletes, as well as teams, for the 2017-18 school year. The No. 5 male athlete this year is Jack Nicholson of Grand Haven High School.

During his time at Grand Haven, Nicholson has collected a long list of accomplishments: All-Conference in cross country (2014-17), All-Region in cross country (2014-17), was one of only three runners in the state to qualify for the state finals four years in a row, All-State in cross country (2014-17), regional champion in cross country (2015), West Michigan runner of the year (2016), state qualifier in track (2017), All-Conference in track (2017-18), All-Region in track (2017) and regional champion in the 3,200-meter run in 2017.

He holds school records in the 3,200 run (9:21) and the 5K (15:30), was an MHSAA Scholar-Athlete of the Year in 2018, O-K Red Athlete of the Year in 2018, Academic All-State in 2014-17, was named Grand Haven Tribune Athlete of the Year in 2017, and will graduate with a GPA of 3.7.

Grand Haven boys cross country/distance coach John Tarr

On what makes Jack such a special athlete:

"Jack has a ton of natural talent, but he works hard and has high expectations for himself. At Grand Haven, we have what I call the ‘middle school misconception,’ and that's when a kid was ‘all that’ in eighth grade and thinks he doesn't have to work to be great in high school. Jack never had that egocentric attitude, and he realized right away that regardless of how good he is, he was going to have to work hard to be great."

On what Jack's goals for the season:

"Our individual goals were for him to be All-Conference and All-Region for the fourth time in a row and to be All-State again. But, our biggest goal was for him to lead us to the O-K Red Conference Championship in cross country and a top 10 finish in the state, which he did for us. The other goal was to get him to run for the University of Michigan, which he will do next year."

On training changes this school year:

"Every season is a little different for guys, as they mature, so we ran some harder, tougher practices in cross country. Track was a whole different situation this year, because of the poor weather. We had to alter a lot of workouts during that shortened season and just get any training in that we possibly could."

On initial impression of Jack as a freshman:

"He ran a 16:50 in his first race of high school, and I knew he was destined for a great high school career after that. I just had to make sure I didn't screw him up. But, it took some work. He didn't always listen to how he was supposed to run his races, and he didn't know how to pace himself. He was really raw and ran like a middle school kid thinking he was going to hold back then pass the field with a spectacular kick in the last 100 meters. It was fun tweaking his races as a freshman and fun to watch him figure it out as he went along."

On the biggest challenge in coaching Jack:

"Jack worries about everything. He overanalyzes his races and wants to know how to get better, and that's good. But, we had to teach him how to relax, how to pay attention to the field and how to use his talents in various parts of his races to get better. In the end, I'd say 95 percent of his races over four years were great races."

On favorite coaching moment with Jack thus far:

"Watching him become a great leader and mentor on our team this year. Previous to this season, he let others lead, mostly because we had such great leaders for his first three years. But this year, he took charge, he taught the other guys how to lead, he was inspirational before races and talked kids up — and that ability and willingness to lead will be invaluable to him the rest of his life in whatever he chooses to do."

On breakthrough game/moment:

"I think (it) was when he was the regional champion in the 3,200 meter his junior year. He ran a flawless race, just the way we planned it out. He focused well during the race and listened to me coach him, and he won with a new school record. Other coaches were congratulating him and I after the race. It was an impressive performance."

On career ceiling as an athlete:

"It's hard to say. He's going to run at the University of Michigan next year, and that's an entirely different world. If he does the weight training, makes himself stronger, and listens to Kevin Sullivan (the U-M coach), he'll be a great contributor to that program. He's a great student and a smart, talented kid, he just has to always remember to be as tough as he is smart."

On Jack's impact on the program:

"The enthusiasm he brings to our team, his infectious desire to win, his leadership, the way he's just a regular guy with his teammates, and his unique quirky personality. He's smart, but he's his own person. He's got the heart of an artist but the intelligence of a scholar. His sense of humor combined with mine has lightened our mutual responsibilities during our challenges and has helped many kids to buy into what we do on this team."

On Jack's impact on him as a coach:

"I often joke around with him that his greatest impact has been to make me seem like an awesome coach throughout the entire state. He's made me look like a genius. He's also reminded me that every kid is different, and that I have to treat, train and inspire each one of them in a different way. There is no ‘one size fits all’ in life anymore. Jack's impact has been to remind me that in order to get the most out of an athlete, I have to know them as an individual and train them that way."

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