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Once a Competitor, Now a Lifelong Fan of the Drake Relays

Susan Jackson in DSM USA

April 17, 2019

It is my favorite atmosphere. Packed stands interacting with athletes on the infield, matching the clap to their heartbeat echoing across the stadium, the crowd wanting to speak to athletes as they have completed their event asking for photos, autographs or just to say hi. The excitement of the Blue Oval for Drake Relays is rarely matched and beyond unbeatable. These are the memories I will never forget.

My Love for the High Jump

I was born and raised near Napa Valley, California, in a small town named Yountville, where I discovered my passion for track and field. When I was nine years old, I attended an all-comer meet and participated in the high jump. That same year, I became a national champion. From there, I never let it go.

Susan Jackson

I went to DII Western State Colorado University where Chris Bradford coached me amazingly beyond belief to a PR of 1.91m (6’3.25). I claimed the 2012 NCAA Division II Outdoor National Championship in the high jump while earning All-American accolades four different times along with seven All-RMAC selections in the high jump, triple jump and long jump. I was a two-time national runner up in my time as a Mountaineer.

Only eight months after having a baby, I finished fifth at USA Indoors, jumping 1.85m (6’0.75”). Eleven months post-partum, I placed tenth place at the 2016 Olympic Trials in the high jump. After that, Chris pushed me to compete at the Drake Relays. After he showed me the community involvement, the incredible crowd support and elite category I matched with, I knew I had to be there. The atmosphere was by far one of my favorite places, I looked forward to competing each year.

September 2018

As I was beginning to train for the 2019 track season, I had massive headaches which I had never experienced before. The split second before you pass out where you need to catch yourself was how I felt 24/7.

In the next couple of days, I went to a doctor and explained the situation. I passed all blood work and normal tests with flying colors. Still feeling the same way, a CT-scan was necessary. I failed the scan and was taken for an emergency MRI. On my way home I got a call, they calmly stated that I needed to rapidly admit myself to the hospital, the ER was waiting for me. I was in the hospital for a couple of days before a neurologist walked in and said the nightmare statement: You have a moderate size brain tumor.

My fiancé and family were beyond supportive, they stood by my side and hid their negative energy. On Oct. 3, 2018, I experienced an eight and half hour open craniotomy I was AWAKE for. Where the tumor was located, left frontal lobe, is involved in motor function, problem solving, impulse control and social and sexual behavior. More specifically to why I was kept awake, it is where controlling language created movement is located.

Big Move to DSM

After coaching the 2018 football season, my fiancé decided he was done with coaching and wanted to become more of a father and partner within the family. We then decided to move to Greater Des Moines (DSM), Iowa — a place where his family is located. I was all for moving to a place where one of the greatest track meets is held each year.

After healing from surgery, I am now a personal trainer and nutrition coach at Lifetime Athletics in DSM. I want to help others live a healthy happy lifestyle, being successful in reaching their fitness goals. I absolutely love it.

The community here is incredible, compassionate and supportive. Helping fill the gap in me from the loss of track and field. My passion for track and field will always have a spot in my heart but I have discovered a new passion for helping others reach their own goals.

Drake Relays is an outdoor track and field event held every year at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. Join in on the fun and action from April 24 – 27, 2019. Find Drake Relays information, tickets and parking by clicking here

Are you interested in moving to Greater Des Moines (DSM)? Relocation Packets offer information on everything from neighborhoods to shopping, parks and local attractions. Or, kick start your career by checking out the DSM USA Career Center. It has over 10,000 jobs listed!

Susan Jackson

Born and raised in Napa Valley, California, Susan Jackson is a retired world-class track and field athlete on Team USA. Right out of college, she bridged the gap between physical therapy and returning to sport. It was then that she realized she wanted to help people reach their fullest potential and personal growth. She is now a personal trainer at Lifetime in Greater Des Moines (DSM).