We caught up with SPASH senior Jake Bourget to talk about his future running career at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the opportunities he created for himself to get there despite a disrupted senior cross country season. Thanks again to Jake for sharing his signing day with MileSplit Wisconsin!
MileSplit Wisconsin: Congrats on signing to run at Wisconsin today!
Jake Bourget: Yeah, it was a big accomplishment. It's something I was looking forward to since I started running in like eighth grade, so I'm super excited.
MileSplit Wisconsin: You said that's something you've been working towards since eighth grade - how did you get that start in running?
Jake Bourget: So yeah, it was actually really funny. In sixth grade I actually won the elementary school mile, and that really got me into the running world, but I actually played football my seventh grade year. Even though I was super small, I just wanted to play football. But then obviously I had talent in the sport of cross country, so I joined my eighth grade year and had a really successful junior high year. I just aspired to run with the high school guys and become a part of the SPASH program, which is always competing at a high level in the state of Wisconsin.
MileSplit Wisconsin: And I know this year your cross country season was postponed, so you'll be running in the spring?
Jake Bourget: Our entire conference actually decided to have a fall sports season besides SPASH, so yeah we're going to have to find a new conference and compete in the spring season, so that'll be interesting for sure.
MileSplit Wisconsin: Did that affect your decision making or recruiting process at all?
Jake Bourget: Yeah, I mean with everything related to COVID going on, it's made the recruiting process obviously a lot more difficult as far as visiting schools and getting that full experience goes. So it definitely did affect my recruiting process - I didn't start talking to the Madison coach until a couple weeks ago actually. I didn't really have any legit times to go off of, or legit races against competition, so it was hard for him to start talking to me. He didn't really know what I was capable of, so it definitely delayed my recruiting process significantly just because I had no big meets to show coaches what I could do.
MileSplit Wisconsin: So looking to the future then, what's the thing you're most excited about with joining the team?
Jake Bourget:The thing I'm most excited about is just working up through the team to the point where I can run for the Badgers and help the team compete at the highest level in NCAA cross country - make it to Nationals, win the Great Lakes Regional, and compete at the highest level in college cross country and track and field - just add to the great tradition of the Badgers and cross country.
MileSplit Wisconsin: What drove you to pick Wisconsin?
Jake Bourget: I made it a goal my freshman year, I believe it was, and I put it above my bed. It was along with a lot of other goals, but I wanted to run for the Badgers, just because a guy named Chris Solinsky came through the Stevens Point program and he was an Olympian. He was a guy that I obviously looked on to since I started running, just because when a guy like that comes through your high school it's hard not to. I knew he committed to Madison, so I was like, 'oh, this would be a cool place to run', so I made that my goal. And obviously I researched it a little more and read about the coach, the program, and what it meant to be a badger, and I just bought into the system. I looked at it and was like 'that's the place I want to be, I'm going to work my butt off to get there' and I really did that, and tried to create my own opportunities in the fall to get recognition so I could get there.
MileSplit Wisconsin: What did that look like for you - trying to get noticed even though you didn't have any official races?
Jake Bourget: Yeah, so over the summer I got up to 70 mile weeks, so I wasn't just going to let that fitness go to waste - especially when I had this goal in mind. I needed to prove to D1 Madison coaches that I could run at their school. So the first race I did was a 5K with some Middleton guys on the track, which was kind of a mix of a time trial and race - we didn't bring in an official timing service at all - we had a clock and a camera. I got to run 15:26 on the track and I didn't really have much competition, so I was really happy I could do that by myself. I didn't even have a pacer so it was good to get that PR out.
The following week I ran a two mile time trial in 9:26 which was a huge PR for me. I had a pacer, Tim Thornburg, who got like 50th at Boston and is just an awesome local runner that's helped train me, and a super good pacer for that. So yeah, I ran two fast PR's that were set in stone that I could mail out to the Madison coaches so they could see what I could do.
The final event was the USATF Wisconsin Association Meet. I ran that with Jack Scherer and was with him for the first half of the race before he separated from me, but I finished in a time of 15:48 and I was just 12 seconds behind Jack. I think that really showed the Madison coaches that I could compete at the highest level and with the fastest guys in the state.
MileSplit Wisconsin: If you had to lay out your biggest goal for your time at Wisconsin, what would you say that is?
Jake Bourget: My biggest goal would be senior year, to become the number one runner on the team and contribute to the team's points to win the NCAA National Championship.
MileSplit Wisconsin: Anything else you want to share? Any final words or reflections?
Jake Bourget: Yeah, so a lesson I've learned from 2020 is that in life you kind of just have to create your own happiness and your own destiny, and 2020 has made me do that. You can't just let yourself quit because the world seems to be quitting on you. You have to get out there and create your own opportunities and if you work hard at that, it's going to pay off, and you're going to find that happiness in whatever you want to do.
MileSplit Wisconsin: Yeah, absolutely, I know it's probably been a tough, uncertain year, but clearly you've made the most of it here, so congrats again!