March 14, 2014
By Rich Hidy ’16
Freshman Jacob Dumford knows how to make a lasting mark on a team in a short period of time.
The middle distance runner from Westerville, Ohio, was part of the gold medal-winning foursome to take home the distance medley relay event in the ACC Championship two weeks ago. The time posted by the group was good enough to earn an NCAA qualifying bid as the Irish took third place in the meet with 84 points.
Not many athletes Dumford’s age can make such an immediate impact, as he was able to earn all-ACC honors in the distance medley relay victory and also break a Notre Dame record. The gold medal, which Dumford calls his proudest moment in the cross country and track and field season, also is evidence of a strong freshman running class with Dumford among the top of the pack.
The distance medley relay team that finished with a time of 9:49.99 was composed of three freshman and fifth-year standout Jeremy Rae.
“Being a part of the ACC championship DMR was awesome,” Dumford says. “It was a great experience, and I feel lucky because with Jeremy Rae on the anchor, there was little chance that we would lose.”
Dumford also competed in the men’s one-mile ACC Championship race in Clemson, S.C., and finished 25th with a time of 4:18.23. Although many consider running a mile in just over four minutes a tremendous accomplishment, Dumford was admittedly unhappy about his placement in the race amongst the conference’s elite runners.
“The mile didn’t go so well for me. I didn’t make finals,” he says. “That will serve to keep me hungry to do better this year at outdoors and also next year.”
Dumford has the pedigree to continue to influence the team’s standing in collegiate running as a New Balance Outdoor Nationals All-American in 2013 and a national champion at the New Balance Outdoor Nationals in the 4×1,600 meter relay in 2010 at Westerville North High School.
Like any collegiate athlete, Dumford went through a period of adjustment upon his arrival at Notre Dame where the training became more grueling and the demand of the sport went up a notch. Coaches at the Division I level expect runners to shave times throughout the year with a constant drive for improvement in the vigorous training process.
“The biggest change from high school running to collegiate running is the amount of training,” Dumford explains. “Running more miles at higher intensity is the biggest change. It’s mostly the same principles and ideas at a higher level.”
Unlike many other sports, runners don’t have an offseason while school is in session because the fall cross country season turns into indoor track and field beginning in early December. Dumford said the fall season provided somewhat of a shock compared to his previous expectations about how to excel in running competition, but his fellow Irish runners have provided the backbone of his continual improvement throughout the year.
“The fall taught me that I have a long way to go if I want to be a contributor to a high level Division I cross country team,” Dumford says. “Indoor track has showed me that I’m extremely lucky to have the teammates that I have here at Notre Dame.
“The upperclassmen have been incredible role models, and I’m constantly trying to learn from them so that when we lose the seniors and fifth-years that we have this year, I can help lead the team in the coming years.”
In addition to head coach Joe Piane’s contributions to Dumford’s development, runners such as Rae and junior ACC MVP Chris Giesting have provided the ideal representation to set a standard of excellence for underclassmen to follow.
“The upperclassmen on the team have influenced me immensely,” Dumford says. “If our freshman class can produce the same level of success that the seniors this year have had, we’re going to continue to place high at the conference meets and have a great four years representing the Fighting Irish.”
Dumford has also taken the steps to make all-encompassing health a priority and part of his regimen. Through taking the proper steps to take care of his body, Dumford hopes the results will translate to quicker times in the races.
“We’re always finding ways to try to make ourselves better, and doing all of the little things can make a huge difference,” he says. “For example, I try to make sure I have something green on my plate every time I go to the dining hall. I’m not super rigid about my diet, but I try to make myself eat a lot of vegetables while staying away from a lot of desserts.
“Another small thing is doing some core outside of practice once or twice a week in addition to what we do at practice. Recovery is crucial too. Taking ice baths regularly or seeing the trainer when something is bothering me is a big help in me staying healthy.”
Dumford also said there has been a transition in academic intensity from Westerville North to First Year of Studies at Notre Dame that was difficult to grasp at first.
“The jump in athletics wasn’t nearly as big as the jump in academics for me,” he describes. “Balancing school with competition is very tough at Notre Dame whereas in high school it was never a problem.”
However, Dumford is sure that the demands of academics that have stretched him as a student-athlete are well worth his efforts based on the passionate affinity he shows towards Notre Dame.
“I love a lot of things about Notre Dame,” Dumford says. “One of my favorites is how great the school is academically while producing sports teams that compete at such a high level. It seems like the university just attracts smart, nice, caring people.”
The NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships in Albuquerque, N.M. begin today, bringing the opportunity for many of the Irish runners to collect national honors. Dumford said he believes the program can continue to improve and build on the foundation of success at the ACC meet to increase the accolades of the team.
“I think that our team can improve on the third-place finish at the outdoor ACC meet,” Dumford said. “Next year, as an individual, I plan to contribute more individually and try to help our team to another high finish after losing a great class.”