Feb. 11, 2008
That combination has paid significant dividends for Jackson during her career at Oklahoma. After specializing primarily on the beam, floor and vault in her first two years at OU, 2008 marks her first season in the all-around. The increased responsibility has only brought out the best in Jackson, as she was recently named Big 12 Gymnast of the Week following her first career all-around title in a meet vs. Nebraska.
Not only has she been one of the OU's top performers, Jackson has also gained a reputation as one of the team's most respected leaders. Her focus, work ethic, positive attitude and consistent approach in the gym are all things that have resonated with the rest of her teammates.
Following Jackson's lead, it should come as no surprise that the Sooners have enjoyed a superb season as a team so far as well.
We recently sat down with Ashley to discuss what has been the key to her success this season.
On her individual performance so far this season:
"I am very pleased with my individual performance so far. This is my first year in the all-around and I'm working really hard to perfect my form and execution. I just need to be able to compete with more confidence, and that's one of the biggest things I've been working on in the gym every day."
On the distinction of competing in the all-around:
"At the beginning of the year we have lineups that are established by our coaches. The top six girls on each event make the lineup. From there, we have intersquad competitions to determine spots in the lineup. It's not typical to have a lot of girls make the all-around, but sometimes you have a lot of them on your team."
On her typical workout schedule:
"We're in the gym 20 hours a week, usually four hours a day. We do three events a day and then an hour of conditioning.
"It's just amazing to be
a part of a team and
something that's much
bigger than you."
On how gymnasts work to perfect their routines throughout the year:
"Generally we work on the same routines throughout the year. Sometimes we'll upgrade skills, change dance elements and work on different things to improve our performance if needed, but it's usually the same routines all year long."
On the grueling nature of gymnastics:
"We definitely gear ourselves for the end of the year. Our coaches are excellent in the way that we train. It's all about smart training and controlling the number of repetitions because the pounding on our bodies really wears on you. You need to train smart, stay healthy, eat right and condition hard."
On what she expects from the team the rest of the season:
"As a team, our expectations are to finish in the top six in the nation. In order to do that we all need to be on board. We've been working really hard and our team has come a very long way from last year. We're very excited because all the girls are getting in here, doing their job in the gym every day and have good attitudes. We've bonded more as a team and that helps a lot."
On being one of the upperclassmen and what she tries to bring to the team in terms of leadership:
"I just try to lead by example. I don't like to tell people what to do because we're not all perfect. My philosophy is to lead by example and do what I'm supposed to do and hopefully the other girls will get the message through my actions."
On her experience at the NCAA Leadership Conference last summer:
"We learned about the SAAC (Student-Athlete Advisory Council) for each campus. Their responsibilities are to promote change and provide a voice for the student-athlete body. We learned about leadership, how to be a leader and what types of leadership styles work for certain types of people. The main focus was how to promote change on your campus, so it was really educational."
On some of the things she learned there that she is able to apply to her personal life:
"I definitely learned how to work with different types of people and how different people respond to different types of leadership. Those are definitely things that can be applied in the real world and in job experiences, so it was very helpful."
On the relationships she has built with other student-athletes on campus:
"I think every student-athlete has a pretty close-knit web that we form, especially during our freshman year living in the athletic dorms and getting to know all the other teams. A lot of the other athletes come out and support each other in their athletic events. Being in the athletic study hall and everything else, it's a great community to be a part of."
On competing along with the wrestling team in the Beauty & the Beast event:
"We're really excited. It's going to be really different, but it's going to give the wrestling crowd the chance to see what gymnastics is all about and vice versa. Hopefully it will promote our two sports more on campus and in this area. When I went to the leadership conference, I actually found out the University of Missouri does it as well and they said it's been very successful in building numbers in the crowd, so we're excited."
On the single-most special thing about her experience here at the University of Oklahoma:
"I am so proud of my team. It's just amazing to be a part of a team and something that's much bigger than you. You accomplish so much and you build such close friendships that will probably last a lifetime. Hard work and dedication really pays off, and it's taught me a great amount of discipline."