Jo Adams remembered this week how disappointed she was after competing at the Texas Relays for the first time a year ago.
Adams had just arrived in America from England and finished in the back of the pack in the 1,500-meter run. These days, that race serves as a reference point that shows just how far Adams has come in a short time.
The senior competed at the Texas Relays for the second time last week, when she established herself as an elite runner nationally with a breakthrough performance.
Adams was the top collegiate finisher in the 1,500 with a time of 4:19.09 and will enter UNT’s lone home meet of the outdoor season this weekend ranked fifth nationally in the event.
“It was a big breakthrough moment,” Adams said. “I was nearly last in the race down there last year with a 4:32. To go down there in my first 1,500 of the season and have a two-second PR [personal record] and break 4:20 was big. It was exciting for me to run 4:19.”
That performance is one Adams will look to build on at the North Texas Classic, which will begin today with a few field events before the running events take place Saturday. Adams will compete in the 800.
Each meet she competes in holds a little more significance for Adams, who is in her final season in what will be a short stay at UNT.
Adams competed on the collegiate level in England, where she picked up her bachelor’s degree in three years. The 23-year-old senior had two years of eligibility remaining when she arrived in Denton.
Adams didn’t have time to build up the training base necessary to reach her potential in her first season at UNT but was thrown straight into competing at the NCAA level.
This year, Adams has had the chance to build up a much more extensive training base. That extra work is quickly paying off.
“We knew she would be better this season,” UNT coach Carl Sheffield said. “She always had the potential. The training here, the better facilities and the environment have put her in a whole different class.”
It also has put her on course to qualify for the NCAA championship meet. The top 12 finishers in the NCAA preliminary rounds advance to the national finals. Adams is fourth in the West region heading into this weekend.
Adams will have to run her best when it’s all on the line in the first round of the national meet. Running well at the Texas Relays and having a better training base has given Adams confidence that she can come through when the pressure is on.
“I definitely feel better about where I am at,” Adams said. “My endurance has grown since I came here. I have had consistent training with little interruption.”
What has been just as rewarding for Adams is the experience of living and competing in the United States. UNT distance coach Sam Burroughs found out about Adams while researching foreign runners online.
“I finished my degree back home and was at a stage in my life when I was wondering what to do next,” Adams said. “This came about when I was asking that question. My family was really for it.”
Adams quickly settled in at UNT, where she is working on a master’s degree in sports managment.
“I like North Texas,” Adams said. “The main thing for me is to travel and get to see more of America. Arkansas was really nice in the fall with the trees and so was California. We are going to Florida for conference. My parents are coming for that meet.”
The first round of the national meet will follow May 23-25 back in Austin, where Adams posted her breakout performance. If she can replicate her Texas Relays performance at that meet, she could get to see a little more of America before heading back to England. The national finals will take place in Eugene, Ore.
Competing in that meet is a goal that seems within reach for Adams, especially after she broke a 23-year-old school record in the 1,500 at the Texas Relays — the third school mark she has set.
Adams also owns the UNT indoor records in the mile (4:49.38) and the 3,000 meters (9:26.87).
“Texas Relays was a big confidence boost for her,” Sheffield said. “It was a good indication of where she is at, but she is still building.”
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 and via Twitter at @brettvito.