Senior Jackie Topping will compete at the Class 3A track and field meet at Eastern Illinois University’s O’Brien Stadium in Charleston for the third time in her career. She was part of the 4×200-meter relay team that finished first at Niles West’s sectional May 10 in a season-best time of 1 minute, 42.93 seconds. The preliminaries are Friday, with the finals set for Saturday. An Evanston resident who graduated from Sacred Heart in Chicago, Topping will attend Middlebury, where she will be on the track and field team.
MAROON & GOLD: You’re a seasoned veteran of the state meet. What’s the best part?
JACKIE TOPPING: I love when you’re warming up for your event and then you go to the bullpen. It has such a different feel than any other meet. It’s so serious, but it’s really cool. The atmosphere surrounding you once you walk onto the track is unlike anything else. The first time I was there it was so intimidating, but I am more confident now.
M&G: You’ve been a sprinter throughout your career at Loyola. Do you have a favorite event?
JT: I’ve done the 400 all four years and 200 since my sophomore year. I started the long jump last year. I tried it for fun, and I really liked it. As much as I love the 400, I think long jump is my favorite. There’s something about being in your own space and doing it on your own time.
M&G: How did you get your start in the sport?
JT: My dad [Rob Topping] ran at Southern Methodist University, and he wanted me and my older sister [Anna Topping] to do it in grade school. My sister stopped and did swimming and water polo at Loyola, but I’ve been doing it ever since.
M&G: Your dad must be thrilled you will continue with track and field in college at Middlebury. When did you realize you wanted to extend your career?
JT: Toward the end of my sophomore year and going into junior year. It just came to me. My dad is very excited. He loves watching track. Even though he was a distance runner in college, he likes the sprints and the jumps now.
M&G: Was it good that you and your sister, who graduated in 2016, played different sports in high school?
JT: I talked about this to someone recently, and I’m glad we did our own things. We are competitive with each other, so it was nice to not be that way with sports. I swam a little in grade school, but I never really liked it. We joke that she stuck to water, and I stuck to land.
M&G: What is one of your most memorable moments with the track and field team?
JT: I have to say sectionals. When we qualify events for the state meet, it is so exciting. That moment you realize you made it is special.
M&G: Other than athletics, what’s been memorable about your time at Loyola?
JT: I had a lot of fun with LA Way, a new initiative the school started this year. I really enjoyed working hand in hand with the administration and teachers. I felt like we were equals. I learned a lot about leadership values.
M&G: What is something people other than your family and close friends might not know about you?
JT: For the last four years, I’ve gone to a French immersion camp at Concordia Language Villages in Minnesota. It’s like a regular camp, except you speak French, eat French food. My sister did it, too. I started learning French in grade school and took it all four years at Loyola. I’m not fluent, but I can be conversational. I went to France a long time ago, and I look forward to going back.