Bloomington, IN - Born first by one minute, John Jefferson seems to have had a slight edge on his twin brother Sean since Dec. 30, 1982 - the day they were born. Since that time, whether it was growing up in Delray Beach, Fla., attending Atlantic Community High School, or racing together, John and Sean have remained close.
One might think that being together since birth would be incentive to attend and compete at different schools. But the Jeffersons felt that it was natural to go to IU together.
"We've always lived together, we have stayed in the same room since we were born, so we didn't want to be in different places," Sean said. "It felt right to go to the same school."
After only three cross country meets the Jefferson twins, have already established themselves as top runners on the IU team. After John's performance in the Indiana Intercollegiates, he was chosen as Big Ten Athlete of the Week for the period ending September 22, only to watch his brother Sean receive the honor two weeks later (Oct. 8) for his showing in the Indiana State Invitational 8K. Sean led the Hoosiers to a second place finish, recording a time of 24:39.1.
Both Jefferson's redshirted their freshman year in cross country but pulled out solid performances during the 2002 indoor and outdoor track campaign. John finished second in the Big Ten in the 1500 meters at the Big Ten Championships with a time of 3:49.64. To add to his accolades, he earned All-American honors for his 10th place finish in the mile at the NCAA indoor Championship. Sean was unfortunate and due to a stress fracture in his foot, was unable to finish out the season.
"What we did in the fall paid off for John," said head coach Robert Chapman. "All-American indoors, conference runner up outdoors to the national high school record holder. John also ran the fastest 5k ever by a true freshman outdoors at Indiana. I believe Sean was on track to have similar accomplishments, but he was a little unlucky with an injury."
Having the Jefferson's sit out their freshman year in cross country seems to have given the boys the time they needed to adjust to a new school.
"It was a good decision," Sean said. "I wanted to run freshman year, and I was in shape to run. But looking back it now, it was good because I was able to get used to the changes there is from high school to college. I feel more prepared for this year."
The coaching staff wanted to be very gradual in their approach and see how the Jefferson's adapted to a new environment and new style of running.
"That first semester can really set the foundation for the rest of their college career, both academically and athletically," said coach Chapman. "It made sense to take the first semester and focus on making the transition to college and preparing them for track."
And adapt they did. In the Indiana Intercollegiate John and Sean lead the Hoosiers to a first place victory, individually capturing first and second place, respectively. They carried over their performance to the next meet, the Indiana State Invitational 8K, placing fourth (John) and fifth (Sean), finishing only a tenth of a second a part from each other, as IU placed second overall.
Chapman credits the Jeffersons' mature approach to racing for their success.
I think it is just in their nature," coach Chapman said. "The Jefferson's are the 'silent assassin' type in their approach to racing, and that approach is a pleasure to coach. They know what they have to do, and they're going to make it happen. It's the maturity level that sometimes guys take four or five years to find. They've got it in their second year."
The maturity level that coach Chapman recognizes in the Jefferson's is a sign for great things to come for the Indiana cross country team.