Lincoln County's coaches don't want to put any more pressure on Wilkinson than he already puts on himself. The coaches, John Sanders and Mickey Goodwin, are listed as boys and girls coach, respectively. But the two actually share coaching the whole team, and both have seen what Wilkinson is capable of.
"Probably by his junior year, he can be in the top 10 or 15 in the state, and his senior year, he could be in the top five or possibly win," Sanders said. "It's kind of up to him now.
"Each year he'll have to get stronger, and those last two years I'd really like to see some brighter results. He's certainly en route to a lot at this point."
He can't get away from coach after practice
Wilkinson can walk away from Sanders at the end of practice, but he can't get away from Goodwin. The coach is also Wilkinson's stepfather, and Goodwin said that brings a different dynamic to the relationship.
"A lot of times when a father coaches his son, he's harder on his own child, and I'm very careful not to do that," Goodwin said. "He gets no special favors and I'm no harder on him than I am on anyone else."
Goodwin actually got into cross country because of Wilkinson, and Wilkinson got into cross country because of a friend, Clinton Burgess. One day Burgess came over and told the sixth-grade Wilkinson about the cross country team, and the pair ran a lap around Wilkinson's subdivision. The magic was started.
"I decided I liked it and I joined the next day," Wilkinson said.
He got Goodwin into running with him for practice. When then-Lincoln coach Tim Godbey took a job as a principal, he had to give up coaching. Goodwin said he was out running at practice with Wilkinson, then others started running with them, and he became the de facto coach.
"It's fun with him out there," Wilkinson said. "He can run out there and he talks to all of us."
Wilkinson was surprised as his times started decreasing. When he first joined, he said he did it for fun before realizing he could have be successful.
"I actually didn't think I would do very good to start out with," Wilkinson said. "After a couple of races, I started do-ing good, and I decided to practice harder to see how much better I could get."
Wilkinson worked himself to the point of a second-place finish in last year's middle school meet and high goals for himself for his high school career.
"I don't usually do good in team sports," Wilkinson said. "Cross country is just an individual thing. You're running against yourself and you're just trying to make yourself better and better."
"I know I'm kind of biased, but Jordan's really and truthfully just a good kid," Goodwin said. "He does all the little things necessary to be a good runner. When you get a kid with that talent level and then the dedication to do things on his own, you get one with the potential to be special. I really think he can be."