The former Wolfpack three-time state champion continues to wear a St. Ignatius singlet during races as a redshirt freshman at Stanford University — which fields one of the country's top cross-country and track programs.
Since Keelan is redshirting, he can't officially don Cardinal apparel during races, so he chooses to suit up in the high school uniform he's had since junior year.
"It's a comfort thing, and I want to pay respect to my high school," Keelan said. "I wouldn't be here without my high school coach and my teammates."
Justin introduces us to Stanford freshman Jack Keelan and his ties to Chicago:
He's achieved the qualifying time in the 5,000 meters for the IAAF World Junior Championships in Eugene, Ore., from July 22-27. To officially advance to the Worlds, he must finish first or second at the U.S. Junior Nationals July 5-6, also in Eugene.
He's preparing for those events by running in the 1,500 meters at this weekend's Portland (Ore.) Track Festival.
"Jack has made outstanding progress this year because he has really committed to putting in the consistent, hard work he needs to, to develop into one of the top runners in the country over the next several years," Stanford track and field head coach Chris Miltenberg said. "He's always believed he can compete with anyone out there. He loves being pushed and challenged every day."
Keelan said he's had that mindset since committing to distance running as a prep freshman. He said he's learned the most from subpar results, especially a 15th-place showing at cross-country sectionals during his junior year, which kept him out of the state finals.
"It was a serious disappointment for Jack, but he did not pout. Instead he went back to work," St. Ignatius boys track and cross-country coach Ed Ernst said.
Keelan never looked back. He would take second in the 3,200 and seventh in the 1,600 in the spring of his junior campaign before the earning the Triple Crown of Illinois distance running as a senior.
Ernst said Keelan's dedication to the sport while at St. Ignatius was unmatched. He would run 50-70 miles each week, including 12-15 by himself on Sundays, virtually year-round. He also always kept the same sleep routine — in bed by 11 p.m., up by 6:45 a.m. for training — and preached to his Wolfpack teammates to do the same.
"Jack had a lot of talent, but he worked very hard," Ernst said. "Jack has a lot of desire to do really well."
Keelan has done more following than leading in his first year at Stanford, which has won four team national championships in men's cross-country and men's track.
While his ultimate goal is "to be one of the best runners in the country," Keelan said his game plan was to take things one meet at a time.
"I'm one of the most competitive people I know, so I like pushing myself to the limit," Keelan said. "When I finish a race, I want to know I left everything on the track."