Today@Sam Article

Bearkat Legends: Alyssa (Dooley) Jackson

March 20, 2024
SHSU Media Contact: Campbell Atkins

The following story is part of a series featuring the Bearkats inducted into Sam Houston State University’s Hall of Honor this fall. All seven inductees will be featured in Today@Sam articles throughout the academic year outlining their lives and athletic journeys.

Alyssa Jackson is congratulated by SHSU Athletic Director Bobby Williams in November.

It’s not how you start; it’s how you finish.

Alyssa Jackson, formerly Alyssa Dooley, felt nostalgic when she returned to Huntsville State Park in the fall to spend the weekend in a camper with her family. She was back amongst the forest and trails that would ultimately lead her to Sam Houston State University’s Hall of Honor.

“As a distance runner, that was a really incredible place to have access to and train at,” said the record-setting Bearkat. “Coming from a suburban area, I loved the small-town feel Huntsville had at that time. It was a perfect fit.”

While she admitted the start of her collegiate career was as rocky as those forest trails, Jackson would ultimately leave as one of the most prominent track and field athletes in SHSU’s history.

“My freshman year was by no means easy,” Jackson said. “I wasn’t in the best shape when I came in for my first year. When I went home for winter break, I really didn’t want to come back. But my father reminded me that I made a commitment and needed to at least finish out the year.”

As a distance runner, she competed in both cross country and track. She redshirted her first year in the former, but not the latter. As a result, she felt removed and inactive during that first semester. But her first indoor track season at the start of the spring didn’t do much to build her confidence.

“I had a rough indoor season,” Jackson said. “If I remember correctly, I finished second-to-last in the mile. For me, that was a breaking point.”

Initially thinking she would conclude her career after just one year, Jackson wanted to go out knowing she gave everything she had. She trained vigorously for the outdoor campaign, in which the team focused heavily on the 800-meter event.


“I ended up placing and earning seventh at the conference meet,” Jackson said. “Scoring for my team as a freshman was a great feeling. That small bit of success fueled me to put forth the effort I needed after a rough start and set the tone for the rest of my career. I decided to stay and used that summer to prepare for my next cross country season in the fall.”

Along with her affinity for Huntsville, Jackson credits longtime SHSU track and field distance coach and assistant cross country coach Jesse Parker as the main reason she became a Bearkat.

“I talked to several coaches over the phone, but Sam was the only school I went to on an official visit,” she said. “The main reason for that was Coach Parker, I just clicked with him immediately.”

Jackson is originally from Flower Mound, a suburb north of Dallas. She grew up as an avid soccer player and competed on numerous club teams. A prerequisite for earning a spot on one particular squad included running a two-mile time trial.

“I surprised everyone with that trial and started to realize I had some potential in distance running,” Jackson said. “I didn’t know anything about cross country or track as a sport, so my junior high coaches introduced me.”

She completely devoted herself to the craft at the high school level and, with the help of some inspiring coaches, realized she also had the potential to compete at an even higher level.

“Towards my junior and senior years, it became my focus to earn a scholarship to run in college,” she said. “I started receiving letters in the mail. Coming from someone whose parents didn’t go to a major university, that was a really big deal.”

It was important to Jackson to find a location she felt comfortable with that was in the state of Texas. She found just that in SHSU and Coach Parker, who she also credits with surrounding her with teammates she could train and build camaraderie with.

“When you’re on those long runs, it’s important that you’re surrounded by people you care about and enjoy being around,” she said. “I was really passionate about track, so the cross country season could be difficult to get through. I relied on my teammates to pull me through those fall training sessions.”

Jackson is SHSU’s record-holder in the 1500-meter run, which she accomplished by capturing a time of 4:26.06 at the 2014 Mt. SAC Relays. She concluded that same season ranked atop the Southland Conference in the 800 and 1500-meter events, securing first place in the latter at the outdoor conference championship meet. In 2013, she accomplished her personal goal of running the mile in under five minutes (4:58.71), securing the conference championship in that event as well as the distance medley relay.

“I love to compete and I hate losing. Along with competing comes faster times, and I was passionate about chipping away at mine,” she said. “I would work on knocking off a few seconds here and a few seconds there. Suddenly, after a couple of years went by, Coach Parker pointed out that I had a chance at some of the school records.”

While track was her main focus, she also excelled in the cross country portion, earning the Southland Conference’s runner-up honors at the 2012 meet. She was also the top finisher for the Bearkats at her last two conference championship meets.

Academically, Jackson secured her undergraduate degree in kinesiology before earning her master’s in sports management. She also met her husband, former Bearkat baseball player Justin Jackson, during her time at Sam. The couple now has two sons, ages five and two.


After dabbling in marketing and personal training, Jackson has found her calling as a sixth-grade physical education and sports teacher at Magnolia Intermediate.

“I’ve always been drawn to that age group because that’s when I began to realize I may have potential as an athlete,” she said. “I love it, and I still get to be around sports every day.”

Jackson was informed she would become a member of SHSU’s Hall of Honor via a phone call from Parker, bringing her Bearkat journey full circle.

“It was not on my radar at all,” she said. “It was really emotional for me, especially the fact that I got to hear the news from my coach.”

Her parents came down for the weekend to join the family at the campgrounds among the trees and trails that saw so many hours of Jackson’s hard work and commitment. Her perseverance has immortalized her, as well as her fellow inductees, in the annals of Bearkat athletics.

“It blew my mind how much effort and thought was put into the entire weekend,” Jackson said. “It made all of us inductees feel so special and deserving.”

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