Jada Hamilton keeps running faster. The sprinter's marked improvements have earned her the Most Improved Runner award two seasons in a row in women's track and field at UW-Stout in Menomonie. This past season, that increasing speed also translated into an All-American performance at the national championships. "I've just put in more time training," said Hamilton, who wrapped up her junior season in May at the NCAA Division 3 national championships in Ohio. Putting in more time has lifted Hamilton from a good runner while at Rice Lake High School to an exceptional runner in college. Getting stronger has also helped her speed in the range of dashes she runs, from 100 meters to 400 meters and on the three short relays. "We do a lot of weightlifting. That's something that has changed from high school for me," said Hamilton. Though Hamilton was on a state-qualifying 800-meter relay team for the Rice Lake Warriors in her senior season in 2011, she didn't expect to make much noise at the collegiate level. "I definitely didn't expect this (success in college). My parents both ran track at UW-River Falls, so I thought I'd go out for the team," said Hamilton. Hamilton's freshman season at UW-Stout got off to a slow start when overtraining led to a stress fracture during the indoor winter season. She was able to compete in the outdoor spring season, but the next fall she was back in a boot again with another stress fracture. She rebounded later in the season and began showing her potential as a sophomore, earning the team's Most Improved Runner award. "Jada wasn't a difference maker when she got to Stout. But around the end of her sophomore year things really started to click and she started running really well," said UW-Stout Blue Devils' head coach Kyle Steiner. At the end of her sophomore season, Hamilton ran in her favorite dash, the 200-meter race, in the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Conference championships. Hamilton's collegiate career took off this past season as a junior. Not only did she receive the Most Improved award again, but she joined three teammates in the 1,600-meter race to place fifth nationally in a school record time of 3 minutes and 46.57 seconds. "Jada's success (from her sophomore year) allowed her to have the confidence to be a team leader. She was one of the people who started wanting more than previous generations of sprinters at Stout," said Steiner. "All of a sudden we were putting together a relay team that qualified for nationals and earned All-American honors," added Steiner. Hamilton anchored the record-setting performance at the nationals, running the last 400 meters, a distance she also competes at individually and calls the hardest of the dashes. The fifth place earned All-American honors and a spot on the podium for Hamilton and running mates Laurisa Titterud of Lino Lakes, Minn., Jessika Smith of Onalaska and Meagon Ward of Eau Claire. "I enjoy the team aspect of relays. The group of girls we had this season was just great. Everybody had a great attitude," said Hamilton, the daughter of Mary and Brodie Hamilton of Rice Lake. Hamilton said it has been fun trading stories about high school running with Ward, who attended Eau Claire North. Though Hamilton and Ward are both juniors, they didn't know each other when they ran against each other in high school meets. Earlier this season, the Blue Devils' 1,600-meter relay team with Hamilton first broke the school record by an amazing 12 seconds with a 3:48.36 in the Drake Relays in Des Moines, Iowa. Individually, Hamilton placed fifth this season in the 400-meter dash at the WIAC Championships. She was timed at 59.18 seconds in the finals after running a personal best 58.55 in the preliminaries. Earlier in the season, she won a 200-meter race at the UW-River Falls Invitational in 25.92 seconds. In a high school regional race 3 years ago, she ran the same sprint 3 seconds slower. "I enjoy the 200 race most because it's faster. I'm definitely better in the 400, but it's the hardest race," said Hamilton. "Wanting more," as coach Steiner said, for Stout's women sprinters has put Hamilton's name on the school's Top Ten Fastest list in an impressive six events: 100, 200 and 400 meters and relays of 400, 800 and 1,600 meters. That's not bad for a girl who was on the sidelines in the spring track and field seasons when she was a high school freshman and sophomore. Hamilton didn't join her high school team in Rice Lake until she was a junior. She credits Ernie Kolumbus, driver's education instructor and assistant track coach at the time, with convincing her to go out for track. "Ernie Kolumbus played football with my dad at UW-River Falls. He kept after me to go out for track. Finally I said, 'OK, I guess so.'" Hamilton is working two jobs in Menomonie this summer and going to summer school at UW-Stout as she pursues her degree in special education. She's also looking ahead to her senior track and field season, which begins with fall conditioning before the indoor season starts in January. "I just hope to keep improving and get to the nationals again and place higher," said Hamilton. Her senior season will be special in another way. Because of her attitude, her passion and her attention to the team, she has been named team captain for the 2015 season. "Jada is an example of what we as coaches are looking for in our athletes," said Steiner.