Here she comes again. Legs pumping high, arms with noticeably more lean muscle and that look of sheer determination on her face.
LaQuisha Jackson poses in her ready stance recently at the Howard track. Staff Photo by Allison Carter/Chattanooga Times Free Press
In her first two seasons of varsity competition Howard High School sprinter LaQuisha Jackson is already the state’s most decorated sprinter in recent history. But driven by the concern that somewhere — whether in-state or outside Tennessee’s borders — a competitor is outworking her, she spent most every day of the offseason in the weight room or working on getting out of the starting blocks quicker.
And that is bad news for every other girl who steps to the starting line against her.
“I’m preparing myself to be the best sprinter in the U.S.,” said Jackson, who has been the top female sprinter in Tennessee since her freshman year at Howard. “I don’t care how much extra work I have to do after practice or whatever. You never know who is out there trying to beat your times or be better, so I’m not going to let anybody outwork me. I want to see how much better I can be.
“There’s a reason the Olympics are in 2012, the summer after I graduate. It’s because God has big plans for me. I see myself running in the Olympics.”
As a freshman Jackson’s 100- and 200-meter times were the fastest in all classifications in sweeping state titles, and last year she ran those two events faster than any girl in state history, setting records that only she is likely to break any time soon. She ran the 100 in 11.46, which was the third-fastest nationally among high school girls and her time in the 200 (23.86) broke a 32-year old state record and ranked fourth nationally.
BOYS’ ATHLETES TO WATCH
- Keenan Hale, McCallie: He won the D-II high jump and was second in the decathlon, winning three events.
- Josh Robinson, Red Bank: He finished second in the 110 hurdles and third in the 300 hurdles in last year’s Class A/AA state meet.
- Jabarie Leverett, Tyner: He was a key part of the state champion 4x100 and 4x200 relay teams and finished fourth in the 400 meters.
GIRLS’ ATHLETES TO WATCH
- LaQuisha Jackson: She has swept state titles in the 100, 200 as well as anchoring state championship 4x100 and 4x200 relay teams each of the last two years.
- Amber Dandy, Red Bank: Her state state championship long jump distance was third-longest for a high school girl in the U.S. last year.
- Hannah Jumper, Baylor: She swept the three distance races at the state meet last year, setting school records in each.
That performance was so impressive that the crowd of more than 4,000 at the Middle Tennessee State University track gave her a standing ovation after her final event.
Not only is she unbeaten in the 100 and 200 at the state level, but each of the last two years when she took the baton for the anchor leg of the 4x100 and 4x200 events, she trailed other sprinters before overtaking them.
“To think she’s never lost a sprint she entered, individual or relay, that’s incredible,” said Howard coach Jennifer Mitchell. “The reason I know she can improve her times is because I know her personal drive. She just has something inside her pushing her to be the best and always do more. LaQuisha is all by herself in the way she prepares and works and wants to be the best.”
As a team, the Lady Hustlin’ Tigers are also among the favorites to claim a second state title in three years. Last year Howard finished half a point out of second place, but returns all but one graduated senior from that team. Just as troubling for the competition is the fact that Howard has only one senior on this year’s squad, and this is her first year to compete with the varsity.
Sophomore Nuqeilla Robinson is expected to contend for state titles in both the 400 and 200 and the 6-foot sprinter is also on the 4x100 and 4x200 relay teams.
Baylor’s girls’ team won its third straight Division II state title last year and returns several key members as well, including Hannah Jumper, who set school records in sweeping all three distance races at the Division II state meet. Also back for the Lady Red Raiders are Abbie Dill, a Mississippi State signee, who is one of the state’s top high jumpers and Sally Warm, who won last year’s triple jump and is one of the state’s top hurdlers and pentathletes.
Stephen has covered local sports in the tri-state area for more than 24 years, having been with the Times Free Press since its inception, and has been an assistant sports editor since 2005. Stephen is among the most decorated writers in the TFP’s newsroom, winning numerous state, regional and national writing awards, including seven in 2013 and a combined 12 in the last two years. He was named one of the top 10 sports writers ...