For several years now, LaQuisha Jackson has had a plan in mind for her future.
Since her breakout freshman season in which she became Tennessee's fastest female sprinter, Jackson began to focus on becoming not just the best in her home state but in the nation and eventually reaching the Olympics.
The Howard senior decided that the next step in that process will be quite a distance from home -- at San Diego State. Jackson chose to sign a letter-of-intent with the Aztecs over offers from Tennessee and Florida.
The California school overnighted the paperwork Wednesday to Howard coach Jennifer Mitchell, so Jackson could make the quick turnaround on signing.
"Once I met with the coaches and they laid out their plan for me, how each year I'm there they will make me better to the point that I'm ready for the Olympics, I really decided that's where I wanted to be," she said. "I was worried about being so far from home, but I fell in love with everything about the facilities and the people and the whole area.
"I prayed about it a lot, and once my mama told me if that's where I felt God was leading me, then I should go, I felt better. I knew if my mama was OK with me going that far away, that I would be OK with it. It's OK to get out of your comfort zone sometimes.
"Everybody gets homesick their first year in college, so I know I will. But I just have to remind myself that this is part of growing up and getting me where I want to be eventually. I'm excited and can't wait to get started."
With one season still to go, Jackson already is the state's most decorated prep track athlete with nine individual or team state championships and an AAU national record in the 400 meters. She has never lost an individual sprint race and as a sophomore set state records in the 100 (11.46) and 200 (23.86), breaking a 32-year-old mark.
"I was surprised that she was willing to go that far from home," Mitchell said. "My biggest fear is her being that far away and us not being able to get to her if she needs us, but she says she's 100 percent sold on that being the place she wants to be, so we support her and trust they will take care of her.
"She's an amazing competitor. As much success as she's already had, now she is realizing how little things like her diet and nutrition can help her be stronger and faster, and she's dedicated herself to that as well as training harder in the offseason. We're going to let her run in more open events this year to let her showcase what she can do."
Jackson was recruited by Aztecs assistant Carjay Lyles, a former All-America triple jumper at Tennessee and now the sprint and hurdles coach at San Diego State. Lyles said he believes Jackson is the top high school sprinter in the nation.
"She has the type ability that few others anywhere else in the country have, and her upside is just ridiculous," Lyles said. "It will take some development, some fine-tuning on a few things, but she is a future Olympian. Our head coach is a two-time Olympian and our throw coach is a former Olympian, so our staff knows the dedication it takes to get to that level and we think LaQuisha has that kind of drive. We know she has that kind of talent."
Stephen has covered local sports in the tri-state area for more than 20 years, starting at the News-Free Press as a 19-year-old reporter. He has 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. He was named one of the top 10 sports writers in the nation ...