COLUMBIA — Hickman long-jumper Victoria Jackson doesn’t need a pump-up song to get ready for competition. Instead, she said she concentrates best when she's not listening to anything.
On the day of a meet she can most likely be found wearing headphones. No music plays from them, though. Jackson says they just tune out distractions.
“I always get in my own little world,” Jackson said. “I don’t like to talk a lot before races, I like to be by myself to get in the zone.”
Teammates describe her as quiet and hardworking, but beneath her quiet demeanor and calm nature is an animated runner with a passion for track.
“I’m silly, and I laugh a lot, but on the track it’s different,” Jackson said. “Some of the older girls on the team know my personality, but there are a lot of girls on the team and not all of them do. The track is like my stage. It’s where I feel comfortable."
Jackson has competed in both AAU and USA Track & Field events since the age of 7, and in 2003, she was the AAU long jump champion. She said she started her athletic career in gymnastics when she was 4 years old but wanted to try something new. Her father, Mark Jackson, played football and ran track for Missouri, so she gave running a try.
“After the first year I fell in love with track,” Jackson said. “My dad ran in college, and so we bonded over it. It gives me an adrenaline rush and can be relaxing. It makes me feel good knowing that after I run I did work.”
Track is Jackson’s biggest commitment outside of school. She runs the 100-, 200- and 400-meter dash as well as the 100- and 300-meter hurdles. Her specialty, though, is the long jump where she placed third at last season's state championships. She was also fifth there in the 100-meter hurdles and she said she sees her challenge this year to improve in both.
“I’m excited about this season so I can try to do better than the last two,” Jackson said. “Track is always a challenge. It’s an uphill battle, definitely not an easy sport. There is pain involved and it’s a constant challenge to keep improving.”
Jackson is not the only Kewpies athlete returning from a state finish last season. Thrower Sarah Hall, broke a school record last year and placed fifth in the shot put at the state meet. Junior Wesley Leftwich finished his 2009 season with a sixth place at the state meet in the long jump.
Although Hickman coach Steve Kissane said the Kewpies graduated a lot of leadership on the boys side last year, there are plenty of Kewpies returning this season.
Senior Jimmie Garth took bronze at the state meet last year in the 4x800-meter relay and fourth in the 4x400-meter relay with junior Marcus Whitt, who competed in the 400-meter dash at state. Senior Nate Little was a district runner-up in the pole vault.
"Last season we had lots of quality athletes, leadership, desire and were able to stay healthy,” Kissane said. “The boys were district champions last year and the girls were runners up. Our goal this season is to continue the success from last year.”