AUGUSTA, Maine — The way Tia Jackson was running and jumping Saturday, the future of Old Town’s track and field program is bright and promising.
Jackson, 13, was the star among her fellow Eastern Maine competitors at the USA Track and Field 14-under state championship meet at Cony High School, recording two individual wins, one runner-up finish, anchoring a winning relay team and tying a state record in the process.
Jackson, who will enter the eighth grade in the fall, tied a 25-year-old record in the youth (ages 13-14) long jump, posting a mark of 16 feet, 1½ inches on the third of her four attempts.
“She’s been jumping like this for the last couple years,” said Old Town cross country and track coach Rod White, who oversees the town’s recreational youth track program.
Jackson has been jumping out of her shoes all summer, and holds a personal-best of an astounding 16-9 at the Junior Olympic National Qualifying meet in July, which would’ve placed her fourth in last spring’s Class A state meet.
The astounding thing about that mark is that Jackson was shuffling between the high and long jumps.
“I was running back and forth,” said Jackson, who was surprised when she saw the mark.
Unlike at the National Qualifier in Fitchburg, Mass., Jackson didn’t have a wooden board to go off of Saturday, which helps give a jumper a boost.
“It kind of dips down when you go on it but it springs you up a little bit more,” Jackson said.
Jackson also cleared 5 feet to take the high jump while earning second in the triple jump with a leap of 32-7. She also anchored Old Town’s 1,600 relay of Emma Burgason, Sara Hall and Kate Rawson to a come-from-behind victory with anchor Jackson overtaking another competitor on the backstretch.
“When we were within 20 yards at the last leg I was pretty confident that Tia would [move ahead],” White said.
Jackson has been competing in the Old Town program since she was seven, and will join an Old Town High team in two years that already has some proven talent in Katie DeShane, Logan Clark and Kayla Brooks, who will be seniors when Jackson enters the high school program.
“That should be a pretty good team,” White said. “She’s special, we still have to wait a year to get her in high school.”
When Jackson is on the runway or the track, she’s completely zoned in, but in all other occasions, the happy-go-lucky jumper who sported high, green-and-white tube socks and a matching green bandana and green-and-white war paint Saturday, is keeping the younger kids company.
“She likes to play around with all the other kids, even though she’s only 13 she’s a really good role model,” White said.
Jackson has been working with jumping coach Andy Sibley, one of the best long jumpers to come out of Eastern Maine, since age seven.
Her other sport, gymnastics, has been instrumental to her track success with the two possessing many similarities.
“In gymnastics, you have to have good form no matter what, it helps a lot with the form for jumping,” Jackson said. “Especially for high jump, because you have to have flexibility in gymnastics.”
Jackson was satisfied with her performances, but since she has one more year in the program, she not only has her sights set on breaking the long jump record she tied, but eclipsing the high jump mark of 5-1.
Alex Jenson of Waterville re-wrote the record books in the triple jump in the youth division, claiming first place with a mark of 34-4.75.
Also in the girls meet, Becky Lopez-Anido of the Orono Red Riot Track Club took first in the 1,500 in the bantam (ages 9-10) division, finishing in 6 minutes, 12.88 seconds.
Local individual winners in the boys meet included James Petersen of Hampden in the bantam 400 in 1:10:13 while Sam Peterson from Brewer cleared 3-6 in the high jump in the mites division (ages 8-under).