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  • Val T.

Headed for state, Jackson’s next goal is Rochester shot put school record

BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS

Sports Editor, RTC

In the spring of her sixth grade year, Kennedy Jackson was looking to play a spring sport.

So she picked track.

But what event?

Kennedy Jackson

“I don’t like running, so throwing it was,” Jackson recalled with a smile.

Five years later, Jackson’s decision was validated after she qualified for the IHSAA state finals in the shot put. Jackson finished second at the Kokomo regional with a throw of 39-0 ½.

The throw that went 39-0 ½ was Jackson’s last throw of the night. She already knew she was going to state before that throw.

The top three in each regional event advance to state. Whitko’s Gwen Howard won with a throw of 41-0 ¼.

The state finals are set for 3 p.m. Friday at the Robert C. Haugh Track and Field Complex on the Indiana University campus in Bloomington. The shot put competition will begin at approximately 3:30 p.m.

Jackson said she set a goal of making state as a freshman. She lost her freshman year after the pandemic caused the IHSAA to cancel spring sports in 2020. She was 12th in the shot put at the 2021 regional with a top throw of 34-7.

Assistant coach Ron Shaffer works with the shot put throwers. Jackson said her aspirations for the sport have changed because of Shaffer.

“He’s helped me out tremendously,” Jackson said. “He’s helped me with perfecting my glide and making me have a different aspect of throwing. … He’s made me think about it in a different way, more than just high school,” Jackson said. “I think that I will do it collegiately too.”

Jackson said the shot put just comes easier to her than the discus. She was second in the shot put behind Howard and seventh in the discus at the Bremen sectional on May 17.

Jackson said the shot put does not require the exact attention to detail that the discus does.

“It just comes easier to me,” Jackson said when asked to compare the shot put to the discus. “Something about the technique is easier. Disc is really technical – the steps, the spin. Everything has to be just right. In shot, you can mess up a little bit and still get a quality throw. Even though it’s not the best, you still get it in.”

Still, even the slightest differences in technique and form matter.

“Just a half-inch could make or break a place,” Jackson said.

Jackson will be the No. 18 seed out of 27 throwers at state. She said her goal is a throw of 42-3, which would break the school record.

She said a bad habit is watching her throws for her too long. That leads to scratches.

So she and Shaffer are working on staying in the ring and switching her feet.

“I want to get the 40 mark,” Jackson said. “I do it in practice, and I’ve been practicing a lot. It’s just you’ve got to do it in a meet and perform in a meet and stay in the ring with it. That’s my biggest part is I don’t stay in the ring.”

Jackson said she can get a little nervous at a meet.

Jackson is also a member of Rochester’s girls basketball team, so she was asked to compare the feeling of throwing the shot put in front of an audience at a big meet to the feeling of shooting important free throws in a basketball game.

“It feels even more nerve-wracking than that sometimes,” Jackson said. “But shooting free throws is probably second below that. But it is really nerve-wracking. I’ve just got to go in there with a good attitude and a good mood and just not think about it at all.”


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