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  • Val T.

Rochester’s Jackson balances aspirations off the track with pole vault excellence


Sports Editor, RTC

MaKenna Jackson

WABASH — Rochester senior MaKenna Jackson is trying to balance her success in track with her aspirations off it.

Her interests in videography are such that she did not come out for the track team last spring as a junior.

But with one year left of high school, she returned to track, and she marked her return by winning the Three Rivers Conference title in the pole vault and helping the Lady Zs to a fifth-place finish at Wabash Friday.

Jackson cleared 9-0 at the conference meet. She broke the school record when she went over the bar at 9-7 at the LaPorte Invitational on April 20. Six days later, she vaulted 9-6 in miserable weather at the Tipton Invitational.

The conference title was her first.

“It feels great,” Jackson said. “Still lots to improve. Still lots to improve for sectionals and then regionals and hopefully state senior year.”

Jackson was philosophical on winning the TRC title with a vault that was less than her best.

“I do feel … I don’t want to say defeated,” Jackson said. “That’s not the right word, but I know I can do a lot better. But it was great to have a good win, but I know I can go a lot higher.”

Jackson said she uses three different poles of various lengths. How many steps she takes on her run-up to the pit is tied together with the length of the pole she is using.

“I have to constantly think, ‘OK, what do I have to do now? Do I have to take a couple steps back with a longer pole?’ I have to think about all these different things. Run faster. Run harder. But just kinda keep the same form, and I don’t want to say pray to go over, but you just got stay consistent on the form, and it will come.”

Jackson said she enjoys making videos for local businesses. Jackson said she is interested in having a college track career, but she also said that the school she attends will have to have both the major she wants and a track team.

“I didn’t do it last year since I film videography,” Jackson said. “Lots of sports videos and local businesses. I didn’t have the time, but this year, I’m balancing it, and I’m glad I’m back.”

She also has experience in front of the camera. Jackson appeared in a television commercial for the South Bend Cubs’ minor league baseball team’s Cub Reporter program, which is done in affiliation with ABC57 News from South Bend and which allows kids between the ages of 8 and 15 to appear in front of the camera interviewing players on the team.

Jackson said the commercial was shot around two years ago but still airs regularly now.

“Hopefully we can make an updated one because I would love to go back out there,” Jackson said. “Definitely fun. We love the South Bend Cubs. We love the Cubs. And thank you to (regional sales manager) Tiffiney Gray for letting me come out and everything – ABC57, awesome. It was great, and I’m glad I’m the face of it, and I like it when people come up to me and say, ‘I saw you on TV last night.’ It makes me really motivated to keep going. And I know I’m doing something for the community, so it’s nice to see and for others to be inspired.”

Ultimately, she said having a senior night experience like the one she had before the home meet against Tippecanoe Valley and Triton on April 30 was a motivating factor to get back on the track.

“Senior year, I think my parents mentioned the whole oh, senior night, we’ll walk you down, and I just thought of my grandparents,” Jackson said. “I had wanted to see them watch me vault one last time, and I came back for the new year, and here we are.”

She said she is thankful for assistant coach Karmin Reeves, who has worked with Zebra pole vaulters for decades. Jackson said Reeves foresaw her success.

“Karmin has really pushed me to where I am now,” Jackson said. “And I couldn’t be any more pleased that where we were my freshman year, and she told me that I would break the record my freshman year, and so, we had that always in mind even when I didn’t do it last year. … She’s just so proud and happy, and even for all the guys too, they’re doing really well, and to practice with them, it makes me go even higher because they’re the guys, and I’m trying to go with them.”

She said making the state finals is her goal. Her cousin Kennedy made state in the shot put representing Rochester in 2022 and Culver in 2023. She is currently throwing at Grand Valley State.

But first, MaKenna has her focus on making state.

“I believe so,” Jackson said of setting state as a goal. “We are wanting to get there. As long as I stay consistent.”

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