The Road To Nationals: Cami Jackson

Nov. 22, 2009


Late blooming freshman accomplishing big feats at Arizona

By Jeremy Hawkes - Arizona Media Relations


For UA freshman Cami Jackson, it was never a certainty that she would ever be a runner in college.  The two-sport athlete in high school didn’t even become a full-time runner until her junior season but her natural prowess at the sport has helped her to become on of the UA’s top newcomers this season.


Jackson first got herself involved in the running scene thanks to her math teacher in middle school who also served as the cross country coach.  He had her come out and run a race and she won and you would think the rest would be history, right?


Well, it turns out Jackson was also a pretty accomplished volleyball player in her own right and so she faced a bit of a conflict of interest when high school rolled around.  Cross country and volleyball fall in the same part of the year on the high school schedule and so Jackson decided she would do both during her freshman campaign at Mesa Mountain View High School.


Again, she impressed as a runner on her way to a 10th placed finish at the Arizona 5A-I State championships in 2005.  However, her coaches for both volleyball and cross country ended up being in disagreement over her schedule, feeling it was not fair for her to miss practices for one sport to be at the practices for another.  Eventually, they made Jackson make a decision after her freshmen season and she chose to play volleyball as a sophomore.


However, she still competed in track and field that season to the tune of a fifth place finish in the girl’s 3200-meter run at the state meet and ninth place in the 3200-meters.  After a summer of training for both sports, Jackson finally decided to make the switch to being a full time runner during her junior season.


“I definitely noticed the switch in personality when I made the switch,” Jackson said. “Volleyball added a sense of fun and being care-free but running just made my life a lot more focused.  It requires so much both mentally and physically.”


Jackson would go on to finish sixth at the state cross country meet in her return to the scene and help to lead her Mesa Mountain View squad to it’s best ever finish at the state meet during her senior season where it finished second.


“I still felt really new to running despite that,” Jackson said. “I would just go run and see what happened.”


“We got to go to Nike Team Nationals and that’s really when I became more immersed in the culture of running.”


Jackson continued to establish herself as one of the top high school products out of Arizona, cumulating in All-State performances as a senior in both the 1600-meters and 3200-meters to contribute to a fourth place overall finish for her high school at her final state meet.


It was those performances that garnered Jackson the attention of the UA track and field staff.  The school’s interest coupled with her parents being UA alumni and the school’s impressive medical program all combined to influence Jackson’s decision to come to Arizona but nothing may be as important to her transition to college as her older sister.


Brooke Jackson transferred from Mesa Community College at the beginning of the 2009-10 school year to play basketball for Arizona’s women’s team.  A newcomer to the school, Brooke has already earned her spot in the starting rotation and has posted several impressive performances this season.


Outside of her performance on the court though, Brooke has helped make things much easier for the younger Cami.


“It’s the greatest comfort to know that if you need someone to just physically talk to then she is here for me,” Cami said. “I’m so lucky to have that kind of support.”


Cami says that the two sisters are each other’s biggest fans as far as their athletics are concerned.  Brooke always supports Cami’s running while Cami says that she always gets the proudest feeling when she gets to come and watch her sister’s games.


Asked what makes their relationship so strong and what makes them such great competitor’s in the respective sports, Cami attributed it all to her family.


“Our parent’s taught us what it takes to be successful and doing the little things to take care of what’s important,” she said. “We are both committed to what we do but we also know that there is more to life.  That helps keep us balanced and motivated.”


Jackson’s positive attitude regarding all the aspects of her life has transcended on to the cross country course for the Wildcats this season, where she has proven herself as a valuable asset to the team.


Jackson has scored in all but one meet this season for Arizona, cumulating in her best team finish at last weekend’ NCAA West Regional Meet where – running without the squad’s number two runner in Lauren Smith – Jackson answered the call on her way to a 37th place overall finish when the team needed a big performance most. 


Jackson’s performance is likely a big reason the Wildcats find themselves in their first National Championship in eight years.


“Cami is just a very positive contribution to the team not just on runs but in every aspect of life,” said teammate and roommate Megan Meyer. “She’s just a very encouraging individual and you can always count on her to be there when you need.”


On top of all of that, Jackson is an accomplished athlete in the classroom as well – fitting the common mold of great student-athletes that represent the Arizona squad this year.  In high school, Jackson earned a National Merit Letter of Commendation on her way to finishing in the top 10 in her graduating class with other honors that include the Academic Excellence Award, Outstanding Student Award and accolades on the Scholar-Athlete AIA Honor Roll.


Jackson plans on earned a degree in physiology at Arizona with the hope of becoming a physical therapist at some point in her life. 


Jackson will look to continue to her already impressive season tomorrow at the NCAA National Championships in Terre Haute, Ind. but you can expect that that will not be the last time you hear mention of the freshman accomplishing great feats as a Wildcat.


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