Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Recent North Gwinnett graduate Malcolm Jackson has been selected as the Gwinnett Daily Post's Field Performer of the Year. Jackson won the Class AAAAA state championship in the triple jump. In the fall Jackson will be attending Charleston Southern University on a football scholarship.
A year ago, Malcolm Jackson stepped off the awards stand at the boys track and field state championship and gave his coach a simple message.
"I'll be at the top of the podium next year. I'll win it," Jackson said.
Jackson made himself look like a prophet at last month's state meet. The North Gwinnett senior set a school record on his way to winning Class AAAAA state championship in the triple jump.
"I was just determined," said Jackson, the Daily Post's Field Performer of the Year. "When the time came, I earned it."
Jackson put together an impressive senior season, winning nine of the 10 meets he competed in this year. That includes the Gwinnett County and Region 7-AAAAA championships and first at the East Sectional.
"My coach would always say, 'You want to win state? Let's go win this meet.' It was the motto for the whole year," Jackson said.
Jackson joined the track team as a freshman and wanted to be a sprinter and high jumper. He was asked to try the triple jump, but couldn't perform the simple drills like everyone else. His coach was going to send him back to the high jump before his teammates urged to give him one more shot.
Jackson was finally able to do the drills and stuck with triple jump.
He won the freshman county meet that year and finally cleared 40 feet as a sophomore.
"My coach told me if you can jump 40, you could be pretty good," Jackson said.
Jackson qualified for the state meet as a junior and placed fifth. The disappointment stepping down from the awards stand was all the motivation he needed.
"I was kind of upset at myself," Jackson said. "I remember getting that medal and not wanting it."
Jackson, who will play college football at Charleston Southern, began training year round. He would go through his summer football workouts and then get in a track workout.
He got more explosive and powerful in the weight room, going from a 235-pound power clean to 275.
Towards the end of the football season, he would spend a little time around the triple jump pit.
Once track season began, he would stay up to an hour after practice working on technique by himself.
"It's just amazing what he was able to accomplish this year in triple jump," former North head track coach Troy Hobbs said.
Jackson went into the state meet as the top seed, but after he fouled on two of his first three jumps it looked like it might be another disappointing year. His only jump of 46 feet, 7 inches was good enough to put him in first place and in the finals. He passed on his first jump in the finals and had a disappointing jump of 42-0 . No one could beat his jump of 46-7 , so with the title locked up he made his final leap a memorable one.
Jackson cleared 48-1 to win the state championship and set a new North Gwinnett school record.
"He could have said I'm done," Hobbs said. "He wanted to go to 47. He wanted to end his career on a high note and he did."
Jackson is the third North boy track athlete to win state and the first since Kibwe Johnson in 1998.
"My goal from my freshman year was to win state," Jackson said. "It summed up my whole senior year."