Cervantes Jackson finds success at Albany State after late start to track career

Published 5:30 pm Tuesday, June 7, 2016

By Stan McCormick


ALBANY, Ga.- For three years at Bainbridge High School, Cervantes Jackson believed in staying in his comfort zone.

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On the football field, he was content with playing both ways. He was a wide receiver for the offense, and doubled as a cornerback on the defensive unit. When springtime arrived, Jackson had no problem stealing bases and chasing fly balls in the outfield as a centerfielder.

Additionally, Jackson had another area where he found security. During lunch and between classes, he could always be found performing the latest dance moves.

However, during his senior year, Jackson found himself in a realm where he was unaccustomed.

“I really didn’t want to join the track team,” Jackson admitted. “My coaches Larry and Pat Clark (who are brothers), wanted me to come out there to see what I could do. I really wasn’t feeling it, so I had no plans of going out there.”

Although Jackson had made up his mind about not participating in track & field, there was one other person who would have the final word.

“My mother basically made me go out there,” Jackson said with a smile. “Because she said it, I couldn’t argue with her. I decided to go on faith and see what I could do.”

Pamela Jackson witnessed her son’s talent in a race she really didn’t care to see.

“I just thought he would like it,” Pamela Jackson said. “He was always running around the house tearing up my furniture. He even burst his chin doing it one day.

“I figured he needed to be doing something where he could release all that energy.”

Apparently, mother does know best. Cervantes Jackson made an immediate impact for the Bearcats’ track & field team. In region competition, he won first place in the 110-meter hurdles and the high and triple jumps. He also ran a leg with the 4×400-meter relay team that won first place. The Bainbridge team finished second in the competition.

Jackson also made his presence known at the Georgia Class AAAA state meet. He placed second in the triple jump and third in the 110-hurdles. His performances at the region and state meets were enough to draw interest from Albany State head track coach Kenneth Taylor.

“From the day I first saw CJ at a high school regional meet, I knew he was a special talent,” Taylor said. “It was obvious he was a natural student-athlete.”

Although Taylor was convinced Jackson could help the Albany State track & field program, Jackson himself still had no plans on continuing what he started.

“Coach Taylor saw me at the region meet and talked to my coaches, and they told him Albany State was one of my college choices,” Jackson said. “But I wasn’t going to run track or do any other sport. I was just going to be a regular student.”

That didn’t stop Taylor from offering him a scholarship.

“When he offered me a scholarship, I was surprised and relieved at the same time,” Jackson said. “I was excited to be a part of the track team, but it also felt good that my mom would not have to pay for me to go to school.”

Jackson has been more than just a regular student. From the moment he participated in Albany State’s first meet, it was evident that the 6-0, 143-lb freshman from Bainbridge, Ga. would be a main contributor to the Golden Rams’ tradition-rich track program. By the end of the 2016 SIAC Track & Field championships, Jackson’s performances had fellow student-athletes and opposing coaches marveling at his natural talent.

For his efforts, he is the 2015-2016 Albany State Male Athlete of the Year.

Although he had impressive showings during his senior year of high school, Jackson still wasn’t sure he had the credentials to be a college track & field athlete. His doubt was still evident when Albany State traveled to Savannah, Ga. to compete in the Savannah State Eye opener.

“The first meet was literally an eye opener for me, and it was really tough,” Jackson admits. “The only thing I scored points in was the javelin, hurdles and triple jump.”

However, Taylor saw something during the first meet that only demonstrated the pure potential Jackson possessed.

“CJ became our first provisional national qualifier in the triple jump,” Taylor said. “He jumped 48 feet to put him in that position. Although he needed about two more feet to make it to nationals, that was a great jump for his first college meet.”

After hearing that news, Jackson slowly began to flourish. With each competition, he felt himself getting better and his confidence started to rise higher.

“I progressed slowly, but everything was getting better,” Jackson claimed. “My times were going down, and I was jumping further. Plus, I was going against great competition, which made me step my game up.”

Jackson was definitely getting better in all of his events. He started performing so well that he even had time to show off his dance moves in between various events.

“That’s just my routine,” Jackson said with a laugh. “I dance in between events to get myself prepared to compete. It helps me relax and focus.”

The opposing competitors and coaches saw how relaxed and focused Jackson was at the 2016 SIAC Track & Field Championships.

From the start of the meet, the freshman showed his prowess in every event. He won the decathlon with a total of 5506 points, winning by a landslide. During the decathlon, Jackson placed first in the 100-meter dash, 110-meter hurdles and javelin throw. He came in second in the long jump, high jump, pole vault and discus throw.

In addition to the decathlon, Jackson earned the opportunity to stand on the podium in other events. He won the 110-hurdles and javelin titles, and earned second place finishes in the triple jump and pole vault.

For his performance that had everyone in attendance in astonishment, Jackson was presented with the SIAC Cleve Abbott Award, which is given to the athlete (male or female) who scores the most points during the meet. Jackson tallied 53 total points. He was also named the Men’s Field MVP.

“I couldn’t believe I got two MVP awards at the SIAC championships,” Jackson said. “A lot of people said I was the first freshman to do that. It doesn’t matter if I was the first. I just appreciated the opportunity.

Jackson finishes the season by placing fifth overall in the triple jump at the NCAA Division II Outdoor Track and Field Championships with a jump of 51 feet, 11.75 inches. His fifth place finish earned him recognition as an NCAA All-American in the triple jump.

Jackson also received awards from the track and field program. At the ASU Athletics annual banquet, he was awarded the Most Valuable Player, Freshman of the Year, Man Award and High Point trophies.

Taylor believes Jackson will continue to improve and elevate his performances in the near future.

“CJ is all heart and believes he can do anything,” Taylor said. “He probably can. He is a novice at track and field, and his best performances are ahead of him.”

There is one other matter that lingers about Jackson. Why does he dance so much?

“He can’t help it about his dancing,” Pamela Jackson said. “He actually gets that from me.”