(Photo by Donald Lamb)
Amber Jackson's interest in track and field peaked as an elementary school student. Over time, the Gateway senior has grown into one of the top jumpers in Osceola County and in the state. She never thought she would be signing a scholarship as a kid. As a junior, she wasn't sure she would have the opportunity to sign anywhere, but she really wanted to receive a college scholarship. Jackson says the recruiting process was very interesting and exciting.
"It was nice to know that I had options. I felt I was performing well enough to start looking into a recruiting process. As I was looking at the different factors in the recruiting process, the most challenging part for me was finding the college that fits my character. It definitely has been a great learning experience."
Jackson considered Arkansas State, University of North Florida, Howard University, and Appalachian State before ultimately deciding to take her talents to LaSalle University in Philadelphia. She says LaSalle had a comfort from the first moment she stepped foot on campus.
"It was sort of like an automatic “this is the one” when I got there. I thought the campus was beautiful and I liked their programs. In my spare time, there will be many things to do on and off campus. I’m really excited about that. I’m really looking forward to competing against other college athletes. I can finally wear the jewelry I want to wear while competing against my other competitors."
For the first time in her career, Jackson won both districts and regional championships. She currently has the seventh best mark in the long jump for 4A (18-9.5) and seventh best mark for the triple jump (38-6.5) coming into the state meet this weekend. She says the Explorers are getting a very determined athlete.
"I’m very critical of myself at times, but this year, I really started to find myself to become the best student athlete I can be. I want to be able to succeed in what I know I am capable of doing."
Saturday's 4A State Championship will mark the last meet of Jackson's high school career. In her four years she has set the school record in the long and triple jump. She says she will miss watching herself improve, the high school atmoshphere with teammates and coaches, and going to college meets to see athletes of different levels compete. She adds all her success would not be possible without a great support system.
"I would like to thank my coaches Coach Branch and Coach James for always believing in me and helping me find my potential in what I know I can do even when I am incredibly difficult. (which I am often). I’d like to thank my friends from the track team who are always there and have never failed to cheer me on and raise my spirits. I’d like to thank my Mother and my family for their help and for helping me forward."
Coach Cliff Branch has high praise for his senior standout.
"Amber has been a very motivated and positive student athlete with high expectations to be the best that she could be and always encourage her teammates to do the same. Amber’s perseverance to become the best in her events have transition to her teammates to become a better student athlete in being committed and having a good work ethic.
He will remember Amber as being a competitor who was not satisfied with being average along with her finding herself as an athlete, and her very colorful socks she wrote to practice. He knows LaSalle is getting a great athlete and a great person off the track as well.
"I know LaSalle will be getting a smart young lady that’s a great competitor that will be committed in doing whatever it takes to take LaSalle’s program and herself to the next level."