Much as she did the competition, LaQuisha Jackson put any lingering concern over her injured right knee behind her Tuesday afternoon.
Howard's junior sprinter, who set state records in the 100 and 200 meters last season, came into this season with a sore knee that kept her from running in early meets. But after resting and not competing recently, Jackson returned to her impressive form when she needed to most.
At the Class A/AA East sub-sectional at Red Bank, which is the first step in qualifying for the state meet, Jackson blistered the competition, easily winning the 100 and 200 and helping the Lady Hustlin' Tigers to first-place finishes in the 4x100 and 4x200 relays.
Her time in the 100 (11.49 seconds) was just off her state-record finish last year (11.46), and her time in the 200 was a region record. Howard's 4x200 time (1:43.74) also set a region record, by nearly a full second.
"I'll be honest, I was a little nervous earlier this year because I wasn't able to work as hard as I wanted to, and I didn't know if somebody out there was outworking me and catching me," Jackson said. "I prayed a lot about my knee, and to be honest, I think what I did today was not so much me running, but God working through me."
The top four finishers in each event automatically advance to next week's sectional meet at Christian Academy of Knoxville, and other athletes still could move on as at-large qualifiers. The top two finishers next week advance to the state meet.
"We knew her body needed rest, so we pretty much just shut her down for a while to let her knee heal," Howard coach Jennifer Mitchell said. "I think she's really close to being back where she needs to be for the state meet. She's still kind of holding back, so it's kind of scary to see how much better she gets when she's really able to push herself in a couple of weeks."
Red Bank's Kameno Watson also dominated the boys' sprint events, winning the 100 (10.96) and 200 (22.30) and helping the Lions' 4x100 relay team set a region record (42.59). Tyner's Jabrie Leverett won the 400 and finished second to Watson in the 100 and 200.
"Last year was the first time I ran the 400, so by now I've learned how to pace myself and have plenty for the kick in the finals 100," Leverett said. "The 400 is mostly mental, honestly. It's a tough race, but I push myself full speed, and I think I've got a good shot at winning it in the state."