CLEVELAND, Tenn. - The innocent smile and the fact that she's only a freshman are incredibly misleading. Once Howard sprinter LaQuisha Jackson steps into the starting blocks, the smile is replaced by determination and her youth is overshadowed by her raw talent.
Jackson continued to build on her budding local reputation Thursday at the annual Optimist track and field meet, held this year at Walker Valley High School. She set a meet record by winning the 100-meter dash in 12.14 seconds, then helped the Lady Hustlin' Tigers' 4x100 relay team breeze to a win.
Earlier this season Jackson set the area standard with an 11.91 in the 100 and also has the top 200 time (25.0). She has also anchored Howard's 4x100 and 4x200 relay teams that have the area's top times, recorded at last weekend's Mid-South Meet at McCallie. Both teams set meet records there.
"We used to challenge each other in middle school to see who was the fastest on the playground," said Jackson, who helped Howard's 4x400 relay team win the state title last year. "After a few boys had to make excuses why I beat them, I realized I could run pretty good. I don't like to brag on myself, because it's a gift from God and he could take it away any time. I'll leave that stuff up to other people to talk about.
"I was scared the first time I ran against older girls as an eighth-grader. I'm getting used to it now."
The meet had not concluded by press time.
Despite replacing two members of last year's state champion 4x100 and 4x200 teams, Ooltewah's sprinters also remained strong Thursday. With Johnny Myricks out with a pulled hamstring, the only two remaining members of last year's record-setting relay squad are Tim Williams and Sammy Seamster. But those two, Kalvin Bolds and Darion Delaney easily swept the sprint relays and Seamster added first-place finishes in the 100 and 200.
"Even without Johnny, I don't put any added pressure on myself," Seamster said. "We're a team, not just one person, so I just concentrate on doing my job and believe that the other three guys, whoever they are, will do theirs.
"When I ran the open 100 and 200, I wanted to do just enough to win and not risk pulling a muscle."
Ooltewah teammate Jacques Smith, a preseason state favorite in the shot put, was upset in that event when Walker Valley's Paul Hunter edged him on his final throw.
Red Bank's Claire Turner set a meet record (11:33.37) in the 3200, barely beating Notre Dame's Alex Mullin. Also, Red Bank's Amber Dandy set a meet record by long jumping 18 feet, 10.5 inches.
Optimist Track and Field Meet
Thursday at Walker Valley High School
Girls' top finishers
100 meters - LaQuisha Jackson (Howard) 12.14, Amber Dandy (Red Bank) 12.57, Jasmine Hines (Ooltewah) 12.99.
4x100 - Howard 50.25, Tyner 51.28, Notre Dame 51.44.
4x800 - GPS 10:14.51, Baylor 10:45.87, Southeast Whitfield 10:55.72.
Discus - Jordan Beard (Cleveland) 113-06, Brianna Sosebee (Southeast Whitfield) 106-00, Heather Parman (GPS) 104-03.
High jump - Abbie Dill (Baylor) 5-3, Taylor Pannell (Baylor) 5-1, Haley Horsch (Ooltewah) 5-1.
3200 - Claire Turner (Red Bank) 11:33.37, Alex Mullin (Notre Dame) 11:34.82, Carter Harrison (Baylor) 12:04.24,
100 hurdles - Tasha Austin (Howard) 15.60, Jasmine Brown (GPS) 15.87, Tory Kemp (GPS) 15.96.
1600 - Hannah Jumper (Baylor) 5:21.28, Claire Turner (Red Bank) 5:26.38, Alex Mullin (Notre Dame) 5:30.10.
Triple jump - Sally Warm (Baylor) 35-6.75, Hillary Nevad (Southeast Whitfield) 34-10, Jasmine Brown (GPS) 34-6.5.
Shot put - Lacie Roberson (Southeast Whitfield) 34-11.5, Jordan Beard (Cleveland) 34-7.5, Kristen Pickett (Cleveland) 33-3.
Long jump - Amber Dandy (Red Bank) 18-10.5, Kelli Smith (Brainerd) 18-2.5, Haley Horsch (Ooltewah) 17-4.5.
Boys' top finishers
4x100 - Ooltewah 42.52, Tyner 42.79, South Pittsburg 43.90.
Discus - Chase Jolander (McCallie) 128-6, Steffen Getsinger (Baylor) 126-5, Blake Coddington (McCallie) 125-4.
High jump - Taylor Wilson (Grace Baptist) 6-1, Keenan Rush (McCallie) 5-11, Clinton Jacques (Walker Valley) 5-9.
3200 - Jake Bradley (N/A) 10:24.92, Tyler Holmes (Soddy-Daisy) 10:30.75, Matt Coniglio (CCS) 10:35.88.
110 hurdles - Keenan Rush (McCallie) 15.34, Josh Robinson (Red Bank) 15.50, Troy Taylor (Baylor) 15.96.
Shot put - Paul Hunter (Walker Valley) 51-8.5, Jacques Smith (Ooltewah) 51-3.25, R.J Enderle (McCallie) 48-2.75.
Long jump - Landis Anderson (Cleveland) 23-3, Eric Greene (Ooltewah) 21-10.5, Daymond Williams (Red Bank) 20-3.
Triple jump - Pierce DeRico (McCallie) 40-11, Tory Taylor (Baylor) 39-8.25, Eric Greene (Ooltewah) 38-7.5.
100 - Sammy Seamster (Ooltewah) 11.10, Brandon Banks (Howard) 11.25, Kalvin Bolds (Ooltewah) 11.33.
1600 - Alex Stephens (Cleveland) 4:35.63, Jake Bradley (N/A) 4:50.26, Alexander Blanton (Notre Dame) 4:53.82.
4x800 - McCallie 8:51.41, Ooltewah 9:03.03, Notre Dame 9:04.53.