So far this season, Claremore High School junior sprinter Tyler Jackson has posted the state's top times in the 100 and 200 meters. (10.26 and 21.32 respectively.) And to those around him, his character is as uncommonly good as his running.
"Tyler's very a talented individual," said head coach Eric Wies. "On top of his talent, he works very hard in the classroom. He just does things the right way."
When speaking to the defending 5A state champion in the 400 meters, it doesn't take long to realize Jackson's satisfaction doesn't necessarily come from winning as much as the enjoyment of beating the competition.
"I ran a 48.07, which was the fastest time [at the 2012 5A state meet]," Jackson explained with an easy smile. "I took the kid that was a 3-time state champion, a senior, and knocked him off the pedastal. It was a really good year."
Like many exceptional athletes, Jackson's success runs in the family. "My father was a track star in Georgia," said Jackson. "I beat him last year as a sophomore, I ran a faster time than his was as a senior. It felt good, that was my goal."
But this is about much more than just beating his father's best times. It's about doing what Tyler's dad couldn't: Compete at the collegiate level.
Tyler said, "He ended up having to take care of me. He had me in high school."
And it's understanding those choices which allows Jackson to do what almost any talented teenager may deal with: Staying humble.
"My friends say, 'you have every right to be cocky,'" Tyler said. "You can't, you can't do that. My dad, he would even say he was cocky. And he ended up with a kid."
Tyler Jackson has already received letters of interest from some of the top college track and field programs including Arkansas and LSU. But competing in college is just another step.
"I want to go to the Olympics," Jackson said. "I want to go far. I have high expectations of myself."
Next up for Jackson and the Claremore Zebras is the 5A Regional meet beginning Friday in Tahlequah.
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