By Doug Ireland
For all of the gold medals and awards Natashia “Speedy” Jackson has collected in her incredible three years as a Northwestern State Lady Demon track and field star, there’s another couple titles that fit as well as her two nicknames – Speedy and Smiley.
For the first time in three Southland Conference championships, Jackson didn’t capture the High Point Scorer award, now known as the Most Valuable Performer Award, when the 2019 Southland Outdoors concluded Sunday afternoon on her home track, the Walter P. Ledet Track Complex.
She did stack up her typical high scoring total, registering 24 points with a sensational sweep of the 200 and 400 dash championships, along with searing anchor legs on second-place 4×100 and 4×400 relays.
You could have stayed busy Sunday keeping track of Jackson’s action. You would have been entertained following her when she wasn’t running extremely fast.
Along with being among the elite performers in the three-day conference meet, Jackson was a gracious host. If the Southland handed out honors for “Miss Congeniality” and “Best Sportsmanship,” the junior from Houston would be an easy winner.
After her last race, the 4×400 relay, while waiting for her last trip to the awards podium, Jackson couldn’t resist going alongside the inside lane of the track to cheer on the competitors in the men’s race: first her Demon teammates in heat one, then runners from other schools in the second heat.
When she did step up to the podium, just as she had done earlier for the 4×100 silver medal and her golds in the 200 and 400 dashes, she spent more time congratulating the competition than she did grasping her medals.
While she was being interviewed, that spirit was returned by a member of Stephen F. Austin’s second-place men’s 4×400 team, who made his way over to congratulate Jackson and thank her for her support.
Then as fans and competitors filed out of the Ledet Complex on Leon Johnson Lane, there was Jackson again, chatting with athletes from other schools and their parents.
“I know a lot of athletes who compete against me, and some male athletes at other schools, they always support me and no matter what, they have positive feedback and encouragement for me. For me it’s common courtesy to support those who support me, and as long as somebody thinks you believe in them, they’re going to run stronger, which helps us run stronger,” said Jackson, who is also an honor roll student. “My main goal is to spread positivity.”
“You’ve got to look beyond what you do. You’ve got to look at what others do. That person who finished behind me was working her tail off just as hard as me, so why not show her appreciation and encouragement?” she said. “It’s good sportsmanship.”
Unlike too many athletes in sports, Jackson competes joyfully. Others take notice.
“I’m not cocky, I’m very humble, I’m very sweet. I’m thankful for the opportunities I have,” she said.
And she’s inspired by her competition.
“This was a very tough conference this year. It was harder to compete, but at the end of the day, it helped me to pull off some great results for the team and everyone else who came to support us.”
Jackson won her third straight Southland Outdoors 400 championship with a school record 53.49 clocking, almost a second ahead of anyone else Sunday. She set a personal record of 23.55 while claiming the 200 dash, an outcome that was her first league victory in that event. It was also faster than any other Lady Demon has run in that race, other than 2018 senior De’Shalyn Jones.
“Going into the 2, I just wanted to get top two, but pulling off the double was a huge accomplishment that I’ve always had on my mind since I got to college. The main thing was to focus on the 4 and retain my title, and I broke the school record, so that was the second thing that shocked me.
“With two PRs, and coming back and running second in both relays, it was pretty good for me,” said Jackson.
Along with adding to her team’s total and her bulging resume, Jackson had a special motivation, along with her teammates. She earned honorable mention All-America honors last June running alongside
2018 senior Daeshon Gordon on the Lady Demons’ 4×100 relay that finished 22nd nationally. Gordon passed away suddenly last fall. Since, the NSU program has adopted the slogan “Do It for Dae.”
“(This was) all for Dae. If she was here, she would contribute as much as she could, supporting us,” said Jackson. “Just to have her running with me in spirit, all of this today was for her.”
Jackson’s nickname of “Speedy” has been with her for years. She picked up the “Smiley” tag recently.
“I didn’t get that until I got here. Everyone says, ‘you smile through everything, good and bad.’ I believe no matter what, you’ve got to be blessed and thankful to come out here and train, let alone compete. Just to be able to train pain-free, injury-free, I feel blessed to say I’ve never had to experience that. I’m so happy to be in this position.”
With the NCAA East Preliminary Round May 23-25 giving her another opportunity to shine, and a potential path back to the national meet, Speedy has ample reason to be Smiley.