Coach Carmen Jackson enjoys fruits of her labors
By Derek Joy
It was more than the pleasure of seeing the kids back in school. More than the marvel of watching kids enjoy their new clothes, shoes, friends and more.
Yes. Miami Northwestern High School Lady Bulls Track Coach Carmen Jackson had more than the wonder of back to school that set her aglow.
Jackson beamed at the accomplishment of Brianna Rollins, one of her former track team members, who won the 100 meter hurdles world championship in Moscow, Russia.
And just like that, added reason there is a new level of pride in Rollins’ family, friends, Miami Northwestern and Clemson University – a World Champion.
Rollins, who need only complete her internship to graduate from Clemson University, also won the NCAA title and the U.S. title in an American record 12.26 seconds.
“Her career path has taken off,” Jackson said, in talking about Rollins’ success. “This elevates her. She stands out as a great role model. It shows how you can use track as a vehicle to a successful career.”
Rollins turned professional earlier this summer. She soon will complete an internship and earn her undergraduate degree.
Both, especially the latter, are significant for Rollins, the eldest of sev-en children – six brothers – raised by a single mother.
And both are reasons for Jackson to feel the pride that is combined in that of a mother, teacher, coach and mentor. Rollins isn’t Jackson’s first protégé to earn a college degree.
There are quite a few ahead of her there. She’s not the first to turn pro. Charlotte Grey, Wylleshia Myreck, Pav Elletiki James and Tiffany Ross Williams all turned pro before Rollins.
But it is a first on several counts for Rollins.
The Bulls can revel in Rollins’ accomplishment because she is their first world champion. In reaching that height, Rollins became Miami Dade County’s frist Black American female world champion.
Said Jackson: “We’re going to continue to build character, open doors for young ladies to have better opportunities in life. We’ll keep the train moving.”
Keeping the train moving what Jackson has done since her days as a sprinter for the Miami Jackson High School Generals when they won their first girls track state championship in 1975, under retired Coach Lula Smith.
Jackson, an All Dade selection in 1975, placed second at state in the 100 meters and ran a leg on the Generals’ state champion 400 meter relay team.
So, that train could very well end up the Hall of Fame at Miami Northwestern, Miami Dade County and Florida State High School Athletic Association.
First hired as assistant at Miami Northwestern in 1979, Jackson was elevated to head coach in 1990. Since then Jackson has become an icon, nurturing and molding talented young ladies in winning 10 state championship.
Jackson, when asked the significance of Rollins’ recent success, she said: “It validates all the efforts, all the ups and downs. It takes care of it all.”