Feb. 22, 2010
Senior Kenjamine Jackson took a long route to Washington for someone who graduated from Kentwood High School just south of Seattle. One of the leaders of the sprints group, Jackson talks about how he never saw himself at the UW, but after two community college stops and a year at Cal State Northridge, Jackson ended up at Washington in 2009, where he was part of the 4x100-meter relay squad that qualified for the NCAA Outdoor Championships. Jackson is in a rare position where he only has indoor eligibility left, so his college career is winding down in the next few weeks. A sociology major, Jackson talks about the winding road to Washington, and his future plans for volunteer service and graduate school.
GoHuskies.com: You're coming off a successful outdoor season last year that saw you make your first trip to the NCAA outdoor meet. Can you talk a bit more about what that experience was like?
Kenjamine Jackson: Last year was amazing. We had a coaching change at the beginning of the year so I was kind of unsure because the first coach who was here was the one I had come to UW for from Cal State Northridge, so that was a bit of a transition. But things, they worked out. I had injuries and everything, but I kind of fought through those and in the end, going to NCAA's, it was an amazing experience. I enjoyed it a lot.
GH: Can you tell me a bit about how training has been going so far and what a day of training might look like for you at this point in the season?
KJ: Well, we pretty much have our basic training done from fall so right now we're just fine tuning things to get ready for the MPSF Championships. Just kind of honing in on training. Training this year has gone great. I've stayed healthy this fall whereas last year I had been hurt 3 times by now. Compared to last year it has gone a lot better.
GH: Coach Sheen has emphasized that the foundation of your sprints group is built around the relays; can you talk about how the relay squads look for this indoor season? I think that you and Jeff (Gudaitis) are the two returners from last year's 4x100 relay that went to the NCAA outdoor meet.
KJ: Actually, yes. Well, Jeff hasn't run indoors yet, so I'm not too sure how that is going to play out. But we have a lot of young talent coming up and that is what I'm really excited about. With the guys that we have we should be pretty good for the MPSF 4x400 relay.
GH: You're entering your final season as a Husky, can you tell me what some of your goals and expectations are for yourself this season?
KJ: I just finally came into the realization that I have three more weeks in my career left so I that's a little weird (laughs). But my goals, first off I just want to have fun because you know I've gone through all the pressure and everything, putting it on myself and achieving goals. There's nothing wrong with writing goals down and everything, but first off I just want to have fun and enjoy myself out here. But secondly, I want to PR in everything that I do (laughs). Whether it be my relay split, the 60m, the 200m. And then I really believe that I may have a chance, if I keep everything in line, to hopefully qualify for nationals in the 200m; that's what I really want to do.
GH: Great. So your dad was an All-American on the track for Southern Methodist University. Has track always been something that you've wanted to pursue?
KJ: Well, my parents never let me do any sports until the 7th grade. That was kind of frustrating because they let my brother do everything, but it's cool (laughs). My first love is definitely football, and I thought that I would still be doing football at this point in my life. But things just didn't work out because I had to go to junior college and none of my junior colleges had football or anything like that. Track had been something that I had had success in, I mean high school was great, I won a few state championships so that was pretty cool. But yeah, after I realized that football really wasn't going to go or work out for me I just continued with track and wanted to see how far it could take me.
GH: Since you graduated from high school in 2005, you've transferred from 2 other colleges, eventually ending up at UW. Can you talk a bit about this experience and how you eventually ended up in Seattle?
KJ: (laughs) It's three colleges actually. Well, coming out of high school I was never the biggest Washington fan, so I was trying to get as far away as possible (laughs). I mean, the way I set myself up in high school, I didn't set myself up for a great future. I barely graduated high school, so I had to take the long route and went to Highline and didn't really know what I was doing that first year. And then they cut their track program so I went to Clackamas Community College and that was a pretty good experience for me. It set me up with a little bit of an academic foundation and I regained what I lost in track. And then Cal State Northridge came calling. Moving to L.A. was amazing. I love California, I love L.A., I love the heat, I love that school out there. But their program wasn't really fitting what I wanted to do with my life so I sought other opportunities, and here came UW! (laughs) I never thought I would be here, but everything in the end has ended up great. From an academic standpoint, I'm getting ready to go to grad school, not this year but the year after next, so that's pretty exciting. Sports-wise, I have no regrets. The decisions I've made to transfer from whatever school, I think I've gained a pretty good bag of tricks for my future. I may not have had the success that I wanted, but I have no regrets. I enjoyed it.
GH: So did you know James Frederickson? [Fredrickson transferred from CS Northridge to UW in 2006 and earned All-America honors as a Husky]
KJ: Yeah, for sure. He came from Seaside too. So when I actually thought about it I spoke with James, just to see what he thought about it. He told me it wouldn't be the easiest transition academically, because the curriculum at UW is first here, so that was a big difference and it got me the first quarter that I was here. It wasn't smooth, but I got it done.
GH: So coming from 3 different colleges, how has the coaching been different with Coach Sheen versus your previous coaches?
KJ: Coach Sheen is a different coach than I've ever had in any sport in my life. Last year, I couldn't really get a grasp of his personality because he was thrown in the 4th or 5th week of school. He didn't really have a chance to implement his own program and none of us were his own guys that he had recruited, so that was probably different for him. So I tried to make that as easy as possible for him, I just did what he said and I was nice (laughs). But this year has been great. I've kind of seen him grow up a little bit (laughs). I mean he's my coach and everything, but I've seen him grown up a little bit, and his personality is unraveling. But what I really enjoy about this year and Coach Sheen is his passion. I get to see his passion every day. He loves this sport and he loves coaching us. I feel like he has the greatest job in the world (laughs), what can be better than investing in people's futures right now, whether it be academically or on the track. It's been pretty cool to watch him and see how he's evolved through these past few years. I've enjoyed it.
GH: What's the atmosphere like around practice? Are there any jokesters in the group or is it pretty serious?
KJ: (laughs) This new guy we have from England, James (Alaka), that boy is crazy. His personality is off the wall. And then he has the English influence too, so that is a totally different world that he is bringing over here. He has the different dialect and everything so I really enjoy that. We have so many freshmen on our team right now, it just makes me feel like an old man. I'm 22 out here with 18 year olds, it's a little different. But practice is great. We have Falesha (Ankton), she holds it down, she's a social butterfly so her personality just sticks out. But there's no conflict on our team or anything like that so I enjoy practice; even on the hard days it's all good.
GH: What is your major?
GH: You said you were going to apply to grad school. Do you have any other plans for after graduation?
KJ: Well since I'm not going directly to grad school, I'm going to take this year off of actual school and just get some experience. I want to do a couple volunteerships abroad in Africa and Mexico and help with the literacy movement out there and disadvantaged neighborhoods. So we'll see how that goes, build my resume up a little bit. But hopefully that next year I will be going to grad school in Atlanta.