It doesn’t seem that long ago that former MSU track and field star Dana Collins encouraged her daughter to lace up her shoes and try basketball. And if Makayla Jackson felt at any point that she didn’t want to play anymore, then Dana would be supportive of her decision. However, Collins didn’t go to the MSU you may be thinking of; she went to Michigan State University.
“I tried basketball when I was in fourth grade,” Makayla said. “I stopped my sophomore year of high school and realized this wasn’t something I wanted to go forward with. My mom wasn’t upset or anything, it just wasn’t for me.”
Fast-forward several years later, Jackson has traded out her basketball shoes for a pair of spikes that have helped her win several titles including: NCAA Division II Track and Field National Champion. And yes, this was the same kid whose mother put together a remarkable career at Michigan State before taking her talents to the Olympics.
Jackson’s choice to come to Minnesota State was rather simple. “It was kind of on me to decide to come here and honestly Mankato was the only school that was reaching out to me and really pressing me to come here,” said Jackson.
“For me, it feels good being able to follow in my mom’s footsteps,” Jackson said with a smile. “Whenever I hit a road bump in track, I always go to her because it feels like I’m running in her footsteps again.”
It’s safe to say that Jackson’s decision to come to MSU has turned out to be a good one, as earlier this season she was crowned National Champion for 60m and long jump. But while many athletes would be overjoyed to call themselves champions, Jackson looks back on that distinct moment with a smirk.
“Heading into the championships, I set expectations for myself,” Jackson said. “Once I crossed the finish line in the 60m and looked up at the time, I was upset because that wasn’t the time I wanted to run.”
“It messed up my emotions,” Jackson continued. “In my head I realized that I won, but it wasn’t the time that I wanted to win with. 10-15 minutes later after my coaches talked to me, I just accepted that I was a national champion.”
While many star athletes of different sports have smaller superstitions that help them get focused, Jackson is quick to say she isn’t one of them. “I do have routines that I like to go through however,” Jackson said with a laugh. “The night before a race I like to do this imagery thing where I think about how everything will play out. That way once the race day comes, I know how everything is gonna play out.”
With only two more years left of her athletic eligibility, Jackson has started thinking beyond the track about what she plans on doing after college. And while she plans on trying to go pro for track, growing up in an underprivileged area has led her toward a career in social work as well.
“I want to work with youth because I believe everyone has a story to tell,” Jackson said. “The help that I should’ve got when I was younger, I started to get when I was older. I could take all that help that I got and pass it to a youth that’s gonna need it.”
“I specifically want to work in the detention centers for youth,” Jackson continued. “They probably feel like they’re never gonna get out, and I want to be there to show them that there is light at the end of the tunnel.”
Header Photo: Sophomore Makayla Jackson has made her mark early in her collegiate career, most recently winning the individual national championships for the 60m dash and long jump. Jackson succeeds her mom, Dana, at MSU and hopes to follow in her shoes at the Olympics someday. (Dylan Long/The Reporter)
Write to Karson Buelow at firstname.lastname@example.org.