Scorpions' Jackson makes gains through the pain Ankle problems fail to stop gymnast

April 12, 1993|By Michael Richman | Michael Richman,Contributing Writer

Competing with pain is nothing new for Oakland Mills gymnast Lori Jackson. The way she performs, though, it's hard to notice there is a problem.

Her achievement at the 1991 Howard County gymnastics tournament is a perfect example. Jackson completed routines with a throbbing pain in her left ankle, using an ice bucket between events to ease the discomfort. Howard's Terri Bradley finished first in all-around, nipping Jackson by three-tenths of a point.

A club and high school gymnast for nine years, Jackson has twice broke her ankle and has undergone five operations. But it's all part of the routine for arguably the county's finest gymnast.

Jackson, now a senior, described her feeling at the 1991 tournament as "horrible" and "one of my most challenging times" in competition.

"We started on floor and it was downhill from there," she said. "To do floor and then have to do three more events was the worst thing that could've happened."

"Even when her ankle is bothering her, she still competes," Oakland Mills coach Bonnie Taylor said. "She's extremely dedicated to herself and to the team. She doesn't give up and she gives her all no matter what."

Last season, Jackson again placed second in the county tourney, this time to Wilde Lake's Lisa Lee, 36.15-35.75. But with Lee graduated, Jackson is primed to fill the void as the county's best.

She's off on the right foot. After missing the season-opening meet, she placed first in all-around and all four individual events in a tri-meet with Howard and Wilde Lake on April 7, setting personal records in all-around (36.1) and parallel bars (9.2). It could be a good indication of her chances to win the county championship at Oakland Mills on May 3.

Despite her preseason goal to earn at least a 36, Jackson was "shocked" it happened so soon.

"It shows improvement and it kind of shocked me that I did so well," she said. "I thought I'd be about the same as last year and I had no clue that I'd get a 36 in the first meet."

Jackson's sore ankle has always been a concern. She underwent her most recent operation in the summer of 1991. She admits playing it "safe" last season, decreasing the amount of vaults and tumbles. It slowed her improvement.

"Last year, I didn't improve at all," she said. "I basically kept the same skills and I played it safe the entire year. This season, I've improved a lot."

Jackson has bettered herself by learning new skills that she practices at the Fairland Gymnastics Club in Laurel. Her routines are more refined with the "round-off back handspring" (balance beam), "pike tusk" (vault) and "double full" (floor exercise).

Does an experienced and advanced gymnast ever get nervous?

"Oh yeah, oh yeah," she said. "Nerves don't go away. It's pretty natural, though. They just make you work harder."

Her demeanor in practice and competition has always been polished. She doesn't flaunt her success, instead portraying a level-headed attitude. In her mind, having fun is just as important as winning.

Jackson's value to the Scorpions comes in various degrees. Not only is she almost automatic with points, but teammates -- particularly the inexperienced -- are tutored by her in practice. Taylor calls her a "coach's dream.

"It's very rare to find that quality of dedication to oneself and to one's team in a gymnast," the coach said. "She has such a good workable personality, she helps with the team, is not a prima donna and is mature for her age. There's one of me and 19 of them and Lori helps out."

Jackson is a co-captain with senior Kim Fiske and junior April Page.

"In practices, she's always helping the other people when they need help with routines," Fiske said.

Outside gymnastics, Jackson is quite active in extracurricular activities. She's the class president and a member of PLOOM, the Peer Leaders of Oakland Mills. With a 3.4 grade-point average, she was accepted at James Madison University, which also offered her a spot on the gymnastics team. She'll make her decision on college later this month.

Jackson, a candidate for the National High School Girls Gymnastics Championships in May, isn't overanxious about college competition.

"I'm pretty much just going to have fun," she said. "Being part of the team is what I'm looking forward to most."

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