No Time For The Pain

April 29, 1994|By Chuck Acquisto | Chuck Acquisto,Special to The Sun

When Howard High junior Mona Jackson explodes off the long-jump takeoff mark it is difficult to tell whether it is frustration, physical pain or a combination of both that makes her suddenly grimace.

Jackson, one of the area's premier field event competitors and the defending state Class 3A champion in the high jump (5-3) and triple jump (35-plus), has struggled with sharp ligament pains in her left knee all spring.

"Actually, the pain has been coming and going for the last five years," said Jackson. "I never thought anything of it, but I should've had it checked out a long time ago."

Jackson, who this spring holds the area's top high-jump mark (5-7) as well as the second-best efforts in the long jump (16-6) and triple jump (36-6), expected surgery would be inevitable at some point in her athletic career.

"My father broke his left ankle and needed surgery and my brother Jabrialle has a screw in his left knee after an operation," Jackson said. "It's because my family's leg bone grows up and out.

"Each time my left knee has popped out, there has been more grinding of the bone at that joint, which causes the pain."

Jackson, however, has put off arthroscopic surgery until after the high school season so she can compete for the Lions and defend her state titles.

After a June operation, Jackson will rehabilitate her knee for three weeks before beginning AAU track competition in July.

"Right now I'm really scared to push it [the knee] in competition," said Jackson, who wears tape and a brace on her knee while competing.

"My fear is one reason why I got off the 4x400 relay team. I don't even go for personal bests any more. I just find out what the longest or highest jump is and try to top that to get my team points."

Howard field coach Dave Glenn said he and Lions girls coach Joe Thomas agreed that after Jackson nearly collapsed after the mile relay at Westminster High's competition earlier this season, Jackson should stick to the field events.

"We can't tell the extent of her injury other than it is around the knee-joint area," Glenn said.

To combat the pain, Glenn has limited the number of practice runs Jackson does before each meet, demanded more stretching and has changed her high-jump approach.

"Many high jumpers come in with a J approach like Mona's teammate Melissa Williamson," said Glenn.

"With Mona, I have her doing a semi-circle approach. It takes a little pressure off the knee and forces her to use more of her upper body in the jump."

Jumping is one of Jackson's specialties. Although she never has had her vertical leap measured, the 5-foot-7 Lion boasts of being able to touch the rim on a 10-foot basketball basket.

Glenn credits not only Jackson's high-jump approach to improving her state-winning leap of a year ago by four inches, but also the Lion junior's extended basketball season last winter for making her legs faster and stronger.

"We came into the state regionals 11-11 and I thought I would be running track by the next week, with no vacation," Jackson said with a smile. "I was ready for track, but we got on a little winning streak."

Howard's basketball winning streak did not end until the Lions, under coach Craig O'Connell, had captured the Class 3A state title in Cinderella fashion.

"I credit my good-luck charm, a scorpion [pendant], that I got right before the Broadneck game," Jackson said of the streak.

"I wear it now during track warm-ups, then tuck it in my shoe. As long as it keeps my luck going, I'll stick with it."

Jackson hopes her charm, and her athletic talent, will help her land an athletic scholarship from the University of North Carolina.

"That's my dream school because of the campus and the fact it has my major, children's education," said Jackson.

"I used to think basketball would get me a scholarship, but I've been getting as far in track and field, so now it's whichever sport can pull me in there and I'll be happy."

Glenn has little doubt Jackson can attain any athletic or academic goal she sets out to achieve.

"As a coach, I hate to see her competing hurt," Glenn said. "But as a person, I cannot deny her determination to persevere, which is inspiring."

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