Posted Online: March 19, 2013, 9:12 pm

It's time for Jackson to lead Rocks

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By Daniel Makarewicz,

Photo: Clark Brooks / PhotoNews
Rock Island senior sprinter Troy Jackson, right, has won a medal in three consecutive state meets. Jackson, who has seven state medals, will be a key leader for the Rocks this season.
Troy Jackson has yet to fully grasp the imprint she will leave on the Rock Island girls' track team.

"It might dawn on me when I count the medals," the senior sprinter said.

That alone is enough to make Jackson one of the program's most decorated athletes.

However, there is far more she can accomplish this season. What she can do is bigger than the seven state medals Jackson already has earned.

Rocky simply needs her to be a leader.

Do that and a legacy forever is etched.

"We talk about it all the time," Rocky coach Michelle Lillis said. "I tell her that she has to be the leader and teach others how to be leaders as well. Not only is she being a leader for the team, but she has to teach those under her to be better leaders so that a legacy of having a good track team can continue.

"It can't if we don't have those leaders."

With Jackson on the track, the Rocks know what they are getting. One of 15 Illinois Quad-Cities Metro athletes to medal in three different girls' track state meets, she provides Rocky with experience and explosiveness in the sprint events.

Earn another medal in May, she would be the fifth Metro girls' athlete to do so in four different state meets.

Asked if the medal count is what she wants the legacy to be, Jackson quickly shifts the focus. In that moment, she offers an answer that drips with maturity.

"I'd definitely like to be remembered as a person who really cared about my team," Jackson said.

Sacrificing personal goals for the team defines Jackson's career. Each medal came from a relay, meaning that open events took a back seat.

Whenever the Rocks needed a strong relay leg, Jackson stepped forward and made it a state-caliber quartet.

"She has given up opportunities to shine as an individual," Lillis said. "Pretty unselfish on her part."

Those actions set a positive tone, one that is needed to mold a team Lillis describes as being a mixture of potential and youth. In order for the potential to fully blossom, the team, Lillis said, must rally behind Jackson.

In order for the team to get where it wants to go, it will be her to help get them there.

"We have a lot of skill and a lot of talent from very young kids, but skill and talent are not everything unless you learn how to train to make yourself better," Lillis said. "You'll never get to that next level. She is the one who needs to guide them there."

Jackson appears ready for the role as the Rocks prepare for their first outdoor meet on Saturday in Edwardsville. As she puts it, she will walk the walk rather than talk the talk when it comes to making sure Rocky is ready.

For three years, she always has led by example.

"I love my team and I love the girls," Jackson said. "(Leading) is easy to do. The role is easy ... and it's not scary."

Ready for the challenge, the singular goal in Jackson's mind is ensuring the Rocks finish within the top 10 at the Class 3A state meet.

"Nothing would make her happier," Lillis said. "It would be a lot to ask for, but she's part of the crew that would make it happen."

By making it happen, Jackson will forever cement her legacy.

"She would be golden," Lillis said. "She's a great one to have."

Four of a kind

The Illinois Quad-Cities Metro has four individuals who have medaled four consecutive years at the girls' state meet. Rock Island senior sprinter Troy Jackson looks to join the list this year. Here's a look at the group.

Genesis Johnson (Rock Island, 2006-09)
Cheryl Pittman (United Township, 1976-79)
Amy Shemek (Alleman, 1988-91)
Ciara Turner (Rock Island, 2007-10)