SportStars Magazine

Taking Flight

A Dominant Season In The Hurdles Has Made Aiden Jackman A Favorite To Become Clayton Valley’s First Track & Field State Champion In Two Decades •

Aiden Jackman’s elevation up the high school hurdles ranks had been steady. But this spring, he’s taken a gigantic leap.

At one of the state’s biggest midseason stages — the Arcadia Invitational — the Clayton Valley Charter-Concord senior broke both of his personal records in hurdles. At the April 7 event, he ran 13.98 seconds in the 110-meter hurdles, bettering his previous personal record of 14.0 the week before at Stanford (taking a half-second off an earlier personal record of 14.5). And at Arcadia, he went 37.47 in the 300 hurdles, bettering his previous record of 38.1. 

Both of his hurdles times remained the best in California as of April 29. He’s blown away preseason goals, like running a 14.3 in the 110 by the state meet.

“I surpassed those goals fairly early and it’s a little bit of a surprise to even me,” he said. “It’s a little bit of a different feeling, being ranked No. 1 in California; going from not even being ranked very highly in NCS last year to now being No. 1 in the state. It doesn’t feel as grand as I thought it would, but it’s nice to know that you are the one everyone is looking out for.”

It’s quite a leap for someone who made the state meet a year ago in the 110 hurdles, but didn’t get past trials. Given his penchant for big performances at big meets, his state championship goals of winning both hurdles appear quite attainable.

“In the early, early season, in March, I wasn’t running the fastest times, but that’s just because I didn’t have the competition,” Jackman said. “It came with the Stanfords and the Arcadias and the Mt. SACs. I think the competition definitely helps.”

 

At Stanford, he won the 400 hurdles with a personal record of 52.85, at that point the top high school mark in the nation. Along with the 110 personal record he set, he filled in on Clayton Valley’s 1,600 relay team and helped them to victory.

“I was in awe of him,” Clayton Valley head coach Keisha Lowe said. “Good job, hard work pays off. It was a nice feeling as a coach. And it was faster than some of the college kids.”

Jackman has UCLA, Cal State Fullerton and Sacramento State as potential next stops with a goal of studying film. And he’s confident in his ability and potential in making a June return to Veterans Memorial Stadium in Clovis.

That confidence level wasn’t the case when he started in the sport at age 6.

“I’ve always been running track, but (as a kid) I just never was any good at it,” he recalled with a slight chuckle. “When I was young, I used to run the short races, like the 50 and the 100, but that was just because the shorter the race, the less distance you could lose by.”

Jackman found his niché after running the 400 meters in middle school before aspiring to be a high jumper.

“When I came into high school, my dad said I wasn’t fast enough to compete in the open (400) in high school, so he had me try my hand at the 300 hurdles, and it worked out all right. And my team didn’t have a 110 hurdler at the time, so I ended up taking that on as well.”

Fatherly advice is readily available, as his father, Andrew, is his hurdles coach at Clayton Valley.

“He taught himself how to coach hurdles because he wanted me to run hurdles,” said. “And there was no hurdles coach at Clayton Valley. So he taught himself how to coach it so he could come here and coach me.”

Lowe, Clayton Valley’s head track and field coach since Jackman’s sophomore senior, has had a front-row view of his progress.

“She is definitely the toughest coach I’ve ever had in terms of what she expects from her athletes,” Jackman said. “But that’s the reason we have so many good runners here now. It’s because of her coaching.”

Last year, Jackman was part of an Ugly Eagles state contingent that included four individual qualifiers and two relays. They are aiming for a larger group this June.

“Just by his actions alone, (his teammates) are looking at him and thinking ‘Wow,’ and so they work a little bit harder just as well,” Lowe said. “When I am dealing with the rest of the team, he will get the hurdlers and get them started. He also gives them tips on things to do better,” Lowe said. “He’s very mature this year. It shows. A year makes a big difference.”

Last year he ran a 14.83 in his 110 trials heat and didn’t advance. That was after placing second in the 110 and fifth in both the 300 hurdles and high jump to help lead Clayton Valley to a boys team title at the North Coast Section Meet of Champions. At his first state meet, Jackman’s focus was on executing, not on the magnitude of the meet.

“I knew a lot of the guys in my heat, I was in with a lot of fast guys. And I knew if I wanted to be competitive I would have to run the race of my life,” he said. “For me, when I walked out there and I saw where they had the speakers behind the blocks and I looked up at everyone in the stands, that’s when it got real for me. And I realized just how big a stage it really was.”

Now he has set his aim on being Clayton Valley’s first state champion in track and field since Benson Jones won the triple jump in 1998. With the timing of the state meet’s hurdles schedule, it’s possible to compete and win both events. Count Lowe as one who firmly believes Jackman can do it.

“Oh, I know it (his potential to win state)! We are ready for first at state!” she said. “He has been working really hard, to improve his speed and improve his technique going over the hurdles, which has greatly helped him get over the hurdles really quick. So we are looking for a first.”

For Jackman, success at state would be a way of demonstrating thanks to those who helped him to this level. Those who transformed him from a kid who didn’t see much potential for success, to one who expects it.

“So it’s just a matter of showing all those people who believed in me — the whole way around — all the coaches who worked with me — showing them that they were right and everything they did to work with me and help me was not in vain,” he said. 

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