Gateway’s Jackson stays busy at PIAA championships
By: Michael Love
Friday, June 1, 2018 | 10:45 PM
Gateway track and field was well represented in championship meets to close out the 2017 spring campaign, and those performances extended to the PIAA Class AAA meet May 25 and 26 at Shippensburg.
Junior Courtney Jackson was the busiest of them all as he competed in four events — the 400-meter relay, the 100 dash, the long jump and the triple jump.
The Gators sprint relay of seniors Bobby Szatkowski and Travis Thompson, Jackson and freshman Derrick Davis — runners-up at the WPIAL meet May 17 at Baldwin — finished ninth (42.33), one spot away from a trip to the finals.
The winner of each of the four preliminary heats plus the next four fastest times advanced.
The Gators finished runner-up in heat three to Central Dauphin East. Central Dauphin placed fourth overall.
The quartet beat WPIAL champ West Mifflin (42.40), but WPIAL third-place Latrobe ran a 42.12 prelim time and moved to the finals.
“The relay ran its best time,” Gateway coach Tom LaBuff said. “We had two out of three decent handoffs. They were disappointed they didn't get to the finals, but those are the things that can happen at the state meet. Last year, that time would've gotten us easily into the school's finals. It was a little bit deeper in terms of the times.”
Gateway's time ranks No. 5 on the all-time list for the event.
LaBuff said he questioned the validity of one of the handoffs by finals qualifier State College in its heat and thought it might be grounds for a disqualification.
But the officials saw no violation, and the Lions advanced. State College, however, was whistled for a false start in the finals and fell out of state-title contention.
Latrobe was flagged for a lane violation in the finals and did not finish.
LaBuff said he felt Jackson was marked incorrectly on his last attempt in the long jump.
He said he was confident he saw Jackson land beyond 22 feet, but it was marked in the books at less than 21 feet.
“He had a really good jump, and there seemed to be a lot of confusion with the distance recorded,” he said. “Everybody was like, ‘what?' when they heard the distance. Courtney was shocked. His first two jumps were pretty flat and his takeoff position wasn't good. But his third jump was excellent with a good takeoff and good height. We were watching him jump and had a good idea where 21 feet was and where 22 feet was. We were sure he was above 22 feet.”
Jackson ended up 26th with a distance of 20-8¼. He entered the event with a seed distance of 22-7 that landed him third overall at WPIALs.
In the triple jump, Jackson landed his first attempt at 43-1¼, two inches less than his best at WPIALs that placed him third.
He then fouled twice as he finished 22nd overall.
“Courtney just didn't have his legs for whatever reason,” LaBuff said. “He had a decent first jump and then fouled twice by just a little bit.”
Jackson made the semifinals of the 100 dash with a preliminary-heat time of 11.20 seconds. He repeated that time in finals and placed 14th.
He was third in the finals at WPIALs with a season-best sprint of 10.96.