ALL-AREA TRACK GIRLS’ COACH OF THE YEAR: North Hardin’s Jackson captures award

North Hardin coach Antonio Jackson just completed his first year leading the Lady Trojans to a region championship and strong performances at the KHSAA State Track and Field Championship.

“Our first season went great,” Jackson said. “And I want to put that keyword on ‘our’ because this staff is the key to the success of this program. We set out to change the perspective of the program and get back to North Hardin track and field tradition and we did. Our main accomplishment, for starters, was to win conference and get back on top of our region with a region championship.”

Jackson is a graduate of North Hardin and coached the Trojans until 2017, but has returned to build a winning tradition once again.

“First and most importantly I am a graduate of North Hardin, class of 2001,” Jackson said. “James Webb and John Russell are my mentors and gave me the opportunity to coach in 2011. I won three state championships on that staff, before leaving and coaching in Louisville in 2017 with Louisville Male and St. Xavier.”

Jackson knew it was time to come back to where it all started in his hometown.

“I decided it was time to come back home to where it all began,” he said. “North Hardin has a high tradition in track and field and I felt with the right staff we could get back to our winning tradition. Also being able to connect back with Coach Aaron Coney our sprint coach, Coach Jason Basham our hurdle coach and lengendary throws coach Sam Franklin was a huge reason I came home. Getting Mike Hicks on the staff was key for me and our distance program.”

These coaches have known each other for many years and there is a strong family bond on the team.

“Basham, Coney, and Hicks were my high school teammates while I ran track at North,” Jackson said. “I consider this staff family and nothing is better than winning with family.”

Jackson has been selected as the All-Area Girls Coach of the Year by area coaches and The News-Enterprise sports staff. He earned four first-place votes from the coaches that voted and tallied 26 points. John Hardin’s Leland Warsaw was second, totaling 15 points with two first-place votes. Elizabethtown’s Jason Hayes was third with 13 points. Voting was done on a 5-3-1 scale and coaches couldn’t vote for themselves.

“It is a true honor to be selected by fellow coaches,” Jackson said. “I respect all the coaches in this area because there is so much experience.

“It means a lot.”

“He definitely earned it,” Josh Moore said about his coach. “He was out there with me late on Friday nights, just us two jumping and a couple other kids grinding and getting better for the next day.

“He came out there on his off days and even on holidays. We were out there putting in work.”

Jackson has been coaching for over eight years and credits his success to his staff and players.

“This is a direct reflection of the coaching staff, without them this program would not flourish the way it has,” he said. “I am happy to win this award but I’m more proud to share it with my staff.

“Under a staff where three coaches we’re returning alumni coaches we wanted to get back to structure and hard work. It was different for a lot of the athletes but they performed well and kept improving throughout the season.”

As a Army Veteran, Jackson’s coaching style reflects what he learned in the military when it comes to hard work and discipline.

“I’m an Army veteran, so a lot of those traits carry over,” he said. “So I would say structured, consistent, firm with a side of discipline.”

Coaching is in his blood and Jackson is happy to be back home and has already propelled the North Hardin track and field team in the right direction.

Looking ahead to the upcoming season, Jackson has his sights set on more goals and hopes for even better performances from his players.

“We want to be more consistent, get stronger in the weight room,” he said. “We’d like to see a repeat of a region championship and I wouldn’t be a coach without adding we want the state title. We finished third this year and we have a lot of young athletes returning and they are hungry. So if three or four of the girl sprinters we have return with that mindset and Angel and Myla Lee continue their excellence, while Kamry Mcfayden returning for a stellar season. Skies the limit.”

Zachery Combest can be reached at 270-505-1754 or zcombest@thenewsenterprise.com.

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