Jackson School's First-Ever State Champion

After winning the state title in the 110-meter hurdles and finishing second in the 300, Dante Jackson of Greenfield McClain will now shift his focus to choosing on a future between playing football or basketball and at which school that he will eventually play the sport he decides on. Jackson plans to attend OSU's football camp and join his AAU team on the hardwood this summer before he decides.

It wasn't necessarily the way that he thought it would turn out, but hurdler Dante Jackson of Greenfield McClain High School was still elated, nonetheless, to earn a first-place finish at the Division II state track meet this past weekend.

Jackson, who had the best preliminary time in both of the 110 and 300-meter hurdle events in D-II on Friday under not-so-ideal weather conditions, got his second day off to a tremendous start under ideal conditions with a victory in the 110-meter hurdles before finishing second in the 300 later in the afternoon.

"I was just so happy," Jackson said. "I thought the 300 was my best race but it turned out that the 110 was. I ran a 14.06, which is great, and I won our school's first-ever state championship. So it's just great and I'm proud to say that I'm Greenfield McClain's first-ever state champion. It's just a great feeling."

He wasn't disappointed as much as he was surprised about finishing second in the 300.

"I thought I had that one for sure," Jackson said. "Aaron Roberts, I really didn't understand or realize how quick he was. He got off to an unbelievable start and he ran hard the whole way. The first hurdle I thought I ran good and relaxed, and the second two hurdles I didn't think I ran very well at all, I just kind of had to hop over them. My steps were off but you'll have that here. You kind of caught up in the moment.

"Coming around the home stretch I thought I still had a shot but his gut-check kicked in at the right time. I'm disappointed in how I ran but coming in second and running as bad as I did, I think it went really well."

Competing as a junior this year, Jackson is somewhat of a veteran at the state meet by now. As a freshman he finished third in the 110s and last year he ran in both hurdle events, taking fourth in the 110s and third in the 300s.

"It's all about making progress. That's the key," he said. "You've just got to keep improving. You've got multiple years, hopefully, if you come here as a freshman to get better and if you're a junior you have a year to improve to get here as a senior. Luckily I've been here for three years now and next year I'm going to try to make it four."

More than anything, however, Jackson just loves to compete regardless of the sport that he's competing in but he admits to having a particular fondness for one sport over the others.

"I like basketball. Basketball is my love and I have a tremendous passion for basketball," Jackson said. "But football is a great sport and very soon I'll have a tough decision to make and I have to make it. So before long I'll, hopefully, make the decision whether I want to play football or basketball."

Not only does Jackson have to decide what sport he wants to play at the next level, he must also decide which school he wants to play that sport at.

"It makes it even that much more difficult. To have great schools in basketball and football recruiting you is tough," Jackson said. "It's an honor to have those schools recruiting me so it's just tough to make that type of decision. You tend to grow up real quick when you have to make a decision like that so I'm just kind of waiting it out and I'm going to make some more visits this summer. Hopefully by the start of next year I'll know what I'm doing."

Jackson can easily play the two or three guard depending on the system he's in at the next level but he'll probably play the two. And in football he could play wide receiver or even safety. He plays both at McClain.

"I think I'm equally good at both positions in football. I'll come up and hit you and I can go up and get the football," Jackson said. "But I haven't worked that much on football so I'm kind of ahead in basketball as far as skills and knowing the game and stuff like that."

His list of suitors in both sports is pretty tremendous in itself. He's looking at the University of North Carolina for basketball. Ohio State and Michigan for football and basketball. Dayton and Xavier for basketball. Kansas State for basketball. And Cincinnati and Kentucky for football and basketball.

"I'm going to make some visits and I'll know right away if I can see myself fitting in or being at a certain place for four years," Jackson said. "The hard thing now is making the visits."

He hasn't even considered what his AAU schedule is going to be like or if he'll attend any of the prestigious summer camps at this time.

"I haven't even thought about it right now. I haven't even played since the first week in May," said Jackson who mentioned that he will probably play with Trotwood's Chris Wright for the Queen City Prophets a little and the Kentucky Hoopsters out of Kentucky. "I'll have to get a hold of my coach here in the next week or so. I'll probably take a week off to relax a little bit and then I'll get ready for the second half of June and all of July."

But, be it basketball or football, you could tell from his reaction and the tone of his voice that Jackson would indeed love to have some kind of future playing either sport on the very campus where he won his first-ever state championship.

"This is just a beautiful place. It's an excellent place and they have excellent facilities. It's The Ohio State University," said Jackson with more than a hint of reverence in his response. "There's not much better in the whole country than Ohio State not to mention that I've grown up less than an hour-and-a-half away from here. I've always been a big Buckeye fan and it would be great to come here.

"But you have to kind of realize that they kind of have a recruiting class for basketball that they're pretty happy with and they should be happy with it. And football-wise, we're just going to have to wait and see if anything happens."

His respect and knowledge for and of Ohio State is rather obvious when he mentions some of the things that have attracted him to the school.

"There are so many different things here," Jackson said. "From Jimmy Jackson to Jimmy Hull, there's such a rich tradition of basketball here. And in football you've got Heisman Trophy winners like Eddie George and Archie Griffin. There's all of these great people and all of these great teams from here. They've done some really good things here, football and basketball-wise. It's a marvelous place."

Thad Matta and his staff have been in contact with Jackson but nothing seems to be imminent in regards to Jackson having a future on the Ohio State hardwood.

"They're kind of keeping me on hold I guess. I've kind of noticed that and so I'm kind of moving along," he said. "But they stay in contact quite frequently and we talk every now and then."

Jackson is very familiar with how Ohio State's highly-regarded 2007-‘08 recruiting class is taking shape with the recent commitment of Solon's Dallas Lauderdale to go along with guys like Kosta Koufos and Jon Diebler.

"I know those guys and it would be great to play with them," Jackson said. "But I'm not going to set my stone into coming to Ohio State because that wouldn't be fair to the other schools that are recruiting me and the other schools that I have interest in.

"So I'm just going to keep a wide-open mind about it and if they offer then that will be something that I'll have to throw into the hat. But right now I've got to kind of stay loyal to the schools that have already offered and to the schools that have been recruiting me for a while."

And as far as football at Ohio State is concerned, Jackson could see himself playing in Ohio Stadium with first-cousin, Kurt Coleman.

"Kurt's a great guy and we've talked several times about that so that's always a possibility," Jackson said. "I've spoken with Coach Luke Fickell, he came to the school on Thursday and we spoke for about two hours. And I'm going to their camp on the 23rd."

At 6-4 and 190 pounds, Jackson will work with the wide receivers there.

"I feel really good about it," Jackson said. "I think it will be an excellent experience for me to be out there against some of the best talent in the Midwest and not to mention having the Ohio State football staff there watching. So it's going to be good."

In the very least, his camp experience at Ohio State, good or bad, should go a long way toward helping him have somewhat of a better handle on his future.

"I just want to go someplace where I can fit in and be successful be it at either sport," Jackson said. "I love both sports and if I had to pick today I would probably pick basketball. But right now I'm just kind of soaking it in and seeing what happens."

And for now he's enjoying the way it feels to be a state champion.

"It's very much an honor," Jackson said. "I kind of dreamed about it. I just knew that I would have a shot at one of the two. I thought the 300s was my best shot but it turns out that the 110s was my best shot. But I'm happy with both. I'm a state champion and a state runner-up so I can't complain about it."

He'll just move on to the next hurdle.

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