Shawnti Jackson garners USATF Youth Athlete of the Year honor

ORLANDO – Razorback freshman Shawnti Jackson will receive the 2023 USATF Youth Athlete of the Year on Saturday evening during the Night of Legends function held at the USATF annual meeting.

Other award recipients on the night include Sha’Carri Richardson (Jackie Joyner-Kersee Female Athlete of the Year), Noah Lyles (Jesse Owens Male Athlete of the Year), and Dennis Mitchell (Nike Coach of the Year).

“I’m very pleased with my performances and I’m very glad I was even nominated for this award,” said Jackson. “Not only being nominated, but winning the award since so many amazing people were nominated. For me to be the winner feels really good.

“I was really pleased with the season. I’ve done a lot of great things that I didn’t even see coming, but I’m glad it happened.”

Arkansas women’s head coach Chris Johnson noted: “It’s a well-deserved award for her. It’s exciting, and obviously she is here now, but based on things she’s been able to do in the past and what her parents have been able to do along with coaches and everybody else involved in her journey.

“We’re very excited and very proud of her being able to achieve high-level goals. When you’re able to achieve these goals and garner these type of awards obviously that comes with a lot of hard work, dedication and focus. We’re very proud of her and happy that she is a Razorback.”

Jackson’s senior season at South Granville High School in Creedmoor, North Carolina, included multiple national high school indoor records ranging in sprint distances of 55m (6.67), 60m (7.16), 200m (22.91), and 300m (36.63) along with the national high school 100m record of 10.89, which she produced among a field of professional sprinters.

“For my senior year, the 100m was definitely the highlight,” noted Jackson. “Not only did I set the national high school record I wasn’t expecting to run the final after the prelim due to an issue with my knee. In the final I was out there to have fun, not thinking too much of the race, I just wanted to perfectly execute my race the way I had been practicing.

“To win with that time meant a lot. At first I just had the emotions of winning a pro race. When I heard the announcer say my time I didn’t think I had run that time, I thought somebody got me at the finish line. Just to be in high school and running under 11 seconds that was really a lot to take in. It took me a little while to actually take that in.”

Johnson commented on Jackson’s 100m national record: “It was nothing short of phenomenal. That’s a prestigious event and one of the hardest events in track and field. To accomplish that among a field of professional athletes it just makes you aware of how good she is and how hard of a worker she has been since she put a pair of spikes on. This young lady is something special.”

As a member of Team USA at the U20 Pan American Championships in Puerto Rico this past summer, Jackson anchored the 4 x 100m relay to an American Junior record winning time of 42.88. They shattered the previous U.S. record time of 43.28 set in 2022, which Jackson anchored as the United States claimed a silver medal at the World U20 Championships.

“I love being in a team environment,” stated Jackson. “Being with each other and having that comradery. Even with the Pan Am competition, we don’t see each other since we live in different states. We came together and are really close friends. Just to have that little bonding time and have each other’s back. I love that feeling.”

The 18-year-old Jackson won the USATF U20 title in the 200m with a career best of 22.48 and then improved to 22.35 in claiming gold at the U20 Pan Am Championships.

On U.S. U20 all-time lists, Jackson ranks in the 100m as the No. 3 performer with the No. 4 performance behind Sha’Carri Richardson (10.75) and Tamari Davis (10.83). In the 200m, Jackson is the No. 3 performer with the No. 5 performance behind Allyson Felix (22.11) and Richardson (22.17).

Among the world U20 all-time lists, Jackson is equal the No. 4 performer with the equal No. 5 performance in the 100m and is the No. 8 performer in the 200m.

Recently, Jackson finished runner-up by six points for Girls Athlete of the Year as determined by Track & Field News magazine. Jackson received 184 points in the voting process to finish behind pole vaulter Hana Moll.

Among Track & Field News top five high school All-Americans for each event, Jackson collected All-America honors in three events with the following rankings – 100m (No. 1), 200m (No. 2), and 400m (No. 4). She was one of just two female athletes to achieve three All-America honors for the year.