Jenn Jackson’s first victim was Plumpy.
Plumpy is the fuzzy green monster in the board game Candyland. If one draws the Plumpy card, he or she must visit Plumpy underthe gingerbread plum tree at the beginning of the game, all but assuring he or she will lose.
Jackson hated Plumpy and his stupid card. “I mean, she would get really upset if she got that card,” Jenn’s father, Jeff Jackson, said.
Candyland is a game involving no strategy whatsoever, but that didn’t stop Jenn Jackson. She made it one.
She wasn’t about to lose because of a fuzzy green monster, so she used to hide the Plumpy card.
Her board-game cheating as a little girl turned out to be only the first glimpse into her competitiveness, which fueled her to spend all summer training for swimming.
That led to a winter of nothing but success, during which she broke seven Big East Conference records as a freshman, medaled in two Eastern regional events and was named the 2013 Telegram All-Area Girls’ Swimmer of the Year.
“I like to be the best at everything,” said Jackson, who also holds a 4.0 grade point average. “I don’t want there to be people better than me. That’s what makes me so competitive. I gotta be better than you. I gotta be.”
Jackson, 14, started fairly late in the game by beginning to swim at age 10.
That she has succeeded so rapidly isn’t a coincidence: She spent much of the past summer lifting weights for two hours before her 90-minute swim practices.
Her parents saw from her very first swim meet that she had innate ability for the sport. She only needed refinement, and that never has been an issue with Jackson.
“(Swimming) isn’t something where you snap your fingers and it happens,” Jeff Jackson said. “It takes a while, especially when you’re 10 years old. She was definitely willing to do what it took from Day One.”
In her first year of high school, Jackson set the school records for 50- , 100-, 200- and 500-yard freestyle, 100-yard fly, 100-yard breaststroke, and 200-yard individual medley.
She also anchored the Bulldogs’ 200-yard freestyle relay, which set a school record, too.
And Jackson became the first Harrison Family YMCA swimmer since at least 1999 to qualify for the YMCA Short Course National Championship, for which she qualified in the 100 breaststroke. Nobody currently associated with the Harrison Family YMCA could remember its last swimmer to qualify for nationals because it predates all of their tenures.
“When you think about it, she’s only 14,” Nash Central swimming coach Margaret Godwin said. “She’s only going to get better and better and better. She’s not even close to where she’s going to be.
“She going to be–” Godwin pauses for a half-second – “fast. Really, really fast. She doesn’t even know how good she can be yet.”
With three years remaining, Jackson has the time to compete on a state level, and certainly the demeanor to do so.
She notes with ease that she has “more muscle than most guys at Nash Central” and she’s catching up to girls who have been swimming for 10 or more years because she works harder.
“Some of those girls I saw two or three years ago, I’d be like, ‘Man, those girls are really good,’” Jeff Jackson said. “Now, Jennifer has caught up with them.”
She finished fifth at states in the 100 freestyle – she was the only freshman to make the finals – and it’s not even her best event.
Jackson earned two third-place finishes at regionals and aims to win the regional meet as a sophomore, but more than that, she aims to keep all of her competitors watching her from a sizable distance.
She can’t and won’t sit around or even entertain the possibility that she will become complacent.
Jackson doesn’t want to be the best. She has to be, which is why she sounds like a walking Nike advertisement.
“The fact that I have all that time off in the summer, and someone else is training and I’m not would bother me,” Jackson said. “They’re training. They’re getting better. What am I doing?”
Nick Piotrowicz can be reached at 407-9952 or npiotrowicz@ rmtelegram.com