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Lincoln-Way East’s Nate Jackson is just getting started


Lincoln-Way East sophomore Nate Jackson He doesn’t remember the first time he got up on the trampoline.

But their parents do it, and it has become a family legend.

“I grew up in Prestwick, and Prestwick has a trampoline,” Jackson said of his neighborhood in Frankfort. “I think I was around 3 years old.

“My mom and dad took me and told me that I initially refused to get off the trampoline, but one day I stood there alone and jumped. Then they put me in swimming and diving lessons and it started from there.”

What caused Jackson to finally take this step?

“I honestly don’t remember standing there when I was 3,” Jackson said. “I don’t know, but I think something inside me felt like it was right to be on the trampoline.”

A dozen years later, a lot is going right for Jackson, who made program history with his performance at the men’s swimming state Saturday at FMC Natatorium in Westmont.

Jackson became the first diver in program history to win a state medal by placing fifth with a score of 481.30. Highland Park senior Noam KulbakA Penn State recruit, he won the state championship with a time of 531.30.

Lincoln-Way East coach ‘He did a great job’ Steve Anderson He mentioned Jackson. “He’s been great all year and I think he knew in his mind that all I had to do was go out and do what I’ve done in other meets this year.”

Lincoln-Way East’s Nate Jackson dives during the finals of the men’s swimming state meet on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024, at the FMC natatorium in Westmont. (Troy Stolt/Daily Southtown)

Whichever prevails. Jackson broke personal, program and division records by winning the division hosted by the Griffins with 612.05 points. That was 25.3 more than Kulbak, who had the second-highest total in the section.

A repeat performance at state would shatter the Illinois record of 569.50, which could only be broken at the state finals.

But Jackson has been dealing with a back injury and dealing with pain all week.

“One day I woke up and felt severe pain,” Jackson said. “I refused to go to the doctor until after (the state meet) because I knew he would tell me I couldn’t compete.

“So I’m proud of myself for achieving this success, getting here and getting into the top 5.”

Jackson qualified for state as a freshman but failed to advance to the finals. She wasn’t used to competing in front of such a large crowd, but she has since adjusted to the process.

“I wasn’t very good last year,” Jackson said. “I feel much better when I come back.

“(Large crowds) are pretty rare. Last year wasn’t great, but I used the experience as a learning opportunity. “Now I can come back here and feel great about my dives and my confidence.”

Lincoln-Way East's Nate Jackson dives during the IHSA men's Swimming and Diving State Final meet on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024, in Westmont.  (Troy Stolt for Naperville Sun)
Lincoln-Way East’s Nate Jackson continues his dive during the finals of the men’s swimming state meet on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024, at the FMC natatorium in Westmont. (Troy Stolt/Daily Southtown)

Jackson was seeded fourth after Friday’s qualifying rounds. It remained at the top of the rankings and closed successfully.

“On my last dive, someone told me it was the highest scoring dive in the competition, 66 points,” Jackson said. “I learned this dive a few months ago.”

Jackson said he started diving regularly when he was 6 years old. After taking a break during the pandemic, she began diving competitively with Windy City Diving three years ago.

The future looks bright. Three of the four divers who finished ahead of Jackson were seniors, with only Nazareth junior finishing second Cooper KosanovicI am coming back.

“He has a long history of diving,” Anderson said of Jackson. “He loves her very much.

“He’s been competitive with his club all offseason and doing what he needs to do. Overall he has a great work ethic and a mentality that will drive him to be the best he can be.”

Matt Le Cren is a freelance reporter for the Daily Southtown.


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