Coach Jay Hatleli has a pretty simple answer when asked what he looks for in athletes for his Rosemount track and field team. He simply points to Grant Jackson.
Dedicated. Focused. Driven. Hardworking. Respectful.
These are all words the Rosemount coaches use to describe their senior sprinter.
“In high school coaching, you spend a lot of time focusing on the things that you don’t want to have to spend time on — the commitment, the effort level, the responsibility,” Hatleli said. “The biggest thing I can say about Grant is that you don’t have to worry about any of that. He’s always had it. He’s easy to coach. All you have to do is help an athlete train.”
It doesn’t hurt that he’s pretty darn fast, too.
Jackson has already set a school record at 100 meters this spring. He’s also one of the top returning runners from last year’s 200 at the state meet, where he finished seventh.
He’s a three-sport athlete with a 3.88 grade-point average and a commitment to run track next year at West Point.
More than anything, though, Jackson epitomizes the Irish team, sprint coach Grant Gilbertson said, a squad looking to ride a handful of standouts and a plethora of senior leadership to its first state title since 2011.
A blue collar team
“We’re a grind-it-out, hard-working track team,” Gilbertson said. “We’re a blue collar sort of team. And that’s the way Grant is. He shows up, has a plan, takes it seriously and works hard every day. That’s why you can’t be surprised by any of the results that he’s had — or will have.”
Jackson was the first sprinter to break 11 seconds this season in the 100, setting a personal best of 10.93 in an April 18 meet at Wayzata. That’s the second-fastest mark in the state this year.
But as shifty as he was taking handoffs for the Rosemount football team last fall, Jackson, true to his coaches’ descriptions, is equally adept at deflecting attention.
“We have a lot of really good athletes on our team,” Jackson said.
Fellow seniors Tray Ashby-Phan and Payton Otterdahl also have had impressive starts to the season. Otterdahl, one of the state’s best in shot put and discus, finished second in both last year at state. He recently pulled off a sweep of those events at the Hamline Elite Meet.
Ashby-Phan, who runs the 100 and 200 along with Jackson, could wind up making the state finals in both events, Hatleli said. He and Jackson make up half of the Irish’s potent 4x100 and 4x200 relay teams.
From a team standpoint, Jackson leads the way, coaches said. He sets the tone and example. He’s a natural leader.
“If I had a choice of what I wanted my kid to grow up to be like, I would want them to be in his shoes,” Gilbertson said.
“He takes his whole life seriously. … He’s a good kid. Respectful, extremely coachable.”