Langston Jackson was fast last season, but not as fast as he was his freshman year, when he was among the top 10 nationally and helped Henry Clay win its first boys' track and field team title at the Class 3A KHSAA State Championships in 2016.
Jackson, now a junior at Henry Clay, tore his MCL playing football for the Blue Devils later that year. He pushed through physical therapy and was able to work himself back onto the track, but his speed wasn't quite there after the layoff (though he still managed to finish third in the 100-meter dash at state). His form was off, too.
"Last year when he had the injury, watching him run he kind of had a limp when he ran," said Demetrius Gay, Henry Clay's track-and-field head coach and an assistant coach for the football team.
Jackson returned to the football field last season and built up his muscles. Between the end of football and the start of track season, he started taking pilates classes to help get his body realigned.
Twelve sessions later at Breathe Pilates Method and More Studio on Walton Avenue, Jackson was back in high-performance shape.
"He’s a magician. He’ll get you right, I'm tellin' you," Jackson said of Rob Turner, the studio's owner. " ... I think everybody should do it."
Jackson at the Bryan Station Woodall Invitational ran a :10.49, his personal best in the 100 meters and .07 seconds off the state-meet record set by Paul Laurence Dunbar's Will Allen in 2016. If he could run faster than a 10.5 at state, he'd be only the third sprinter to do so (future Olympian Tyson Gay ran a 10.46 in 2001).
Allen earned a track-and-field scholarship to Alabama and Gay to Arkansas. Jackson could follow in their footsteps — he's heard from Michigan, Mississippi, Kansas and Cincinnati, among others — but he'd also like to continue playing football. University of Kentucky assistant coach Dean Hood has kept in touch with Jackson, and the staff has invited him to UK's summer camp. Several former Henry Clay athletes are on UK's football roster, including former standout Davonte Robinson, who like Jackson was a track star.
"If somebody offered me for football, I'm not gonna deny it," Jackson said. "But as of right now I’m looking more toward the track route 'cause it looks more prosperous right now."
How about that for a fall-back plan?
"Anything he wants to do, it’ll pan out for him," Gay said. "I was talking to a college coach the other day ... and he was kind of shocked that he hadn't got more offers after running a :10.4. I think he would like to go to a school where he could do both and if he can get to a school where he could do both, I think he could be successful at both of them."