The way Reynoldsburg boys track and field coach Richard Ladowitz sees it, Doniven Jackson was ready for a strong finish to his prep career before the spring sports season was canceled because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
That Jackson competed at the Division I state meet each of the past two springs despite not coming out for the Raiders as a freshman is proof to Ladowitz of the potential the sprinter still has in the sport.
"Doniven is one of those rare athletes who is genetically blessed with speed," Ladowitz said. "He did not come out for track his freshman year and never ran summer track, hence he is still developing in the weight room and with track workouts. ... He was going to be our big dog this season and physically just needed more time to develop. His body still was adjusting to qualifying and competing in four events."
Ladowitz believes Jackson's limited experience in the sport may have contributed to a pair of hamstring injuries.
One of those came early last spring, limiting him for much of the regular season before he returned to place second in the 100 meters (11.15 seconds), finish fourth in the 200 (22.86) and run on two regional-qualifying relays as Reynoldsburg won the 16-team district 3 meet.
Jackson then was sixth in the 100 (11.19), 11th in the 200 (22.67) and helped the 800 relay place third (1:27.58) at regional.
At state, Jackson teamed with Adrian Logan, Muhammad Fall and Keyshawn Brown to earn a runner-up finish in the 800 relay (1:26.64).
At the Division I state indoor meet March 7 at SPIRE Institute in Geneva, Jackson finished fourth in the 60 (6.9) but was unable to compete in the 200 or on the 1,600 relay because of another hamstring injury.
He spent the next few weeks trying to heal and train simultaneously while waiting to see if he would get to compete in his senior outdoor track season.
"I actually was doing a lot and then I ended up getting a job so I was still doing the training on the days I had off, just little stuff to make sure I could stay somewhat in shape," Jackson said. "Now I'm starting to train for college."
Jackson has committed to Ashland. Travis Marx and Warrick Stanford, both 2017 Reynoldsburg graduates, also compete for the Eagles.
Ashland finished second in the GLIAC indoor championships, which were held Feb. 29-March 1, but the NCAA canceled the Division II indoor meet that was to have been held March 13 and 14.
"(Ashland is) the best option for me right now," Jackson said. "Right after the indoor season I was getting recruited by a couple other schools, but when (the coronavirus) happened, it messed up my recruiting process with a couple schools and Ashland was one of the schools that still came after me. They've definitely had a lot of success over the past couple years and are a top Division II track and field program. I liked everything about them and, from what I've seen, they practice with a championship mentality. You can see why they win so much."
Jackson, who ran on the 1,600 relay that placed 10th (3:21.84) in the 2018 outdoor state meet, was on the 1,600 relay that won the state title (3:24.72) and the 800 relay that was fourth (1:30.64) in the 2019 state indoor meet.
After also playing wide receiver for the Reynoldsburg football team, Jackson will focus on track at the college level and expects to mostly run the 100 and 200.
"I've talked to a couple of (Ashland's) coaches and we think that the 100 is going to be my money race, but the 200 is my favorite event," Jackson said. "I feel like I can do well in both. My plans are just to get back to training and get my mind right for college, see where it goes."