Track & Field: Peyton Jackson helped lead CSG

Scott Hennen
ThisWeek group
Columbus School for Girls graduate Peyton Jackson, a Gahanna resident, was expected to be a key athlete for the Unicorns this season before spring sports were canceled because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Peyton Jackson has always been a team performer in track and field.

The 2020 Columbus School for Girls graduate was an integral part of the Unicorns' relay events, but the open 400 meters was the event she enjoyed the most.

Last spring, the Gahanna resident qualified for the Division II regional meet in the 400, but decided to forgo the event to focus on helping the Unicorns' relays. It was an easy choice because she still had another year to reach the state meet in the 400, or so she thought.

Unfortunately for Jackson, her senior season was wiped out because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

"I think I like the 400 because of the fact that it's in-between a sprint and a long-distance run," said Jackson, who will attend Michigan State, where she plans to major in urban and regional planning. "You have the adrenaline going, and you're trying to get to that endpoint.

"I usually try to go off pretty strong until about a fourth of the way through and then I try to pace myself. Then the last 100, I give it all that I've got."

As a sophomore, Jackson qualified for state in the 400, finishing 11th in 59.75 seconds. She also was on the fifth-place 800 relay (1:44.74) with Imani Babatunde, Asia Nguyen and Nyah Funderburke.

Last season, she teamed with Funderburke, Kayden Edwards and Carly Priest to finish 13th at state in the 1,600 relay (4:05.21).

"Peyton is versatile and could run anything from the 100 to the 800, and she even ran the hurdles some for us," coach Jen Bunker said. "She was a key utility runner and relay performer for us for three seasons.

"We gave her the option to run the 400 at regional last year or drop out to give our team a better chance in the relays. She chose to drop out. That's the kind of teammate that she was."

Bunker said Jackson held a leadership role in the program throughout her career through her dedication and work ethic.

"Peyton is a quiet, revered leader," Bunker said. "She's a super-hard worker and does whatever you ask of her.

"She really pushes her teammates and she matured into being a leader. She's selfless, and her dedication to her teammates is second to none."

Jackson believes Bunker has had a big role in the evolution of her team-first mentality.

"I learned a different type of work ethic from coach," Jackson said. "I learned about being accountable to myself and my teammates. You just can't focus on yourself but also your team as well. You're not just running for yourself but your team and your school."

Jackson also played volleyball at CSG, but track was her passion.

"I played volleyball all four years here, but track was my big sport," she said. "I enjoyed it more than volleyball.

"Track is a lot different than other sports. The thing I like about track is the idea of having one unit as a team, but also being able to be an individual and split up and do what you need to do."

Jackson, who graduated with a 3.8 GPA, believes CSG has helped her become more adventurous, which was especially helpful during Ohio's stay-at-home order.

"I think CSG taught me that I can never sell myself short and don't be afraid to try new things, like service trips to Barbados," she said. "I believe that trying new things and being open to those ideas can help you in so many ways.

"One thing I can take from the last few weeks is being patient and taking time to reflect on how far I have come and what I still need to work on as a person or athlete. I wasn't able to go anywhere, so I was able to focus on myself and try new things. I tried getting into reading a lot more, and I'm reading 'Pride and Prejudice' right now. I've also tried to make more breakfast foods. It's been fun."

shennen@thisweeknews.com

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