Highland Track and Field Team Achieves Success – Pt1

Highland County School sports programs face challenges due to the size of the student body and resources available – however, those aren’t necessarily barriers to high level success.

Meet Highland’s Track and Field coach.

“Well, I’m Colby Jackson, – I moved here five years ago now, and married Capitola Sullenberger, now she’s Jackson, my wife –  helping Sherry farm, and that’s how I got here. We met right after college in Roanoke and ended up marrying her and she wanted to move us back here.”

Mr. Jackson’s previous strength conditioning training and experience led him to assisting the baseball team in this area, and he explained how that led to becoming the track coach.

“You know, we had the COVID years, so we missed the entire year with strength conditioning. But I’d spent a lot of time with the kids. I knew those kids and I knew what they were capable of, I’d seen them in the weight room, and they had expressed interest in track, but that they weren’t, you know, certain things didn’t go well. They had ran into Narrows, who is a major competition had some kids that were more experienced in track, and I ran track in high school extensively, so I had a feel for that. And the track coach here actually moved out Mr. Canze was his name, so that opening was there.”

“Cappie accepted job in Bath. and I said, ‘Well, I can’t help with baseball because they’re 5:30 to 7:30, I have to pick my kids up at 5:00, I’ll just be a weightlifting coach, and take them to track meets.’ That was my plan. My expectation was to get them in shape, and we’re just gonna see what we can do with track. Really no expectations at all with that. And that’s kind of how I just fell into it. There was an opening and I thought, well, I could still benefit them in this role.”

He talked more about some of the team members and events they participated in.

“We have quite a few kids as far as events. You have Eli Moore and Ethan Moore, and Cayden Roberson did long jump, and on the girls side we have Jazmine Douglas and Zalea Good, they did long jump for me. Then Colton Williams and Ethan Moore did shotput and Ethan placed in state , eighth in the state, in shotput, and they were very competitive in that.”

“And then I had three discus throwers – Eli Moore who did, he did really well, he made it to regions and almost qualified for states, and that as a freshman. We didn’t have a lot of practice in that. At Highland, we don’t have the facilities to do some of this stuff. I would joke with coaches at the meets. I’d say ‘This is parking lot form’, and I think they thought I was joking but we literally are parking lot form. And then you had John Wagner and Evan Kimble, and they participated in shotput as well, but discus seem to really, they excelled at discus.”

“When you get into the running events, we had a lot of sprinters – we did not do much distance at all. We just didn’t really prepare for distance. We did so much weight training and so many explosive movements. We really weren’t in long distance shape, we were in short distance shape. I think the longest run we ran all year was a 400 meter dash for high school and an 800 meter dash for middle school. But you had the 100 meter, the 200 meter and the 400 meter and then we ran the 4 x 100 relay, which is what they placed sixth in state.”

You heard correctly – athletes from Highland County, which has no track and field facilities, placed in the upper levels versus state competition, and he spoke glowingly of the team’s commitment.

“You know, the kids, I don’t know if they’ll hear this, all of them, I haven’t hit everybody’s name, but all of them, they worked their tails off this year. We had kids come in on Memorial Day, they practiced, kids that didn’t make it to state have not missed a practice – kids had been done for three weeks were at practice this Monday. I held a clean-up practice day Monday, they were out there working out and helping me clean-up – track’s over. You know, that kind of dedication makes me proud.”

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this story for more on the journey to state level success.

Story By

Scott Smith

Scott Smith is the General Manager for Allegheny Mountain Radio and Station Coordinator and News Reporter for WVLS. Scott’s family has deep roots in Highland County. While he did not grow up here, he spent as much time as possible on the family farm, and eventually moved to Highland to continue the tradition, which he still pursues with his cousin. Unfortunately, farming doesn’t pay all the bills, so he has previously taken other jobs to support his farming hobby, including pressman/writer for The Recorder, and Ag Projects Coordinator for The Highland Center. He lives in Hightown with wife Michelle and son Ethan. In his spare time, he wishes he had more spare time, especially to ride his prized Harley-Davidson motorcycle. scott@amrmail.org

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