Cameron Jackson, a sprinter for the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, has been recognized with the Freshman of the Year award for the 2021 Sun Belt Conference Indoor Track Awards. He is the first freshman in the history of UA Little Rock to receive this award.
“It means a lot considering I am the first freshman to get the award but hopefully not the last. My coach had kind of warned me. He texted me one night ‘Hey, be checking Sun Belt media tomorrow, exciting news is coming,’” said Jackson. “I think the anticipation of him figuring out who Freshman of the Year was greater than mine. It’s pretty great, definitely couldn’t have done it without God, my family and my team.”
Jackson runs as the anchor in the 4×1 relay, 100m and 200m outdoor races and 60m and 200m indoor races. The award came after the race at the indoor conference championship meet where Jackson ran a 6.75 sec 60m race.
Many athletes discover their talent at a young age and develop it as they grow. However, that was not the case with Jackson. He tried many sports and ultimately decided to focus on track his last year of middle school and because of his talent, practicing in college was a goal of his.
“It’s the [knowledge that you are good at it,” said Jackson. “You are capable of competing at the collegiate level as well as the lifestyle that I have always wanted for myself.”
Coming from Kilgore, a small town in east Texas, Jackson knew that challenges laid ahead when moving to college, especially due to the closeness of his family. His father had a significant impact on him developing his skills as a runner. However, when he came to visit UA Little Rock, he felt comfortable and at home.
“Coach [Behnke] found a way to let me know that he was always there,” said Jackson. “‘If you have any questions about the recruiting process let me know, I am not going to rush you into the process.’ Most of my other schools were like ‘we are going to offer, and we need an answer within a week.’ Coach Behnke was like ‘well take your time, we do hope you choose us’ and he was really adamant about getting me here and him constantly checking in, calling, even the small things, just let me know that he really wanted me to be at this university.”
Jackson had several great college options but in visiting UA Little Rock, Coach Behnke was the deciding factor in him committing. Behnke has also had a positive impact on Jackson and developing his skills into a more well-rounded athlete and sprinter. His selflessness as a coach has also influenced Jackson into becoming more self-aware.
“When you come from watching your coach put everybody, 80, 90 people ahead of himself all the time, it really changes your point of view of how you view a lot of things and how you react to a lot of situations,” said Jackson. “Behnke has always kept his cool, kept his calm, everything he handles in a professional manner. So after watching him do that constantly, it just drives me even more to be a better person.”
Jackson knows that he has made history with this accomplishment, but he is just getting started. He has various goals that he hopes to accomplish in the next three years of his academic and athletic career at UA Little Rock.
“[Some] goals that I’m hoping to have accomplished by the end of my career at UALR include successfully getting my degree, making new family members instead of just teammates, and winning a conference title,” said Jackson.
Aside from Jackson’s award, the Trojans received six all-conference honors, the most the program has received since 2011.
Jackson has so much future ahead of him and he is excited and optimistic for what is to come.