Sherman Hawkins Jr. is the first JSU track athlete to qualify for Nationals since 2013

Hawkins Jr., a freshman, will compete in the high jump on June 9 at the University of Texas
Published: May. 30, 2023 at 10:22 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Sherman Hawkins Jr. is just a freshman at Jackson State, but he’s already making his mark on the university. In his first year at JSU, Hawkins Jr. broke the school high jump mark, and qualified for the NCAA Outdoor National Championship, the first Tiger to do so since 2013.

“When he first got here, I realized very quickly that he was going to be a really, really special athlete,” said jumps coach Mark Spooner. “It didn’t take long. He’s a quick learner and he asks questions; he’s very coachable.”

Spooner saw the talent early, but one big thing he had to change was Hawkins Jr.’s run up to his high jump.

“We had to do a complete overhaul,” he said. “Coming out of high school, he didn’t really have an approach. He would go out there and take some big steps and wing it. So, when he got here, we gave him an approach and I think that’s what allowed him to be consistent every meet over seven feet.”

On top of the natural ability, Hawkins Jr. has a willingness to learn, which has played a large role in his improvement in his first year in college.

" The workout my coach gives me, I just kept trusting it and it made me better, stronger,” he said. “So, the more I believe, the more I did what he said, and not giving if or ands about it, it made me better.”

Hawkins Jr. is one of two freshman to qualify of the 24 high jumpers who will be competing at the University of Texas Austin next week, but he’s not going to let his age be an obstacle for him.

“The classifications, they really don’t mean anything,” he said. “Because, as you can tell, you can compete at any age, as long as you have confidence and God on your side.”

In his first year in the SWAC, he is one of just two male athletes representing the conference in Austin.

“Where I’m from, they think [conferences] like the SEC, AAC, it matters, it really doesn’t matter,” he said. “What matters is the dog in you.”

Religion is a big part of Hawkins Jr.’s life, and he credits it to helping him.

“I have a strong faith,” he said. “I have challenging moments, ups and downs, I still pray to Him, and that’s my go-to, the first thing I do in the morning. I pray, I read a couple scriptures before I even touch my phone. When I do that, it just gives me this calmness to get ready to get my day started.”

JSU head coach Mark Thorne expects big things from Hawkins Jr. next week in Austin.

“He’s always said the bigger the competition, the better he performs. So, I know one thing about him, he’s not scared about competition, he’s ready to jump with the big boys,” he said.

Hawkins Jr. will jump in the high jump finals Friday, June 9 at 7:30 p.m. The competition will be streamed on ESPN+

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