MERRILLVILLE | Austin Jamerson's rivals won't want to hear this, but he thrives when the pressure cooker is boiling over.
Bigger the meet, the bigger his performance.
Think Rolling Stones at Yankee Stadium. That's Austin Jamerson right next to Mick, playing bass guitar.
"Added pressure helps me compete," said the Merrillville senior. "It gives me a little more motivation, makes me dig a little deeper, push a little harder."
He'll be pushed this season in the hurdles by Valparaiso's Andrew Kittridge; and in the high jump by Hobart's Matt Stewart and E.C. Central's Kenneth Lloyd.
A perennial state qualifier, Jamerson was 16th in the high jump (6-4), 14th in the long jump (21-7 3/4) and 14th in the high hurdles (14.94) at last year's finals.
By focusing on a strict weight room regimen in the offseason, Jamerson made a marked improvement in all three events -- having already cleared 6-8 and 22-6 in the jumps, and running a 7.51 indoors for the 55-meter high hurdles.
"I love it once we get outdoors, the weather, the big crowds. I feed off it," he said. "I never really feel nervous as soon as the event begins.
"Competition brings out the best in me."
Ditto for the classroom, where the 6-foot-4, 190-pound Jamerson sports a 3.94 grade-point average and will attend Cornell in the fall.
And get this. He does better in tests than homework.
An excellent soccer player as well, Jamerson credits the revamped weight program of assistant coach Patrick Coffey for much of his athletic success.
"All the way across the board, it helps with the overall athleticism. I've definitely gotten faster, speed-wise, and that helps with the hurdles and long jump," Jamerson said. "My leg power also has improved and that helps with the high jump."
Coach Brian Past sees comparisons between Jamerson and Merrillville grad David Neville III, who won gold (1,600 relay) and bronze (400) medals in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
"If you had told me back then, his sophomore year or junior year, hey, we're looking at an Olympian in David Neville, I would've said we're looking at a great athlete," Past said.
Could Jamerson become the school's next Olympian?
"I look at the makeup of David Neville and I can look at Austin and say, if I was a betting man, I would bet on it," Past said.