WESTVILLE | If you’re going to look up to someone, why not aim high.
That’s exactly what Westville’s Savanna Jackson is doing.
After reaching the girls track state finals in back-to-back seasons in the shot put, who else would a Northwest Indiana girls track thrower look up to but one of the best female region athletes of all time in Portage High School graduate and current LSU thrower Tori Bliss?
“I went to a camp in December and Tori was there,” Jackson said. “She was really, really good and she was so nice in helping everyone out at the camp.”
And Jackson is hoping that extra bit of knowledge from one of the best — Bliss won three straight state titles in shot and another title in discus as a junior at Portage — will carry over to her senior campaign.
“There’s two girls from Portage I compete with, and one of them beat me at state last year (Tara Kostelnik),” Jackson said. “I know I just have to do my best.”
That’s easier said than done during the regular season in which she hasn’t had much competition. Not to take anything away from the Blackhawks’ opponents the last couple years, but most other shot putters don’t compare with Jackson.
“The girls going against her are putting up throws in the 20s — Savanna has been in the 30s easy,” Westville head girls track coach Brian Ton said. “It’s hard to compete with herself.”
This season is Westville’s first in the Porter County Conference, so Ton hopes that brings better competition. But it still probably won’t be enough since Jackson has improved even more in the offseason, consistently throwing 40 feet or a little more.
“It’s nice to win blue ribbons, but I’d like a challenge,” said Jackson, who has never lost a regular season meet in shot put.
Ton did add a meet in Brandywine, Mich., next month, but the postseason is when Jackson will see if all the hard work and attending camps has worked.
Before competing against and looking up to Bliss (who graduated in 2011 when Jackson was a freshman). Jackson competed with and looked up to her older sister, Elaine, who also threw shot put and discus and also graduated in 2012.
“I’ve always looked up to her,” said Jackson, who is leaning toward competing for Indiana Tech in the fall. “She was the best throwing partner I could ask for, even though I always beat her. She had a nice discus form … but I beat her in that, too.”
Now she wants to beat everyone else in two events. Of course, her primary goal is to get back to state in shot put and improve upon her finishes of 18th and 21st the last two years. Her distance topped out at 37-feet, 11.25 inches at state last year.
“The first year I went to state I felt some pressure,” Jackson recalled. “Last year was just a bad day with some rain.”
Her other goal is to get downstate in discus since she’s only gotten to regional in that event.
“She’s been building in discus,” said Ton, who gives the credit for Jackson’s success to her mom, Amy Milne, who finished third in the Minnesota High School state finals in shot put. “Savanna is throwing (the discus) around 106 feet and we’d like her around 120.”
Ton is also impressed with how Jackson has become a sort of coach herself.
“We have some younger throwers — two freshmen and two sophomores,” he said. “And Savanna has really been a leader to them.”
And someday those younger Blackhawks will look up to Jackson after her career ends.