MERRILLVILLE | It's easy to see why Austin Jamerson is the perfect student-athlete. His home life closely resembles one of those "How To" videos.
"It's always been expected in my family that grades come first," said the Merrillville junior, a soccer and track standout. "My sister (Ashley) did really well in school and even my mom (Denise) was valedictorian."
So was Ashley, now an engineering student at Harvard. Their father, Alan, is a state cop, so you know he's all business.
"School comes first, then athletics," Jamerson said. "It's only helped me, personally. My mom calls Homework Hotline to make sure I do my homework."
Here's the payoff: Jamerson carries a 3.93 grade point average and is ranked 7th in his class.
On the track, he's become a household name with the area's second-fastest time in the 110-meter high hurdles (14.72 seconds), the best long jump (21 feet, 7 3/4 inches) and second-best high jump (6-6 1/2) effort.
Jamerson tied for third at state last year (6-6) and with seven of the top eight high jumpers having graduated, should have a clearer path this season.
Winning height a year ago was 6-10.
"I'd like to make the finals in all three events, then anything can happen," he said.
Jamerson's Afro, which he's worn since sixth grade, makes him appear to be much taller than 6-2.
"I like my hair. It stands out at meets so people usually know who I am if they don't know my name," he said. "But I try to rely more on my athletic performance than my looks."
Coach Brian Past is a lucky guy. He also coaches Jamerson in soccer, where he plays sweeper.
"He's almost like the perfect athlete because he excels in the classroom and as one of your best athletes, is also the hardest worker," Past said. "His work in the weight room all winter long has not only gotten him stronger, but solid."
Can Jamerson win state in the high jump this year?
"I can definitely say, with confidence, he's in the mix," Past said. "From what we've seen from jumps throughout the state so far, I think he's in the Top 5.
"He's never cocky or arrogant, but he has a great confidence about himself."